Monday, March 26, 2007

PPT Verdict on the US-Backed Philippine Regime on the Filipino People

Origin and jurisdiction of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) is an international opinion tribunal, independent from any State authority. It examines cases regarding violations of human rights and rights of peoples.

Promoted by the Lelio Basso International Foundation for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, the PPT was founded in June 1979, in Bologna, Italy, by a broad spectrum of law experts, writers, and other cultural and community leaders (including five Nobel Prize laureates) from 31 countries. PPT is rooted in the historical experience of the Russell Tribunals on Vietnam (1966-67) and the dictatorships in Latin America (1974-1976). The importance and strength of decisions by the PPT rest on the moral weight of the causes and arguments to which they give credibility, and their recognition in the UN Commission on Human Rights

Complaints heard by the Tribunal are submitted by the victims, or groups or individuals representing them. The PPT calls together all parties concerned and offers the defendants the possibility to make their own arguments heard. The Jury is selected for each case by combining members who belong to a permanent list of jurors, and individuals who are recognized for their competence and integrity.

From June 1979 to the present date the PPT has held 32 sessions.

In 1980, just one year after its foundation, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal responded to an appeal from the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) to examine the human rights situation under the Marcos dictatorial regime. Following five days of hearings and deliberation (October 30 to November 3 in Antwerp) the PPT found the Marcos regime guilty of political suppression and abuse of power in violation of the rights of the Filipino people. The PPT also condemned the political, economic and military complicity with the US and other foreign powers.

The procedures of the Session

According to the procedures foreseen in its Statutes, the original request (presented in early 2006 by a broad coalition of social and religious organizations, based in the Philippines as well as in Europe and Canada) to hold a Session of the PPT on gross violations of the fundamental rights of the Filipino people was examined by the Secretariat and the Presidency of the PPT with respect specifically to the competence of the PPT on the contents of the accusation, and to the representativeness of the plaintiffs.

The Session, to be considered as a strict articulation and follow-up of the one held in 1980, was announced in a press Conference in The Hague, on October 30, 2006.
The two main accused parties - the Government of the Philippines, and its President Mrs Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; the US Government and its President Mr George Walker Bush, - were notified of the procedure through their Embassies - in Rome and in The Hague- and invited to participate in the process, and to exercise their right to defense.

As documented also in reports of the media in the Philippines as well as in The Hague, qualified representatives of the Administration have expressed confirmation, through their contradictory statements, that the Government had been duly informed in a timely manner, without however deciding in favor of an active participation in the processes of the Tribunal (beyond a silent presence in its opening session, on March 21).

The public hearings of the PPT have been held in the Christus Triumfator Kerk in the Hague, over three full days (21-23 March), according to the program reported in Annex 1.

Annex 2 lists the documents made available to the Jurors (and filed in the PPT archives) to support and to interpret the oral presentations and interpellation with the Jury (including extensive live presentations and interpellation with witnesses and their lawyers in the Philippines over electronic live video communication).

The deliberation of the Jury has been formulated in its closed-door sessions from the evening of March 23 until the presentation of its verdict on March 25, 2007.

The charges

The PPT has been presented with the following three charges against:

The Government of the Republic of the Philippines, and its President Mrs Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; the Government of the United States of America and its President Mr George Walker Bush for :

Gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights: extra-judicial killings, abduction and disappearances, massacre, torture;
Gross and systematic violation of economic, social and cultural rights;
Gross and systematic violations of the rights to national self-determination and liberation.

Historical framework and violation of economic, social and cultural rights

Since 1980, the year of the first session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on the Philippines, the socio-economic situation of the country has not changed, except for the worse. Even at that time, the jury of the Tribunal had denounced the unequal character of the economic system structured for the benefit of the domestic elite and foreign interests. It had also condemned the dominant economic and political role of the United States of America in the Philippines and in the region, through the implementation of an imperialist policy.

Today, almost 30 years later, or after almost one generation, the majority of the Filipino people (the peasants, fisherfolk, workers, oddjobbers, low-paid professionals) remain deprived of their basic rights to physical, social and cultural life. It is particularly painful to discover the figures collected from official sources, showing that a minority of Filipinos are absorbing the greatest part of the collective wealth of the nation, together with transnational enterprises, when we remember that behind each number there is a person - a child, an adult or an old person, a man or a woman.

In the Philippines, out of 87 million people, 65 million Filipinos (80% of the population) struggle to survive on less than US$2 per day while 46 million go hungry each day. The situation is deteriorating: since 2000, average family incomes have dropped 10%. The majority of the poor are in rural areas (70 %). Such a situation affects in particular the children. Infant mortality went from 24 per thousand in 1990 to 14 in 1998 and 40 in 2003. One fourth of the children under 10 years of age – or 6.1 million children – are underweight.

This is not the fruit of hazard, but it is the logical result of a policy. The first session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal in 1980 coincided with the beginning of the neo-liberal phase of monopoly capitalism (the Washington Consensus), where in order to solve a crisis of accumulation, it was decided to enlarge and force open markets, decreasing the share of labour in the national income, privatizing public services and establishing a growing freedom of circulation of capital, goods and services. Such a policy, backed by the international financial and commercial institutions (World Bank, IMF, WTO) has been offering to the dominant powers and social classes the possibility of ruling the world according to their specific interests.

This is also happening in the Philippines. The share of labor in national income has fallen from 60 % in 1979 to 37 % in 2004 and the increase of corporate profits has been impressive: between 2001 and 2004, the income of the top 1000 enterprises grew from US2.3 billion to 10.0 billion. Minimum wage has been falling behind rising cost of living, the wage gap increasing 44% between 2001 and 2005. Unemployment is on the rise, with displaced workers for instance increasing by 52% between 2004 and 2005. In rural areas, tenanted and leasehold farms have increased from 48% of total farms in 1971 to 52% in 2004.

Privatization of economic activities and public services is also on the rise. Over US$4 billion of public assets have been transferred to the private sector. Such has been the case of the oil industry, of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (2001), of the reprivatization of Maynilad water corporation (2006), of the privatization of public infrastructure (RA 7718).

Liberalization of the economy has been promoted by various means. The series of tariff reform programs have brought reductions of agricultural tariffs from 43 % in 1981 to 11 % in 2003 and industrial ones from 39 % in 1981 to 5 % in 2003 (TRP I, II and III). Free Economic Zones have been encouraged (RA 7916). Free Trade Agreements are prepared with the USA (US-RP FTA), and have been signed with Japan (JPEPA) and Asean countries (AFTA). The Public Act on foreign investments opened the way for external capital in the fields of natural resources (RA 7942 for mining), agriculture (RA 7652), utilities (RA 7721), airlines (1995), retail trade (2000), and others. Efforts have been made to remove the economic sovereignty and national patrimony foreseen by the 1987 Constitution. Foreign investments have increased from 6% of the GDP in 1980-1984 to 16% in 2000-2005, and in 2005 it had a cumulative value of US$ 19 billion.

As a consequence, wealth has been concentrated among very rich people. The 1000 top corporations have increased their annual net income by 325% between 2001 and 2005 and the top ten percent of the population have incomes 22 times that of the poorest ten percent. Additionally, the overall estimate of money lost through corruption is estimated by the Ombudsman at US$24 billion for the period between 2001 and 2005 and is estimated at US$ 4 billion in 2006, equivalent to 20% of the Government budget. Capital repatriation has reached US$20 billion since 1980 and mineral resources have been plundered: to the equivalent of US$25 billion of exports since 1970.

Furthermore the Filipino people have to pay for increasing foreign debt. The current total public sector debt stock P6.0 trillion (US$120 B), equivalent to 110% of GDP, ate up 85% of total revenue for debt service in 2005. It is the highest in the history of the Philippines. As a consequence spending on vital economic and social services was slashed in order to pay for debt. Interest payments has now gone up to 35% of the budget share in 2006 which is five times more than the combined budget for education, health and housing spending

Local industry has been destroyed and denationalized. Between 1995 and 2000, four firms were closing every day and this number doubled between 2001 and 2005. In 2005, 3,054 firms closed and 57,921 workers were displaced, increasing unemployment. Corporatization of land ownership has subverted the sham Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program resulting in the reconcentration of land.

Communities of the poor especially the women and children today pay the heavy price of debt repayment and privatization policies where, due to the neglect of the health care system and drastic cuts in public spending, child and maternal mortality has worsened. This has resulted in only 37% of pregnant women receiving vaccine.
In the urban areas only 54% of the women delivered in a health facility, while in the rural communities, only 22% delivered in a health facility; and 59% were unassisted by doctor/nurse/midwife.

Educational and health facilities have been seriously affected as the public share in health expenditure has been reduced from 41 % in 2000 to 30 % in 2004. Because of the lack of educational infrastructure, costs of sending children to public school and other factors due to poverty, 2,5 million children are working as laborers and 1,5 million can be qualified as street children.

The denial of these basic health and social rights is a consequence of the crisis of the Philippine economy where the government has not addressed the root causes but has continued the exploitation of the people and its resources with impunity for the benefit of the local elite and foreign dominant powers.

The growth and development of any nation lies in the hard work of peasants, fisherfolk, workers, indigenous peoples, women and their communities. But when these very people face intense poverty, hunger, unemployment, landlessness and loss of all resources, then development is meaningless because life itself is threatened and communities are destroyed. This is the hard reality of the Philippines.

A particular attention has to be given to the three main sectors of the Filipino people, peasantts, indigenous peoples and the industrial workers.

Based on recent government statistics and the study conducted by Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, 7 out of 10 Filipino farmers are landless. The farmers face extremely high rates of land rents and usury is so high that it ranges from 100%-400% per cropping season. Farm inputs remain expensive but the products of farmers are very cheap with trade liberalization. This has led to the bankruptcy of many peasants, where they remain in debt. This situation further increases disparity between peoples and regions.

Compounding the problem of peasant bankruptcy, corporations were able to take control and amass land through the promotion of agribusiness contract growing and leasehold under the corporatized market-oriented comprehensive agrarian reform program promoted by the World Bank. This has led to less than a third of landowners owning more than 80% of agricultural land while small farmers are being ejected from the lands they have been tilling for years.

Faced with the struggle to keep alive, farmers have organized themselves under KMP to claim their rights through the democratic process. This resistance is now faced with repression by the state through increased militarization of the rural areas. Statistics show that almost 60% of the victims of extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances are farmers, majority of whom are members of the peasant movement KMP. These killings of the peasant leaders are not isolated but planned and systematic. A campaign is carried out to slander the victim prior to the killing. No proper investigations are carried out and the state remains in a state of denial. Meanwhile witnesses are threatened and thus the pattern of impunity reigns with no accountability.

The massacre of agricultural workers at Hacienda Luisita is a pure gross violation of fundamental rights of workers to strike and assert their rights as defined in ILO Convention 97 and in the ECOSOC rights. Both the United Luisita workers union (ULWU) and CATLU went on strike as negotiations failed over workers’ demand for a small increase in wages and better work conditions. One of the key demands was their right to the land as provided for under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law. Yet, DOLE (Dept. of Labor and Employment) issued the assumption of jurisdiction order to the police and military to enforce it. When three attempts to disperse them through water cannons failed, shots were fired at the unarmed workers, seven died and 72 were injured. The killings did not stop with the massacre but persons who supported the workers, including Bishop Alberto B. Ramento of the Iglesia Filipino Independiente church, two leaders Marcel Beltran and Abelardo with Fr. William Tedena were killed in separate occasions

Even when farmers return to the land awarded by the Department of Agrarian Reform, as in the case of San Agustin Farmer Beneficiaries Multi-purpose Cooperative in Palo, Leyte, they are killed and butchered by armed men who go unpunished. The guns do silence the law.

The Arroyo regime has initiated the implementation of the Mining Act of 1995 liberalizing the mining sector by proclaiming its National Policy Agenda for Revitalizing the Mining Industry as recommended by the World Bank. This process has increased the intensive exploitation of the mineral riches of the country like gold, silver, copper, chromite and nickel. But the commercial mining activities as well as the logging operations of various corporations affect both the present and future generations of the indigenous peoples. If perpetuated, it will destroy the ancestral domain, culture and identity of the people.

The documentation presented at the PPT, including the compelling testimony of Senator Madrigal revealed how the Arroyo government by relocating the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Agrarian Reform will not only compromise its constitutionally mandated independence but pave the way to usurp the land of the indigenous people, leading to displacement from their ancestral home, and loss of land and customary rights. The evidence is very much reflected in the cases of Toronto Ventures in Zambaonga and Lafayette Mining Corp. in Rapu Rapu island whereas it is used for massive landgrabbing in the Island of Boracay.

Such forms of rights violations have brought about a resistance by the people to claim their rights to land, culture and identity. But it has been met with various human rights violations manifested in arbitary arrest, persecution, torture, killings, destruction of property and land by military forces including extrajudicial killings as testified by Dr. “Chandu” Claver a Kankanaey and leader of the Cordillera Peoples Alliance and Bayan Muna in Kalinga who was ambushed by masked men while in his car with his family. His wife succumbed to gunshot wounds while he and his child survived and now seeking asylum in Canada to protect themselves.

Out of the 37.7 million workers, there are 4.1 million unemployed and 7.5 million underemployed. This situation has brought about the exodus of around 3,200 workers every day to find a living or better work abroad, not including hundreds or possibly thousands more leaving as trafficked or undocumented workers facilitated by unscrupulous recruiters who have proliferated as a result of deregulation implemented by the Arroyo government. There are around 9 million Overseas Filipino Workers abroad who have the tremendous capacity to remit the amount of US $13 billion every year besides an estimated additional $3-4 billion remitted through informal channels. Due to the feminization of poverty, more than 70% of the workers who leave abroad for landbased work are women

But since the share of labor in the national income has fallen, reflecting low wages and minimum wage far behind the rise in cost of living, the organized sector of unions have demanded for wage evaluation and increase with better work conditions. This process has been met with arrogance of power of corporations, particularly TNCs like Toyota, Nestle and others who have with impunity either dismissed union leaders or used the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the armed forces to end workers actions. The DOLE has used the assumption of jurisdiction order to provide military forces the right to intervene in labor disputes. There is no recognition accorded to ILO recommendations for respect of workers rights as seen in the Toyota workers case, well documented and presented to the jury. Thus corporations supported by the Arroyo government continue to violate labor rights with no accountability.

The role of the United States of America

We need to see the worsening Human Rights crisis in the Philippines in the context of the United States’ strategies for global economic and military hegemony and the ensuing US led so-called “war on terror”.

The military and security agreements between the Philippines and the United States were part of the series of treaties and agreements that were imposed upon the Philippines right after the granting of formal independence by the United States to the Philippines at the end of the Second World War in 1948. The agreements assured the continued domination by the United States over the country and over the Armed Forces and internal security in particular. This was so even though the Philippines was already given formal independence.

US troops have returned to the Philippines, despite the removal of the US bases in 1992, on the basis of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in 1999 and the Mutual Logistics Support Agreement (MLSA) in 2002. Under the guise of a so-called “war on terror”, US troops have been stationed and deployed especially but not only in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao. Since 2001 there has been a continuous presence in the country of up to thousands of US soldiers ostensibly for counter-terrorism “trainings and exercises” but which in many cases are in reality coordinated combat operations with the Philippine armed forces. These grossly violate national sovereignty and Philippine territorial integrity.

Because of its strategic location, the Philippines is vital for the US projection of military force in East Asia to as far away as the Middle East. The country’s ports and airfields have already been used by the US as transit points and refueling stations in its wars of aggression against the people of Afghanistan and of Iraq. It is for this reason that the US seeks to maintain its control over the Philippine state and its armed forces, and seeks to defeat all progressive forces opposed to the US presence and intervention in the country.

The Armed Forces today remains the same institution which served the Marcos regime. The junior officers who committed atrocities under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos are now generals and the henchmen in Arroy’s repressive state machinery. The AFP continues to serve as an instrument of suppression and executor of extra-legal operations under the guidance and with the support of US counterinsurgency and anti-terrorism agencies, i.e. the CIA and the Department of Defense in Pentagon. The Arroyo regimes’ dependence on the US and the US trained armed forces is crucial for the survival of the regime.

The cost of such strict dependence in terms of gross violations of individual and collective rights, has been dramatically confirmed and documented in detail (see section ). The never ending military, police and paramilitary operations are the expression of all-out war, or so-called “holistic approach” in Operation Bantay Laya (OBL) or Operation Freedom Watch, a policy which has been carried out since 2002.

Bantay Laya is the latest formulation of previous counterinsurgency plans initially crafted under the Marcos regime. It is an end product of more than three decades of successive failures and frustrations of US-GRP-AFP in their attempts to crush and defeat the struggles of the people. The US, through Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency has been involved in conceptualization, planning, training of AFP personnel and execution of the plan. This work of cooperation is now done on the basis of the very controversial Security Engagement Board Agreement of 2006.

The Security Engagement Board created by this agreement is a joint committee of defense officials and military officials of both the Philippines and the United States. And the purpose of this committee is to oversee the anti-terror campaign in the country. The campaign was begun in 2001 as a campaign against the Abu Sayyaf in the south of the country, right after the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York. It was a creation of the US and experimented in collaboration with the AFP against the Abu Sayyaf as an anti-terror campaign. In that campaign the US special forces and the AFP were abducting even suspects or families of Abu Sayyaf sympathizers and innocent members of communities in Mindanao. Only later was it decided to expand the campaign to cover the entire Philippines in the nationwide anti-insurgency campaign. Like the campaign against Abu Sayyaf, the nationwide campaign does not make any distinction between advocates who have a legal status and those involved in armed confrontations with the government. And it is being carried out by AFP instructed and supported in action by US Special Operations Forces (SOF).

These US Special Operations Forces are the most highly-trained elite units of the US Army who specialize in what is called Low Intensity Conflict Warfare. In other countries, the deployment of US Special Operations Forces, especially in Guatemala and Colombia, as well as in Indonesia during the Suharto dictatorship, have been exposed by among others the Amnesty International as having been responsible for training local troops that have been involved in dirty tricks, including abductions, extra-judicial killings, and even massacres of civilians who have been known to be sympathetic to armed insurgents in those countries.

Having run out of counterinsurgency options, Bantay Laya seems to be the US-Arroyo regime’s “final solution” to the long drawn-out conflict. A novel and significant component is it’s special emphasis on brutal and punitive measures against Congressional partylist representatives and constituencies and “neutralization” of institutions and organizations, through assassination of their leaders and ordinary members. Bantay Laya’s focus on the political component and white area operations is described by veteran reporter and columnist Armando Doronila in Philippine Daily Inquirer (21 June 2006):

“The blueprint of war outlined in ‘the orders of battle’ of Oplan Bantay Laya envisages decimation of non-military segments of the communist movement. It is not designed to engage the New People’s Army in armed conflict in field warfare. It is designated to butcher and massacre defenseless non-combatants. It is therefore a sinister plan for civilian butchery, a strategy which exposes the military and police to fewer risks and casualties than they would face in armed fighting with the communist guerillas.

The emphasis of this strategy on “neutralizing” front/legal organizations helps explain why most of the victims of the past five years have been non-combatants and defenseless members of the left. During that period the number of murdered aboveground members of the Left has far exceeded fatalities of the New People’s Army in armed encounters with security forces.

This strategy is blamed for the systematic massacre of non-combatants. It offers a huge potential for human rights abuses and atrocities. It makes the regime look more cold-blooded in its methods in trying to crush the insurgency than it’s predecessors, not excluding the Marcos dictatorship. It opens the path to the slaughter of the defenseless”.

6. Extra-judicial killings, torture and forced disappearances

An impressive amount of cases of extra-judicial killings, disappearances and torture, often in combination with each other, have been documented before the tribunal by oral testimonies by survivors, witnesses and experts who provided also the opportunity of more in depth questioning by the jury. Further for each of the cases (listed in Annex 2) a very detailed account, including copies of original documents and certificates has been available for the jury. The synoptic presentation of the 839 cases of extra-judicial killings in a table, allows on one side the detailed view of the increasing number of cases from the 98 in 2001 to the 213 in 2006, on the other side makes visible the composition of this ‘population’ which is truly and fully representative of the targeted killing strategy: persons associated with ‘ left’ organisations, church people, community leaders, peasants, journalists, lawyers, people of the so-called party list organisations (parliamentary opposition), human rights activists or simply witnesses of extra-judicial killings.

Jan-March 2007
Human Rights
Children (below 18)
National Minority
Urban Poor
Youth & Students
Public Servant

It also appears that most of the killings have taken place in those regions of the country that are identified as ‘priority areas’ in the Oplan Bantay Laya (the counter insurgency program dating from 2002, adopted in the framework of the anti-terrorism campaign after 9/11). (See above,par.5)

Victims are usually, prior to the attacks, subject to a vilification campaign by the military or anti-communist vigilante groups. They are said to be members of the CPP/NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines/ New Peoples Army) or its ‘front organizations’, labeled as ‘terrorists’. In fact the victims are often poor peasants campaigning for some more loans, clergymen who have criticized the government for its alleged inhuman politics, human rights workers and others, peacefully struggling for better conditions for the ordinary people, who have nothing to do with political violence. See for instance the massacre at Hacienda Luisita on November 6, 2006, referred to in paragraph 4.

Examples of the targeting of non-violent clergymen are the killing of bishop Alberto Ramento, known as the bishop of poor peasants and workers and as such a critic of the Arroyo regime, on October 3, 2006, of pastor Andy Pawican on May 21, 2006 (referred to before) and of pastor Isaias Santa Rosa on August 3, 2006 (also referred to before).

Other examples of the targeting of non-violent social movements are the abduction and killing of human rights workers Eddie Gumanoy and Eden Marcellana on April 21, 2003, referred to before, the attacks on party list organization Bayan Muna officially represented in the legislature, of which party 129 members have been killed since 2001. . Also the killing of 15 activist lawyers and 10 judges since 2001, as well of 26 journalists and other media personnel is to be qualified as an attack on non-violent critics of the government or of social actors such as multinationals.

The overall picture made available to the jury on Charge 1 is in fact perfectly fitting the broader scenario outlined in the discussion of the Oplan Bantay Laya (see section*). Having failed in its earlier strategies to defeat the CPP and the NPA the government is now concentrating its oppression on the political more than the military component of the left opposition: the aim of ‘neutralizing’ legal institutions and organisations become an excuse for the killings of peaceful persons. The witness to the tribunal, retired captain Danilo Vizmanos is explicit in his analysis of Oplan Bantay Laya being not designed to engage New People’s Army into armed conflict with the Philippine army, but to attack, torture and kill defenseless non-combatants, poor peasants and social activists.

Women leaders and especially leader of Gabriela Party have been stripped naked and molested by military personnel. Sexual violence is used both as form of torture and to create fear among women.

The responsibility of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)

The perpetrators of the killings and abductions are often uniformed men with no nametags, wearing bonnets or ski-masks and riding on motorcycles or vehicles with no plate numbers. Although the government is strongly denying any participation of the army in these killings, there are serious indications to the contrary. For instance the comprehensive documentation available on the case of the killing after torture of pastor Isaias Santa Rosa on August 3, 2006, has been specifically impressive: one of the perpetrators was killed as well during the operation and a written mission order (available to the evaluation by the PPT) by the army found on his body.

In the case of the killing of pastor Andy Pawican on May 21, 2006, uniformed soldiers abducted the victim, killed shortly afterwards.

The same is true in the case of Eddie Gumanoy and Eden Marcellana (documented with video and a very detailed collection of documents) abducted by uniformed soldiers and killed after having been tortured on April 21, 2003 on their way back from a human rights fact finding mission.

The creation on October 30th 1987 of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units (CAFGU) to serve as auxiliaries to the Armed Forces in counter-insurgency activities, is fuctioning as a paramilitary forces used in many instances to serve the interests of political personalities and private societies.

The politics of impunity

The absence of any serious attempt to assure an investigation on the killings, has been confirmed by all the witnesses.

No photos, no fingerprints are taken, no other investigative measures applied. No prosecution is started because of lack of evidence. Even the most brutal atrocities hardly elicit any decisive action or even oral condemnation of the government. The history of the Melo Commission reflects well this attitude of denial: the government has been politically forced to install the commission with the mandate to investigate the killings: despite the qualification of the facts as ‘incidents’, with no responsibilities of the army nor of the police, the government tried everything to delay the publication, ultimately without success. Another report, by UN special rapporteur Philip Alston, much more critical, has been totally denied and even derided by the government.

Most serious is the mechanism of threatening, torturing and killing of witnesses of killings and other human rights violations. The tribunal refers in this respect to the impressive testimony before the tribunal by Ruel Marcial, severely tortured just because he was the only witness of the killing of pastor Andy Pawican (referred to before).

The jury has also been informed that at least one witness who has given evidence to the UN special rapporteur Alston has been killed shortly afterwards.

The tribunal, having considered the evidence given before it, is of the opinion that the reported killings, torture and forced disappearances fall under responsibility of the Philippine government and are by no way justified in terms of necessary measures against terrorism.


The decisions of the Tribunal with respect to the accusation and charges, as reported idfn par.3 are as follows:

The wealth and consistency of the oral and written documentation made available through witnesses and expert reports, has convinced the PPT that each and all of the three charges presented against Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her Government, and against George Walker Bush and his Government are substantiated.

The PPT underlines that the charges cannot be considered separately nor independently. The atrocities of extra-judicial killings, of massacres, of tortures, of communities destroyed and dispersed are the visible and dramatic expression of one strategy, which has its continuity and effectiveness in the mechanism and instruments documented with respect to chapter 2 and 3.

The extension and the systematic nature of the violations of the rights of the Filipino people committed by the governments of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and with the support and full awareness of the government of George Walker Bush, qualify the same violations as crimes against humanity, with all the consequences for the persons who are responsible for them. Such violations must be stopped immediately.

The Philippine government and the Bush administration have knowingly and willingly colluded with each other in implementing the US’s so-called “war on terror” in Southeast Asia and in the Philippines in violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity, violating the Philippine Constitution which bans the presence of foreign troops and nuclear weapons on Philippine soil.

The PPT has found unequivocal evidences that the militaries have a central role in the greatest majority of the scenarios of human rights violations in the Philippines. The PPT however wants to underline the highly misleading role of the recurrent debates on the direct vs. indirect involvement of the military forces in one or the other individual case. The AFP is a structural component and instrument of the policy of the “war on terror” declared jointly by the Philippines and the US. Governments, as a comprehensive label to justify all illegal actions and their impunity.

The PPT denounces as unacceptable the inclusion of the Government of the Philippines in the UN Human Rights Council:

· It undermines the credibility of the UN in this field;
· It is an intolerable offense to the victims;
· It is a denial of the many well documented denunciations of the dramatic violations of human rights in the Philippines.

As Permanent People’s Tribunal and part of the larger human family, we recognize that the dramatic and worsening human rights situation in the Philippines is the responsibility for us all, not just for those who struggle for their rights in that country, We commit ourselves to strengthen our efforts to defeat those powers which, under pretext of the so-called “war on terrorism” and in the mantle of “market- and profit-driven globalization”, deprive the marginalized of a life in justice, dignity and peace.
This commitment includes a sharp attention to the safety of the witnesses who courageously have contributed to the fact-finding task of the tribunal. If anything would happen to any of them, we will hold the government of the Philippines responsible for that.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Justice for Farly Alcantara II! Justice for all victims of extrajudicial killings!

Statement of the Asian Students Association on the brutal killing of Farly Alcantara II,
member of ASA-affiliated League of Filipino Students

February 16, 2007

Another future of the nation had been denied his own. By mere five bullets.

The Asian Students Association condemns in the strongest possible terms the brutal murder of Farly Alcantara II, a student leader and member of ASA-affiliated League of Filipino Students.

Alcantara, 23 years old, was shot five times in the head in Mercedes, Camarines Norte in Bicol, Philippines on the evening of February 16, 2007. The shooting happened while he was aboard a motorcycle with a teacher. His teacher was unharmed.

He is the latest of the more than 800 victims of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines and the sixth in the youth sector since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assumed the presidency resulting from the people’s ouster of Joseph Estrada.

As we in the ASA grieve for Alcantara’s unjust death, we express more our anger and frustration with the Arroyo government apparently unmoved and doing so little to immediately resolve the grave human rights situation in the Philippines.

Despite receiving a growing international pressure from various governments, organizations and institutions like Asian Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International and the United Nations to act on the call to stop the killings, the government does not seem to care.

The League of Filipino Students (LFS) itself, for a very long time, has been arbitrarily and unjustly tagged by the government as a communist front. Most of the student victims came from highly militarized regions like Bicol and are members of the LFS.

With this, the Arroyo administration is held liable in all these killings. It is very arrogant and disgraceful of her and her death squad to flex muscle through the brutal death of Alcantara just when Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings, is present in the country.

Many people have died and many enforced disappearances remain unresolved. Take the case of university students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, who were allegedly abducted by the Philippine military. They have not been resurfaced.

Alcantara is and will not just be a part of the statistics. His death, together with others, paints a vivid and concrete portraiture of the government’s abandonment of its responsibility to protect and uphold the rights and welfare of the people.

We in the ASA see this situation clearly – a betrayal of what many people call a democracy. This is a betrayal of the people’s trust, an utter disregard for their lives.

We urgently call on the immediate investigation and resolution of Alcantara’s death.

We likewise bring this to the attention of fellow youth and student organizations and other international institutions across Asia Pacific and the world. We call on all our members, our friends and colleagues, all human rights advocates and freedom-loving people to storm the Philippine government with letters and actions of protest.

His death will not go unnoticed. We will stand up for the life that was taken from him and for all the others who cry justice.

Japanese students condemn killing of Filipino student activist

Dear friends,

On February 19, 2007, AASJA held a protest at the Philippine Consulate in Osaka, the second largest city in Japan on the killing of Farly Alcantara, a student activist in the Philippines who was shot five times in the head on February 16.

At the consulate, we proceeded a petition to an officer, condemning the killings and alleged involvement of the military. In spite of our demand for response from the president office to our letters, the officer we met just said that he will pass it to the government and the decision whether to respond to this letter depends onthe president office and not him. He refused to make any comment on the issue.

The students spoke out their experiences in the Philippines with sadness and anger. We demanded the consulate to make public condemnationto the military's involvement in the killings, and give us any response to our letters because this is the representative office of the Philippine government for Japanese citizens. The officer said nothing but just "I will pass it to the president office."

After that, AASJA took to the streets and spoke out about the killings, handing out flyers. We posted some photos of political refugees, which we took last August in Bulacan. In the coming annual assembly of AASJA in March, we will have a lecture from Filipino activist about the current situation of the political killings, and will discuss further campaign on the issue in Japan.

In solidarity


Monday, January 22, 2007


(Statement of Roland G. Simbulan, Professor and Faculty Regent, University of the Philippines System)
January 19, 2006

I have asked the U.P. Board of Regents and the U.P. administration to conduct further study and review of the STFAP report chaired by Prof. Atanacio (otherwise known as the Atanacio report), and if need be, to defer the implementation of the proposed 300% tuition fee increase that was approved by the Board of Regents last December 15, 2006.

The STFAP rebracketing has implications on the future of U.P. education as it will certainly determine if U.P. will still continue to be accessible to low income but bright Filipino students. For the fundamental purpose of U.P. education is to provide excellent but accessible education to children of ordinary Filipino families. The Atanacio report, released only through the U.P. website last December 8, 2006, is crucial because it is the heart of the rationale for the proposed 300% increase in tuition fees, and this report is also the implementing guideline for the increases. There has not been much time to discuss and peer-review this report for modifications of its grave statistical errors and miscalculations. This erroneous report was the main basis of the BOR's decision to increase tuition by 300%, which will spell the intensification if not maximization of revenue generation by U.P. thru tuition fee collections, not social justice and access to poor but deserving students.

The administration seems to be closed to a full blown dialogue with students on this issue, and it is only open to informing the students. This is not how we conduct ourselves in the academic community, much more in U.P. . Debates and intellectual ferment are the lifeblood of this University.

I am very sad and outraged that the U.P. Board of Regents last Dec. 15, 2006 also approved a prospective proposal by the U.P. administration to automatically adjust annually tuition fees " based on the national inflation rate." This is too much, because the benefits under STFAP are not also going to be adjusted annually; further, wages and salaries of the students' parents are not also beig adjusted based on the national inflation rate. Added to this is the implementation in U.P. Diliman of an admissions policy that more favors students coming from private high schools, or their ability to cough out the additional "adjustments" in tuition fees.

These increases could change the character and soul of U.P. as a state university. It is not far-fetched that if we allow these series of increases to go on with the 300% increase as precedent, U.P . would soon be like any private university depending for its finances and operational expenses on tuition collected from students while supporting a few scholars as in Ateneo and De La Salle. Meanwhile, admission would be based on ability to pay.

Students, faculty and non-academic personnel of U.P. should forge a formidable front to prevent the further commercialization and eventual privatization of U.P.. Together, they will define the direction of our University.

As the Centennial of U.P. nears, the struggle for its meaning intensifies. It is a struggle for the University's heart and soul.

Monday, December 25, 2006

ANNFSU today locked up the universities

Posted by Madhav Nepal

KATHMANDU, Dec 24 - Demanding the immediate appointment of top officials, the All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU) on Sunday locked up administration offices of four different universities of the country.

The posts of Vice Chancellor, Rector and Registrar at Tribhuwan University, Nepal Sanskrit University, Purvanchal University and Pokhara University are lying vacant after the king-appointed officials were forced to tender their resignations in May this year.

The ANNFSU today locked up the universities stating that the absence of key administrators has hampered almost all activities of the universities including publication of regular results, the annual convocation program, and release of teachers' salary for the last seven months.

Likewise, in the absence of the top officials, the regular work of the university, students has been pushed back a year.

Despite repeated requests by the Nepal University Teachers' Association, various student associations and varsity staff, the government has continued to remain deaf even as some 55 public campuses are left sans their chiefs.

This has also affected the government plan to revise the old curriculum, considering the changed political context in the country.

Previously, ANNFSU students had reached also Baluwatar to submit a memorandum to Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to this end. The students, however, were denied appointment even after an hour-long wait.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Seeing a Different Home: My Reflections on the Hong Kong Mission

Rey Asis, ASA regional secretariat member

Going back to the Philippines after almost two years of being away from it was something I have always been looking forward to. I was both excited and agitated for several reasons, two of which I will reveal: one, I have been wanting to see my family (or what is left of them as majority of my kin has migrated to Canada), and two, to know and see for myself the political landscape of my country.

I was coming home for another important reason and that is to be in a fact-finding mission that my organization and several local and regional organizations have decided to do as a response to the worsening spate of human rights violations in the Philippines.

Amidst the violence that reaps through the heart of my society, I was happy to know that people from other countries are concerned and expressing their support and solidarity through a lot of ways, this fact-finding mission being one of them.

First days

Stepping into the hot steaming concrete of Metro Manila, I knew I had big work ahead of me.

Meeting with the local secretariat, many of whom were leaders of various organizations including Karapatan and the rest of the secretariat of the Stop the Killings in the Philippines campaign, was to me very important as it laid down the current human rights situation in the country vis a vis the update on the preparations for the Hong Kong Mission on Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines, the name we have given to the fact-finding mission.

Visiting the provinces where the fact-finding mission will be held and meeting with the local leaders and provincial coordinators of Karapatan were also crucial. As organizers of the mission, it is best to know the situation there, the security of the area and the present state of the victims and/or their families as well as the whole community they are presently at.

Attending to the logistical needs of the fact-finding mission, talking with concerned people whom we know can help in the mission as well as learning the ropes of running a fact-finding mission were a few of the things I learned in the course of the first few days.

In those short days (time seemed to be in a sprint always), I realized the importance of learning a lot of things as the grave situation of the people in my country needs more people to be involved and exerting a lot of pressure to the government who has done such a lackluster job in resolving the extra-judicial killings.

More people need to be saved. The victims have to be given justice. Tricks and things have to be learned.

Seeing with one’s own eyes, hearing with one’s own ears

I have always known the ways and means of the Philippine government and its military in dealing with political dissent but it never occurred to me the gravity and magnitude of the violence, of the violation.

I did not find it unusual that I cast doubts at first although after hearing one account from another and how devastating the impact has been on them, I immediately cast my doubts aside.

Most of the victims were from poor families or those leading a life of subsistence. They were either landless farmers, fisherfolk living in dying fjords and rivers or vendors selling their produce in talipapa, or small wet markets.

Except for three, all of the people we interviewed were women, either wives or mothers of the victims. They were kin of people who were either killed or abducted by alleged military men. They spoke of love for the people they have lost or are still looking for. They spoke of justice so succinctly as if it has become staple like rice in a Filipino meal yet so unavailable as if they cannot afford it. They were all crying for it. They were all demanding it.

The youngest of the interviewees was a 14-year old boy who witnessed the abduction of Karen Empeno and Shirlyn Candazo. He lived in the house where Karen and Shirlyn were staying the night they were abducted by what he identified as military men. He witnessed and experienced himself the atrocity of the military as he was hit and dragged by the military themselves.

As most farmers are shy, he too was quite wary of the people he was talking to that afternoon yet he never showed fear of what he was talking about. Many of us gasped and sighed in disbelief when we learned that he never stayed in school for very long as his family’s situation was so poor that he was forced to work and help his already working family to put food on their table.

I wondered at some point, now that they have moved to the refugee camp away from the militarized area, how could they possibly survive? As if reading my mind, he went to speak: It is hard to live in peace without justice. Although life here is hard, I am willing to fight it out. I have nothing to lose.

He tasted violence himself. He was breathing it and he was not afraid to resist and struggle against it. Something that I at my age have yet to learn.

At his very young age, he taught me well.

Standing Up

Coming from an organization that hails students’ rights and involves them in social change, I have seen the grave political situation in my country. Repression hits at the core of the resistance and recognizes no color, age or religion. It is the height of fascism where popular dissent is deemed illegal and terrorist and should be silenced and dealt with heavily.

Students are not spared from these brutal state-sponsored attacks as one colleague too was recently shot dead. Lawyers, lay people, priests, journalists and human rights advocates themselves are neither spared.

In all these days of disquiet, the government was tight-lipped. And when it did open its mouth, it was either all lip service or a railing against the rebellion it accused of killing the lot. If the communists were indeed the one doing the killing rampage, one participant mentioned, why would the witnesses be afraid still to enter the witness protection program? Clearly, there is a flaw in this logic that the military is uttering to the public.

It was made clear in the participants’ minds how flawed the Philippine judiciary system is, how questionable the task forces created by the government itself to look into these cases, and how vigilant the Filipinos are in resisting this raw violence and standing up for themselves.

As a student of society and a Filipino myself, I was proud. This shameless government faces up to a people who will not cower. And the people I was with in the whole week of the fact-finding mission, many of them at the least, knew the importance of exposing this to the international community and rallying the people of Hong Kong and the rest of the world to express their support and solidarity to the Filipino people.

The challenges

In a matter of days, I will be coming back to Hong Kong to meet up with the people who joined the fact-finding mission. In a matter of days, I will be meeting up with my colleagues in the Asian Students Association and the several students of Hong Kong to talk about this situation and the need for us to go together in this growing campaign to stop the killings in my country. In a matter of days, I will be seeing fellow Filipinos and enjoin them in this struggle.

There is a bigger challenge for many of us who have gone and seen for ourselves the loss, or the grave violation, of human rights in the Philippines, to speak about it and tell to as many people as possible. Encouraging them to join in the activities that the mission will hold and even to go and see for themselves the situation here will prove beneficial.

What is important right now is that the situation here is known and that people in my sector at least will be involved.

Lives have to be saved. And justice has to be served.

Saturday, July 08, 2006


Only in the Philippines. Or is it?

In the picture, teacher Blesilda Ferrer distributes test papers for her 50 students of a Grade 2 class, packed in a classroom that was a former toilet of the government-run Commonwealth Elementary School in Quezon City, Philippines.

The choked situation in this schoolroom may be taken as symbolic of the Philippine educational system -- too few resources are being used to educate too many students in too little time.

The Department of Education estimates that for 2006, the country needed 10,549 new classrooms, 1.22 million desks, 67.03 million textbooks and 12,131 more teachers to deal with the crush. The Philippines has 87 million people, with the population growing at 1.95 percent a year.

Friday, July 07, 2006

URGENT APPEAL: Pls. Sign the Online Petition to Stop Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines

Dear friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission has recently uploaded an online petition about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines that is primarily directed to the Philippine Department of Justice.

From the part of the Asian Students Association, we will be supporting this online petition and hope that you would add your names to it as well.

Please note that e-mails with slightly different letters will also be sent to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, the U.N. rapporteur for extrajudicial killings, the National Human Rights Commission and Pope Benedict. These letters can be viewed by clicking on their name on the web site. The online petition is available at
If you can also help in circulating this to your friends and networks, we would appreciate it as well.

Your support is a significant figure in this international campaign to protect human rights and stop the killings in the Philippines.

Thank you very much!

In solidarity,

Rey Asis, Bhakta Gurung and Lee Khai Loon
ASA Regional Secretariat

-- I am a witness to the suffering of my struggling people, and I join them in their fight for liberation.