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by E. San Juan, Jr. Wednesday, May. 02, 2007 at 9:06 AM

The 2nd session of the Permanent People's Tribunal (March 21-25, The Hague, Netherlands) marks a historic milestone in the Filipino people's struggle for social justice and true independence from U.S. imperialism and predatory global capital. This brief report sums up the major achievement of the Tribunal, highlighting the role of progressive Filipina women in the fight for freedom and people's liberation.

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Philippine Forum, New York City

Last March 21-23, at The Hague, Netherlands, the Permanent People’s Tribunal, an international opinion court independent from any State authority, rendered a judgment of guilty for “crimes against humanity” against the Philippine government headed by Gloria Arroyo and its chief backer, the Bush administration. Their accomplices include the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade Organization, and multinational firms and banks notorious for having plundered the Philippines and exploited the Filipino people since the colony’s nominal independence from the U.S. in 1946.

Deprived of any access to a fair and just court of law in the Philippines, well-known civil-society organizations from the Philippines presented oral testimonies of victims, together with substantial depositions of witnesses and experts on the massive violations of human rights under the current Gloria Arroyo government. To date, over 840 extra-judicial killings, abductions, forced disappearances, massacres, and tortures have occurred. The victims--church people, community leaders, peasants, journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, and persons associated with legal progressive organizations—are often vilified as “communists” or “front organizations” of “terrorist” groups (meaning the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army). After his investigation in February, UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston identified the Philippine military and police as the perpetrators of these crimes. In his report to the UN of March 22, Alston charged that the Arroyo regime’s counter-insurgency strategy and propaganda “encourage or facilitate the extrajudicial killings of activists and other enemies” of the state.

In her March 27 oral intervention to the UN Human Rights Council , Marie Hilao-Enriquez, chair of the leading human-rights monitor in the Philippines, KARAPATAN, supported Alston’s findings. She stressed the continuing “climate of impunity” which allowed two witnesses of Alston to be murdered just after his visit. The killings and kidnapping by Arroyo’s police and military have accelerated in the weeks after the Tribunal verdict; the latest is the attempted slaying of Jose Garachico, public information officer of KARAPATAN; and the abduction of two women militants: Nilo Arado, chair of BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance), and Maria Luisa Posa-Dominado, spokesperson for SELDA (Society of Ex-Detainees for Liberation, Against Detention and for Amnesty). This latest incident reinforces Alston’s March 27 report to the UN Human Rights Council that “there is no reasonable doubt that the military is responsible for a significant number of the killings.”

Testifying before the session of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, chairperson of the dynamic multisectoral people’s organization, BAYAN, furnished one of the most cogently irrefutable evidence for the charges levied by peoples’ organizations against the Bush-Arroyo collusion.

In her 16-pages affidavit submitted to the panel of jurors of the Tribunal, Dr. Araullo focused on the Arroyo regime’s violent suppression of civil liberties and other constitutionally-mandated citizen’s rights. She inventories numerous instances of violent dispersals of peaceful assemblies and demonstrations by the authoritarian State. During a rally on 13 July 2004, Dr. Araullo “was hosed down with high-pressure water canons and hit on the head.” She suffered a two-inch scalp laceration and contusions all over her body. Hundreds also were roughed up and terrorized by abusive policemen and security agents licensed by the State to brutally suppress public criticism of the policies and actions of Arroyo’s corrupt and illegitimate rule. The editor of the Manila newspaper Daily Tribune Ninez Cacho-Olivares has described Arroyo’s henchmen as “Gloria’s murderous military” (Tribune Online Editorial, 3/30/2007).

Dr. Araullo, a physician by profession, is a veteran national-democratic organizer responsible for founding the first human-rights organization of medical professions and health workers, the Health Alliance for Democracy, which protested the Marcos dictatorship (1972-86). In 1989, she was included in the military’s “order of battle” with a price on her head, alleged to be a high-ranking official of the Communist Party of the Philippines,” an allegation which she challenges. In her testimony, Dr. Araullo documents the Arroyo government’s systematic vilification of progressive, left-wing nationalist groups, setting them up for “extrajudicial” assassinations. Citing several cases of Arroyo’s fascistic measures—among them, proclamation 1017 of a “national emergency” last February, and the anti-terrorism bill, ironically titled “Human Security Act of 2007,” Dr. Araullo indicts the Arroyo regime for “gross and systematic violations of civil and political rights” as well as economic, social and cultural rights, including the right of the Filipino people to national self-determination and liberation.

How is the Bush administration linked to these horrors? Aside from hefty U.S. military aid to Arroyo’s security forces, the intervention of US Special Forces in the brutal Philippine counterinsurgency campaigns has precipitated and sustained these catastrophes. U.S. military aid increased from million in 2001 to 4 million in 2003 and 4 milllion in 2005, making the Philippines the fourth largest recipient of such aid (US Congress-Federal Research Division, March 2006). In effect, Bush has been using US citizens’ tax dollars to fund political killings, torture, and other atrocities inflicted on civilians quite unprecedented in Philippine history. Not even the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986) could rival Arroyo’s excesses. Through various unequal treaties and diplomatic skullduggery, the US government has underwritten the ongoing counter-insurgency operations as part of its “global war on terrorism,” thus justifying the political murders and the unconscionable impunity of both Philippine and U.S. governments.

Philippine Senator Jamby Madrigal, who testified at the Tribunal hearings on the ecological destruction wrought by local and global corporations, condemned the de facto martial rule in the Philippines, with Arroyo functioning as a mere figurehead. Proof of this is the arrest of legally elected representatives to the Congress: Crispin Beltran of the ANAKPAWIS party was detained in February for spurious reasons. From March 16 to April 3, Representative Satur Ocampo, head of the party-list political group, BAYAN MUNA, was in jail for a charge of “multiple murders” that took place 22 years ago. Clearly, the Arroyo regime is hell-bent on stifling all legal opposition, if not liquidating physically all dissenters and critics, by State terror.

What are some of the after-effects of the Tribunal verdict? Compelled by the rigorous documentation of these “crimes against humanity” by Amnesty International, the Asian Human Rights Commission (see their substantial report in the journal Article 2 (February 2007), and the Philippine National Council of Churches (see their powerful critique of the Arroyo regime in their ecumenical brief, “Let the Stones Cry Out,” March 2007), Senator Barbara Boxer and officials of the U.S. State Department have expressed concern. Too little, too late.

Unless the Bush administration cuts off aid for the Pentagon-guided Armed Forces of the Philippines and removes the “terrorist” label from the internationally-recognized legitimate liberation groups, the New People’s Army and the Communist Party of the Philippines (peace talks have been conducted between the umbrella group, the National Democratic Front and the Philippine government for several years now, sponsored by Norway and the European Union), those rumblings from Washington will mean nothing. At best, it will prompt Arroyo to mobilize her “public relations” outfits to streamline their lobbying so as to extend her rule indefinitely, using bribes, coercion, and threats from death-squads.

Meanwhile, the Philipine criminal justice system (described by the Asian Human Rights Commision as “rotten”) will begin to apply this July the heinous provisions of the anti-terrorism bill to criminalize all radical, anticapitalist organizations and all public rallies critical of the neocolonial system, U.S. imperialist aggression, IMF-World Bank, and predatory transnational corporations. UN Special Rapporteur Martin Scheinin has warned that the “Human Security Act” passed by Congress contradicts international principles of legality and is bound to trigger more political killings and other State terrorist abuses. Arroyo’s “lawful” terrorism is bound not only to worsen the misery of 87 million Filipinos over half of whom are direly impoverished (one million leave every year, joining 10 million overseas Filipino workers spread around the planet). State terrorism will surely feed and stoke the fires of revolutionary resistance—both peaceful and armed—against oligarchic barbarism and corporate savagery.

What is to be done? U.S. citizens must mobilize to stop Bush and the Pentagon from conniving with Arroyo to slaughter more Filipinos. The crisis in the Philippines has dramatized again the disastrous consequences of the Bush policy of fomenting a global war of terror on subalternized peoples. It has demonstrated blatantly, as it has in Afghanistan and Iraq, its catastrophic impact on “third world” dependent formations, neocolonized polities like the Philippines, whose citizens have become hostages to the unrelenting militarized ambitions of the hegemonic business elite. Not only in the Philippines but also in numerous sites of fierce class warfare around the planet—in Palestine, Sudan, Nepal, Colombia, Mexico, India, Venezuela, and elsewhere—the popular struggle for national liberation, social justice, and socialist democracy will continue. What the People’s Tribunal’s verdict on the Arroyo-Bush collusion signifies is the value of “speaking truth to power,” as well as the inexhaustible power of people’s solidarity, its invincible strength in forging versatile weapons of resistance against oppressors and exploiters everywhere. --###


Dr. E. SAN JUAN, Jr. was recently fellow of the Rockefeller Foundation Study Center at Bellagio, Italy, and Fulbright professor of American Studies at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium. His recent books include Racism and Cultural Studies (Duke University Press), Beyond Postcolonial Theory (Palgrave Macmillan), In the Wake of Terror: Class, Race, Nation and Ethnicity in the Postmodern World (Lexington Books), and US Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines (Palgrave).

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