The panel of jurors at the IPT 2024. Photo credit: IPT2024

Migrante Canada watched the live streaming of the two-day session of the International People’s Tribunal in Brussels, listened to the testimonies of war crimes victims, their families, and members of their community organisations, delivered in person and by video. Their firsthand stories included extrajudicial killings, abductions and forced disappearances, torture, red-tagging, attacks on Indigenous communities, killings of persons hors de combat, and desecration of bodies of slain combatants. We heard the four expert witnesses on the charges of war crimes or violations of International Humanitarian Law against the Filipino people committed by President Marcos Jr., and former president Rodrigo Duterte in their US-directed, US-backed counterinsurgency against the Filipino people.

We listened to the reading of the guilty verdict by Lennox Hinds, IPT lead juror and former legal counsel to Nelson Mandela.  Just like the audience in the hall who stood up and clapped, we applauded as well.  Philippine President Marcos Jr., his predecessor Rodrigo Duterte, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP), current US President Joseph Biden and the Government of the United States of America were pronounced GUILTY on charges of war crimes or violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). The guilty verdict makes them criminals, war criminals!

As overseas Filipinos and migrant workers in Canada, we take five important things from this guilty verdict delivered by the IPT.

First, the guilty verdict exposed the violent US-backed governments of Marcos Jr and Duterte for their crimes against the Filipino people and brought these to the attention of the international community.  The GRP, which receives the largest US military aid in the Indo-Pacific region, continues to conduct atrocities against Filipinos with direction, arms, and training from the US, and does it with impunity!

Second, the IPT puts the context of all these IHL violations in the fifty plus years of armed conflict in the Philippines between the US-backed and supported GRP and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The NDFP, through its armed component, the New People’s Army (NPA), asserts the Filipino people’s inherent right to self-determination and the justness of their struggle for national liberation. Professor Emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and Expert Witness Marjorie Cohn declared that this war for national liberation is “under Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions which says that ‘armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist regimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination’ are protected by the Geneva Conventions.”

Third, the phrase “The Filipino people ” as Complainants in the IPT includes overseas Filipinos and Filipino migrant workers. It does not matter how far away we are from our home country; we are part of the Filipino people!

Overseas Filipinos, migrant workers and migrant organisations are not spared from the insidious attacks of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) and the Anti-Terrorism Act. Because migrant organisations and migrant rights activists in their host countries are active in asserting their rights and in calling for system change in the Philippines, they have been red-tagged or terrorist -tagged. These attacks are the government’s attempts to stifle their criticism of government policies, expose their neglect and abandonment of overseas workers, and rein in their organising work.

Fourth, the Filipino people in their witness statements displayed the courage of a people who will not be cowed, a people who will tell their stories at great risk to the world and demand accountability from those responsible for these heinous crimes.

Witnesses Eufemia Cullamat (L) a former Philippine parliamentarian and an Indigenous person and Jeany Rose Mayahay (R), Indigenous spokesperson for the Save Our Schools Network or SOS. Photo credit: IPT2024

Fifth, distinguished Belgian lawyer and IPT Prosecutor Jan Fermon said that the Filipino people’s “aspiration is to create a society where such atrocities cease to exist, and where the Filipino people can fully enjoy their rights without hindrance.” This is the society that all of us are working and fighting for.

The Filipino people have spoken, and the international community has heard them. They have won their case in this International People’s Tribunal 2024.

Expert Witness Marjorie Cohn emphasized that peoples’ tribunals “provide a peoples’ record for future litigation, both nationally and internationally,” and warned that “Officials of the Philippine government and the US government who enable the commission of these crimes should be held accountable in national courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction.”

Séverine de Laveleye, member of the Belgian Parliament and IPT juror, directed her statement to the war criminals, “To the defendants , this verdict is a solemn reminder that the international community is watching you and will hold accountable those who perpetrate or condone human rights abuses and violations of international laws governing the rules of war.” ###

 #KatarunganIPT2024 #MarcosGuilty #DuterteGuilty #USGuilty

25 May 2024