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International People’s Tribunal: US, Marcos & Duterte Guilty of Massive War Crimes

Press Statement
May 18, 2024

Brussels, Belgium (May 17-18) – The International People’s Tribunal in Brussels heard harrowing testimony from victims and experts detailing widespread human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law committed by the Philippine government and its military forces under the Marcos and Duterte Regimes and backed by the U.S. government.

“The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) is honored to endorse this International People’s Tribunal on the Philippines in 2024 to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian law and war crimes against the Filipino people,” stated ICHRP Global Chairperson Peter Murphy. “The witnesses displayed the courage and determination of the Filipino people to assert their basic human rights to life, freedom, self-determination and genuine development.”

The IPT is a quasi judicial mechanism whereby evidence is presented to a panel of jurors to render judgment on specific charges, in this instance war crimes committed in the conduct of the civil war in the Philippines. The Jurors included: Lennox Hinds professor of Law at Rutgers University and former legal counsel for the African National Congress, Suzanne Adely President of the National Lawyers Guild (US), Severine De Laveleye member of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium, Julen Arzuraga Gumuzio member of the Basque Parliament and Archbishop Joris Vercamen former member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches. The panel of eminent jurists heard two days of testimony from 15 witnesses covering specific violations of International Humanitarian Law.

Violations of International Humanitarian Law Under Duterte

On day one, victims provided chilling first-hand accounts of extrajudicial killings, torture, enforced disappearances, and attacks on indigenous communities defending their ancestral lands from mining and corporate plunder, under President Duterte’s regime. These included testimony from Brandon Lee, a U.S. citizen turned activist in Ifugao province who was shot by suspected state agents after being red-tagged, threatened, and surveilled. Lee survived and is now a quadriplegic, but in his words, “continues to use his voice” for social change.

Ariel Casilao spoke of the brutal murder of Peace Consultant Randall Echanis in his home while he slept in August of 2020. “The brutality, barbarity, and ruthlessness of the killing of Ka Randy is a crystal clear violation of International Humanitarian Law and all existing laws in the Philippines,” Casilao added, “Let me emphasize, Ka Randy was an unarmed NDFP consultant. He was a key figure in the peace negotiations.”

Eufema Cullamat testified about the killing and dehumanization of her daughter, Jevilyn Cullamat, by soldiers. Cullamat shared that soldiers photographed her daughter’s corpse as a “war trophy.”

Witness Jeany Rose Hayahay described how public schools for indigenous children in Mindanao have been branded as “communist” recruitment hubs and relentlessly targeted, their volunteer teachers killed or slapped with terrorist charges. Martial law in Mindanao enabled further militarization, restriction of movement, and normalization of impunity against the Lumad peoples.

Violations of International Humanitarian Law Under Marcos Jr. 

The second day covered violations committed since Ferdinand Marcos Jr. became President in July 2022. 

There was compelling testimony from Jonila Castro who along with a colleague Jhed Tamano was kidnapped by the Military in September 2023 in Bataan Province. After 17 days of interrogation the two were paraded by the military and NTF-ELCAC as NPA surrenderees at a public press conference. It was here that the two recanted their forced confessions and exposed their kidnapping by the military and police. This was another example of civilian activists being targeted by the military.

Another witness reported on indiscriminate aerial bombardment and shelling of communities in upland villages in Kalinga province. The military conducted multiple aerial bombings in two barangays in the municipality of Balbalan between March 5 and 9th, 2023. On March 9th at least 6 bombs detonated close to the Gawaan elementary school putting at risk students and teachers. These incidents constitute multiple cases of targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. It was also pointed out that the communities under attack were also potential sites for a large hydro electric project which the residents opposed.

Another war crime was the murder of 5 NPA combatants in Bohol in February 2024. The military claimed that they were killed in an encounter, witnesses and social media posts show the victims still alive and in military custody prior to their torture and death. The evidence shows the 5 were victims of war crimes, specifically the failure to respect Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners of war.

There was also testimony from Emile Fausto on the murder of her parents and young brothers aged 14 and 11 by the Philippine Military on June 14, 2023. Her parents were members of a local farmers organization, the four were shot in their house while asleep. They were targeted because of their membership in the local farmers group. They had been the victims of continuous threats coming from the military and had complained to authorities about military harassment. The 94th infantry Battalion were identified as the perpetrators of this crime, the father had been previously physically assaulted by soldiers while in custody for being a supporter of the NPA.

Many of the victims testified that there had been a failure to distinguish between civilians and combatants in the conduct of the Philippine government’s war on the revolutionary movement. The counterinsurgency campaign deliberately targeted civilians resulting in systematic harassment as was shown in the case of human rights worker Hailey Pecayo, the cases of Jhed Tomano and Jonila Castro and went on to the extent of attempted assassination and killing of a civilian political activist.

US Support of War Crimes in the Philippines

Marjorie Cohn, American legal scholar and Law professor emeritus at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, an expert witness on self-determination and international law, stated that the Philippine government, fully backed by the United States, has engaged in “violent repression of the Philippine people” and violations that constitute “war crimes under international humanitarian law.” She affirmed that the National Democratic Front’s armed struggle constitutes a legitimate war of national liberation protected under international conventions.

Teddy Casino, a resource person on counterinsurgency in the Philippines, testified that the U.S. has covertly enabled the Philippine military’s sweeping counterinsurgency program that indiscriminately targets and terrorizes civilian populations. He revealed that even as the U.S. outwardly criticized Duterte’s brutal drug war, it furnished millions of dollars in military aid and arms sales. “The current counterinsurgency program of the Philippine government [is] inspired, financed, trained and supplied by the United States government,” stated Casino. “The US hand has been present through every iteration of the Philippine counterinsurgency drive and its resulting human rights and [International Humanitarian Law] violations.”

Urgent Need for International Response 

The prosecution established through ample and credible evidence that the defendants, in carrying out their counterinsurgency campaign during the armed conflict, willfully engaged in a litany of egregious violations of international humanitarian law against the Filipino people. The United States government played a key enabling role, rendering it complicit in these atrocities. These abhorrent crimes included the killing of civilians, intentional attacks on civilians, indiscriminate warfare causing excessive injury and environmental damage, forced displacement, blocking humanitarian aid, acts of terror against civilians, extrajudicial killings, torture, desecration of the dead, abductions, unlawful detentions, and fabricated charges.

 After careful consideration of the extensive evidence, the tribunal unanimously found defendants Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former President Duterte, the Philippine government, Joseph R. Biden, and the United States government guilty of the alleged war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law.

This unequivocal verdict resoundingly condemns the defendants’ flagrant defiance of international rules of armed conflicts and fundamental human rights.

In wake of this critical ruling, ICHRP calls upon its members, network and people inspired by this tribunal to immediately hold a week of action in response, from May 21-27, mobilizing the broadest solidarity support for the Filipino people against the intensive, US backed counterinsurgency campaign that causes deep suffering and oppression in the Philippines.

ICHRP Statement on 76th Anniversary of the Nakba

Statement
May 15, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people on this the 76th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba (Catastrophe). The violent birth of the state of Israel forced an estimated 750,000 Palestinians from their homes, displacing the vast majority of the population, turning them into refugees in their own land. The figure represents approximately 75% of the Palestinians who had previously resided within what became Israel’s armistice lines in 1949.

The Nakba involved the forced depopulation and destruction of over 500 Palestinian villages and the subsequent geographical erasure of Palestine. This occurred through Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, its exiling of Palestinians and forcing them to be refugees, its dispossession of Palestinian property, its destruction of Palestinian cities, towns, and villages, and its attempt to erase the existence of the Palestinian from what is Palestine.

To this day there remain some 6 million registered Palestinian refugees living in at least 58 camps located throughout Palestine and neighbouring countries. There are at least 2.3 million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, 1.5 million refugees in Gaza, 870,000 refugees in the occupied West Bank, 438,000 refugees in Syria, 480,000 refugees in Lebanon, 120,000 Palestinian refugees displaced from Syria to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt and increasingly, to Europe.

According to international law, refugees have the right to return to their homes and property from which they have been displaced. Many Palestinians still hope to return to Palestine.

The Nakba Continues

The Nakba is a continuing process of displacement that has never stopped. On the 76th anniversary of the Nakba another catastrophe for the Palestinian People is being delivered by the Zionist State. Literally all 2.2 million citizens of Gaza have been turned for a second time into displaced persons since October 2023.

Israel has targeted Gaza’s intelligentsia – killing leading scholars, poets, doctors.

Israel has demolished and destroyed about 70% of the homes in Gaza.

Israel has demolished all 12 universities in Gaza.

Israel has destroyed most of the hospitals in Gaza.

Israel has detained and rendered missing hundreds of Palestinians.

Israel is currently engaged in a campaign to starve the Palestinian population by restricting food supplies.

Israel is now in the process of invading Rafah, where they had driven 1.2 million Palestinians from other parts of Gaza.  

The Israeli government and the IDF have committed massacre after massacre in Gaza over this period. Their war crimes so heinous that even their closest allies are coming to the conclusion they are engaged in genocide and war crimes.

ICHRP works hard to uphold the human rights of the Filipino peoples, against a culture of impunity which is tacitly supported by foreign governments, a painful situation which the Palestinian people endure every day. Our work is built on the sense of justice and struggle of ordinary people in many countries, who earnestly and relentlessly press their governments and intergovernmental bodies to take action. This is also the basis of our solidarity with the Palestinian people.

ICHRP stands in solidarity with the Palestinian people on the 76th anniversary of the start of the Nakba.

ICHRP calls for an end to the Israeli genocide against the Palestinian people, an end to the occupation and the unwinding of all illegal settlements and the return of all properties taken from Palestinians since 1947.

From the river to the sea, Palestine must be free!

Condemn the Arrest of US Embassy 6! End US Balikatan Exercises!

Press Release
May 4, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) vehemently condemns the arrest of six students who participated in a Labor Day protest action near the US Embassy in Manila, Philippines. 

Protesters were able to reach a few meters away from the US Embassy, and were about to start their program when police from the Manila Police District (MPD) violently hit those in the frontlines with batons and shields. Footages of the incident showed policemen pinning down a protester with brute force. The six individuals were seized in the ensuing commotion. As of this press release, the victims remain in detention.

“We utterly condemn the excessive use of force by the Manila police. It is a blatant violation of the right to peaceful assembly. It is also an insult to the toiling masses of Filipino workers who were rightfully voicing their demands including a decent living wage on Labor Day,” said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Global Chairperson.

Thousands of workers along with other sectors marched in the streets of Manila to demand for higher wages, job security, and national sovereignty but were blocked and not allowed to reach the historic Mendiola bridge. Through the National Wage Coalition, workers demanded a wage increase of not less than P150 ($2.61) a day.

Afterwards, protesters led by Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement) and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) marched towards the US Embassy in Manila to condemn Marcos Jr.’s charter change, the US military intervention through the ongoing Balikatan exercises, and China’s transgressions on Philippine territory in the West Philippine Sea.

“Just like the students, ICHRP stands with the Filipino workers on their just demands for a decent wage increase. We demand the immediate release of the six illegally arrested and detained students. We call on the Philippine government to respect their rights, drop the charges, and to hold accountable police officers who illegally arrested, caused physical injuries, and detained the students. We reiterate our call to stop the Balikatan exercises and end US intervention in the Philippines,” concluded Murphy.

Further comment: Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson. WhatsApp: +61 418312301. Email: [email protected].

How does the Philippine state violate International Humanitarian Law?

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International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a set of rules which seek to limit the effects of armed conflict and to reduce the human suffering caused by it. It protects civilians, service providers, and soldiers who have ceased fighting. In the Philippines, the state regularly commits violations of IHL, known as war crimes.

For decades, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has claimed that it is carrying out a counter-insurgency strategy to fight the armed communist movement in the country. In reality, the “counter-insurgency” campaigns under various presidents have targeted any and all forms of dissent against the GRP, including the campaigning of civilian activists and organizations.

These IHL violations are carried out by the various state and state-aligned machineries, as they implement the GRP’s war on dissent. These war crimes are carried out by soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Units (CAFGUs), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and various other militia and vigilante groups.

The AFP indiscriminately drops bombs on peasant communities where they believe NPA units are operating. This violates Customary IHL Rule 13 on bombardment of areas containing civilians. A recent example is the AFP bombing of communities on the border of Abra and Ilocos Norte on April 2nd. Indiscriminate bombings force civilians to evacuate and put their lives at risk.

The AFP and PNP torture and murder captured NPA members. This violates Customary IHL Rule 47 on attacks against persons hors de combat, and various rules on humane treatment. On February 23, members of the AFP and PNP in Bohol abused and murdered five NPA members in front of local residents. The Bilar 5 had been captured earlier that day.

The Philippine state also disappears civilians and combatants against their will. This is a violation of Customary IHL Rule 98 on enforced disappearance or military kidnapping. Environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano were disappeared by the military last year and interrogated for 8 days, before bravely revealing their abduction at a press conference organized by the government in October.

These are just some of the rules of IHL that are violated by the Philippine state, in addition to many others. These war crimes are the subject of the upcoming International People’s Tribunal which will put the Marcos and Duterte regimes on trial for war crimes. For more information about the International People’s Tribunal, visit www.peoplestribunal.net

Solidarity Message to the 40th Anniversary of Cordillera Day

From Peter Murphy, ICHRP Global Council Chairperson
April 23, 2024

The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) sends its warmest greetings of solidarity to delegates attending the 40th Anniversary of Cordillera Day on April 23 – 24, 2024. 

ICHRP joins with you to remember and celebrate the life of Macli-ing Dulag and the people’s victory against the Chico Dam project. We stand alongside you in your fight for self-determination, land and life. We salute the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and recommit to the Save Cordillera Campaign against repression by the US-Marcos Jr. regime.

On April 24, 1980, soldiers of the Philippine military under the Marcos Sr. regime assassinated Macli-ing Dulag, a tribal chieftain from the province of Kalinga renowned for his staunch opposition to the World Bank-funded Chico Dam Project. The project threatened to displace hundreds of thousands of indigenous peoples from their ancestral land in the mountainous region of northern Philippines.

The murder of Macli-ing Dulag was a watershed moment in the Cordillera peoples’ struggle for self-determination. As the mass movement against both the Chico Dam construction and Marcos Sr. dictatorship grew, the Macli-ing Memorial was held to commemorate the death of the slain tribal leader from 1981 to 1984. 

Following the founding of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA) in June 1984, the commemoration’s name was changed to Cordillera Day in 1985. The mass movement broadened as it aimed to unite the struggle of indigenous peoples across different provinces in the Cordillera, while building solidarity with national and international advocates and supporters.

Since its inception, Cordillera Day has been a political solidarity event gathering thousands of indigenous peoples, advocates, supporters, and solidarity activists every year to discuss burning issues which plague not only indigenous communities but also the Filipino people at large.

The Cordillera Peoples Alliance’s international solidarity work led to a conference of indigenous leaders and advocates from different countries across the globe in November 2010, which subsequently founded the Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL), a global network committed to advancing the rights of indigenous peoples to self-determination, land and life.

As a solidarity organization committed to campaign for a just and lasting peace in the Philippines, ICHRP draws boundless inspiration from the Cordillera peoples’ valiant and historic struggle for self-determination amidst decades of attacks, discrimination, militarization, and oppression. 

We wish you every success in the two-day celebration of the 40th anniversary of Cordillera Day.

Agbiag ti Kordilyera!
Long live the Cordilleran people’s struggle for self-determination!
Long live the martyrs and heroes of Cordillera!
Long live international solidarity!