November 03, 2006

Indicting the Arroyo regime

In simple rites held under historically significant circumstances, the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal: Second Session on the Philippines was convened in the Hague, the Netherlands last October 30, upon the appeal of Philippine human rights and people’s organizations. The first session on the Philippines held twenty six years ago in 1980, in Antwerp, Belgium had indicted the United States-backed Marcos dictatorship of grave crimes against the Filipino people.

The government of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has reacted to the filing of charges by victims of grievous human rights violations with the dismissive remark of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, a former military general, that this is again the handiwork of the “leftists” and “militants,” with the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) as the “brains”. Mr. Ermita concludes that this legal action is biased and underhanded, part and parcel of the general plan to “topple the government and establish communist rule”. This, he said, is the underlying reason behind efforts “to humiliate our President before an international court”.

Let the fair and independent-minded judge for themselves on the basis of two important objective considerations: First, the charges and the reasons given by complainants for bringing their case to the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT); second, the nature, background and track record of the PPT itself.

The victims of gross human rights violations – summary executions, abductions and enforced disappearances, torture and massacres -- cry for justice. The Philippine criminal justice system can offer nothing except systematic cover-up and outright reprisal against witnesses and aggrieved parties since the suspected perpetrators are state agents or death squads under their direction, implementing what Mrs. Arroyo herself announced last June as her regime’s policy of “total war against the Left.”

“Total war” is nothing but a policy of annihilation, not just of armed guerillas waging a thirty seven-year-old armed struggle against the government but legal, unarmed political and social activists and their supporters. In the era of the US-designed “war on terror,” such state policy and its bloody consequences, when implemented by states allied to the US, are considered in official circles as completely understandable and justified, not subject to international law, in particular human rights and international humanitarian law, and met with silent complicity if not approbation.

The Filipino people -- poor, hungry and miserable, reeling from decades of economic policy dictates of the US-dominated multilateral agencies such as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, and now the World Trade Organization -- do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. A succession of elite-ruled governments, albeit claiming to be democratic in contrast to their predecessor, the Marcos dictatorship, have sustained policy frameworks that work against the basic interests of the Filipino people, and are lopsidedly in favor of foreign multinational corporations and banks such as the “honorable debt policy” and neoliberal doctrines of liberalization, deregulation and privatization. These pro-imperialist policies are consistently implemented in a blind, servile and completely callous way. In the era of imperialist “globalization,” such actuations of Third World regimes are applauded by international capital and justified by economic, political and cultural institutions under its sway.

The Filipino nation, continues to suffer under an unfinished process of decolonization; in fact, the Philippines is a neocolony of the US. Thus, the sovereign right of the Filipino people to chart their own destiny according to their own best lights has effectively been suppressed and undermined by their erstwhile colonizer with the indispensable help of a series of pro-US domestic regimes. As a consequence, the country continues to play its assigned role in US geopolitical strategy and acts as a reliable cog in the superpower’s war machine.

The indisputable proof: despite a constitutional prohibition against the presence of foreign military installations and troops on Philippine soil, thousands of US troops freely move in and out of Philippine territory throughout the year, without so much as a by-your-leave except, presumably, perfunctory notice to some government functionary or agency.

Thus the complainants have charged the GMA and Bush governments, the IMF, World Bank and the WTO and selected multinational corporations and banks with violations of human rights, especially civil and political rights as well as economic, social and cultural rights, together with violations of the rights to national self-determination and liberation.

In a time of the US-led “war of terror” in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Balkans and other sovereign countries resisting US interventionism or that have significant national liberation movements, the PPT is more than ever relevant as an “international opinion tribunal, independent from any State authority, which publicly and analytically examines cases regarding violations of human rights and rights of peoples.”

According to the Lelio Basso Foundation which set up the PTT and has the mandate to convene it, the complaints are submitted by the victims themselves or groups representing them. The Tribunal was founded in June 1979 in Italy by law experts, writers and other intellectuals drawn from all regions in the world. This tribunal succeeded the Russell Tribunals I and II which had exposed the war crimes of the 1960s and 1970s committed in Vietnam, and was presided by Bertrand Russell, then Jean-Paul Sartre and Lelio Basso, a renowned Italian senator.

The PPT has a track record of assembling highly respected, credible, independent and socially conscious individuals to delve into cases of blatant, widespread, systematic, state-sponsored/perpetrated violations of human rights, international law and the rights of nations under the general guidance of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples or The Algiers Declaration adopted in 1976.

The PPT considers it a right and obligation for individuals, as citizens of the world, to shape, develop and refine international law “in accordance with human needs and human values.”

The member jurors in the PPT First Session on the Philippines stated in their verdict: “Such an obligation is especially strong in the present historical period where crimes of state are widespread and intense, go unpublished, and are often committed in concert with international institutions, especially those institutions operating in the economic sphere. We refuse to sit idly by and watch, without attempting to remedy, this accumulating record of official abuse and institutional repression.”

The PPT Second Session indictment shows that the Philippines has not substantially moved away from political repression and military abuse despite the ouster of a military-backed, US-propped dictatorship nor has it broken free of its neocolonial status despite loud proclamations of being an independent and democratic republic.

GMA and her retinue of apologists ignore the PPT Second session on the Philippines at their own peril even as their chief backer, the Bush administration, is clearly on the way to being a lame duck president that rightly deserves the American people’s rejection in the coming November mid-term US polls as well as being consigned to the garbage heap of history, earning the world peoples’ scorn and lasting condemnation.###

*Published in Business World
3-4 November 2006


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