Just days after the verdict of the International Peoples’ Tribunal was announced, Aquino loyalists and cronies in the US commenced a press offensive to misinform the public, distort the truth, and discredit the over 30 witnesses from the Philippines who submitted testimonies before a distinguished panel of jurors including international human rights lawyers, academics, authors, faith leaders, and even a former South African ambassador.
What these detractors fail to realize is that diversion tactics won’t prevent the truth from coming out: that the Aquino government is guilty of gross human rights violations–violations of civil and political rights; economic, social and cultural rights; and the Filipino people’s right to self-determination and sovereignty.
Evidence submitted as well as the findings of the tribunal are accessible to the public online at www.internationalpeoplestribunal.org.
Among the charges were violations to economic rights, which includes the Aquino government’s failure to eliminate the Pork Barrel System as perpetuated by the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Testimonies submitted on the charge of violations to the Filipino people’s right to self-determination and sovereignty include that of Marjorie Cohn, a professor of law at the University of San Diego and expert on US foreign policy, particularly US drone operations; Bangsamoro leader Amirah Lidasan on US military command behind the fatal Mamasapano incident; and former Philippine Congresswoman Liza Maza on the unresolved murder of Jennifer Laude and the impact of the Visiting Forces Agreement.
The findings of the tribunal will be shared widely with the United Nations, US legislators, and other international mechanisms of accountability. The conveners of the tribunal– the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and Ibon International– will compile the findings into a book that will be furthered disseminated and shared with the international community.
An endorser of the tribunal, BAYAN USA is also an overseas chapter of one of the complainants: BAYAN Philippines. It was acknowledged in the verdict that most of the targets of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, and illegal detentions were people affiliated with BAYAN. The common tactic is red-tagging BAYAN members as communists as a justification for political repression.
BAYAN members and affiliates in the Philippines are known to consistently work for the interest of the most impoverished and most marginalized in the Philippines, a country where there is worsening abject poverty and hunger despite Aquino’s claims of being a rising tiger economy.
Perhaps the gap in understanding lies in the fact that those most supportive and defensive of Aquino in the US enjoy comfortable, upper-middle to high class lifestyles in comparison to the majority of whom are struggling hard to make ends meet so we can send money back to our families back home, despite the fact we live in a society that increasingly devalues, discriminates, and abuses low-income immigrant communities.
The International Peoples’ Tribunal was compelled by the experience of thousands of victims in the Philippines who exhausted but could not find justice in the Philippine court system. It was compelled by a culture of impunity recognized by international human rights watchdogs.
How are tactics to discredit the tribunal and its findings any different from endorsing impunity and human rights abuses in the Philippines? Is the Philippines truly democratic if redbaiting, silencing of dissent, and suppression of the facts are still being normalized by the government elite and its mega-rich cronies? Is the Philippines truly sovereign when both China and the US are occupying our land and sea, and when more and more US military troops are being stationed in the Philippines despite a vibrant people’s movement that resulted in the historic 1992 Philippine Senate decision to close the former permanent US military bases?
The truth will not be prevented from coming out. We will not stop seeking accountability and justice until both are attained.
We welcome a dialogue with Aquino supporters to discuss these matters in a diplomatic, factual, and above-board manner.
BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 20 progressive Filipino organizations in the U.S. representing youth, students, women, workers, artists, and human rights advocates. As the oldest and largest overseas chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a center for educating, organizing, and mobilizing anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S. For more information, visit www.bayanusa.org.