Press

Response to Ms. Loida Lewis from IPT Convener National Lawyers Guild

For immediate release
July 23, 2015

The National Lawyers Guild, as a convenor of the International People’s Tribunal (IPT), wishes to respond to the comments made by Ms. Loida Nicolas Lewis on Balitang America following the verdict of the IPT finding the Aquino and US Governments are:

 1. GUILTY of gross human rights violations involving the civil and political rights of the Filipino People, for committing extrajudicial killings, disappearances, massacres, torture, arbitrary arrests and detentions as well as other vicious, brutal and systematic abuses and attacks on the basic democratic rights of the people;

2. GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights of the Filipino people through the imposition of exploitative, neoliberal, “free market” globalization; transgression of their economic sovereignty and plunder of their national patrimony and economy; and attacks on the people’s livelihoods and destruction of the environment; and

3. GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of the rights of the people to national self-determination and liberation through the imposition of the US war of terror and US military intervention; as well as the perpetration of crimes against humanity and war crimes; misrepresentations of the people’s right to national liberation and self-determination as “terrorism” and the baseless “terrorist” listing of individuals, organizations and other entities by the US and other governments.

Ms. Lewis claims that the Defendants were not given their day in court. However, she fails to mention that the Defendants were served the indictment by certified mail, return receipt requested, through the Embassy of the Philippines, the US State Department, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization on July 6, 2015. The Defendants were given an opportunity to submit an answer in writing and/or appear personally to answer the charges. The Defendants were asked to respond as to if and how they would participate. They were informed that a failure to do submit and answer would be deemed as a waiver of the right to present a defense. The IPT program gave time for the defense to make appearances and present evidence. While due process was followed and the Defendants had the opportunity to be heard, they chose not to exercise that right.

Ms. Lewis further attacks the tribunal by asking where they were during the time of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. This is ill-informed as not only does the IPT touch on the issues of violations by Arroyo that are being carried on through Aquino’s regime, but shows her ignorance to the 2007 Permanent People’s Tribunal in March 2007 in The Hague which deliberated on an indictment against the Arroyo regime and US Government.

Ms. Lewis attacks the credibility of the IPT. The jurors that deliberated on the indictment are well respected lawyers, academics, award winning social activists and church leaders with exemplary backgrounds. They heard witnesses testimony and reviewed and found credible documentary evidence. Ms. Lewis has no counter to the allegations by witnesses and brings up no argument that the witnesses are less than credible, but only makes empty accusations.

Further, Ms. Lewis tries to distract from the purpose of the tribunal by bringing up issues with China’s influence in the Philippines that are outside the scope of the indictment and witness testimony. Ms. Lewis goes on to verbalize her support of the EDCA, which puts her obviously on the side of the Aquino and US government.

Ms. Lewis is incorrect. This IPT will have an impact. She fails to realize that the majority of Filipinos do not live her lavish lifestyle and are being greatly harmed by the current regimes’ policies. Ms. Lewis also fails to realize that the international community cares about the people of the Philippines and will make their voices heard. The NLG invites Ms. Lewis and/or those representing her views to discuss further the findings of the IPT with the NLG and fellow conveners of the IPT in a public forum.

Sincerely,

Vanessa K. Lucas
Chair Philippines Subcommittee of the International Committee
National Lawyers Guild
vanessa@edelsteinpayne.com

IPT Opening Day, Report on Service of Indictment: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnCeuC3gXNI

Filipinos to Protest Return of US Military to Subic Bay in Front of White House

Media Advisory

Contact: Berna Ellorin, 347.244.8953

WASHINGTON DC– Filipinos and supporters in Washington DC are set to protest the return of the US military to Subic Bay in the Philippines.

“We cannot fall under the trap that the US military is here to protect us from China. The US has its own interests in coming to the Philippines that do not align with our interest of upholding Philippine sovereignty ,” states Philippine Congressman Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna (People First) Partylist. “The Philippine Senate reached a landmark decision in 1992 and voted no to renewing the Bases Treaty, essentially shutting down Subic Naval and Clark Air Force Bases because US military bases operating in the Philippines were an affront to our sovereignty and territorial integrity. Those reasons still stand today.”

WHAT: US Hands Off Subic Bay Press Conference & White House Action

WHEN: Monday, July 20, 11:10AM

WHERE: Front of the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

WHO: Filipino Human Rights Advocates and supporters, including

          Philippine Congressman Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna Party;

          Amirah Lidasan of Suara Bangsamoro (Voice of the Moro People);

          Irma Bajar of Gabriela USA; and

          Peter Murphy of the International Coalition on Human Rights the Philippines

BACKGROUND:

In the context of the US strategic pivot to Asia, the US and Philippine governments recently signed a military pact– the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement– that would allow US military to set up facilities in the Philippines. The Aquino government recently announced plans to re-open Subic Bay as a naval base accessible to US military troops. US military basing in Subic would allow for a hub in its moves to contain China.

US military presence in the Philippines, particularly in Olongapo City, where Subic Bay is based, has historically been linked to crimes and human rights abuses committed by US military personnel and Filipina women and children. Two examples of this are the October 2014 murder of Filipina transwoman Jennifer Laude, and the 2005 gang rape of Suzette Nicolas, also known as “Nicole”, by US servicemen.

A botched anti-terrorism operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last February shed light on US military’s involvement in direct combat operations in the country, as well as a secret US drone program in Mindanao, despite Philippine constitutional provisions that prohibit foreign military basing and combat operations on Philippine soil.

This past July 18 in Washington DC, an International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines found Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and the US government under Barack Obama guilty for crimes against the Filipino people, including the right to self-determination and sovereignty. Conveners of the tribunal include the National Lawyers Guild and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.

IPT 2015: A victory of the Filipino People

International Release
ILPS-Philippines Statement on the IPT 2015
19 July 2015
IPT 2015: A victory of the Filipino People

The Philippines Chapter of the International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Phils) hails the conclusion the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT 2015) in Washington, D.C. as it finds the US and Aquino governments guilty beyond doubt of rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The 32 witnesses and several experts braved all odds amid the intensifying crisis and political repression in the Philippines to testify on record before the tribunal.

The wealth of data, information, facts, analyses and other evidence clearly established the factual basis of the indictment, and the culpability of respondents Defendant Benigno Simeon Aquino III and Defendant Government of the United States of America.

We laud the panel of international jurors, prosecutors and staff of the tribunal as well as the militant and progressive peoples of the world who showed solidarity with the Filipino people in the fight for righteousness, justice and freedom.

The blood of our martyrs and victims of rights violations in the Philippines are not lost with the resounding success of the tribunal.

The guilty verdict on Pres. Aquino and the US government goes into the annals of the historic fight of the Filipino people against US imperialism and local reaction.

We are one with the IPT 2015 in calling “to seek redress, to pursue justice, and to transform this oppressive, exploitative and repressive global state of affairs exemplified by the experience and plight of the Filipino people, to challenge the international “rule of law”, and to construct a global order founded on full respect for the rights of all peoples, everywhere.”

We intend to pursue cases of rights abuses and violations as copies of the verdict reach the Prosecutor´s Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Inter-American, European, African, and Asian regional courts or systems, as well as lawyers associations, human rights defenders, law schools, and human rights programs of study throughout the world.

A significant stride has been made with IPT 2015 as we march forward ever more resolutely to punish the perpetrators, render justice for the victims and end impunity in the country.

International Verdict Declares Philippine President Aquino Guilty, Service of Verdict Planned for Monday

IPTheader

WASHINGTON DC– Azadeh Shahshahani, prominent human rights attorney and author, delivered the verdict declaring Philippine President Aquino and the U.S. Government, as represented by President Obama, “GUILTY of gross and systematic violations of human rights.”

“Over the past two long, painful and enraging days, We have closely and keenly listened, watched, seen, asked, pondered on an uninterrupted procession of witnesses, survivors, families and friends – victims all in each and every way – as well as experts whose opinions are uncontested and indisputable because they constitute very credible testimonies, accounts and reports,” Atty. Shahshahani stated.

Nearly 300 observers packed into an auditorium, sitting behind victims and families of victims of human rights abuses under Philippine President Aquino, anxiously awaiting the final verdict of the International Peoples’ Tribunal.

After the verdict, the full group of expert witnesses of victims and spouses or family members of victims stood with raised fists. The packed room of observers rose to standing ovation for their courageous presence and testimony. They closed the applause with a chant of “Makibaka, Huwag Matakot! Struggle onward, have no fear!”

“I am happy. Finally, through this peoples’ court, we really got a just verdict,” said Melissa Roxas.

Nelson, another witness whose wife Fidela Salvador was tortured and killed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, shared, “When you seek justice and justice is so elusive, the verdict addressed a longing that we feel. In a world of injustice, this verdict is so enriching and it fills the emptiness that I’ve had for a long time. The execution of the verdict was for the whole of all Filipinos and I hope it fuels more peoples’ fire for justice.”

The IPT verdict on charges against the Philippine President Aquino and the US government under Barack Obama will be served to the White House and the Philippine Embassy in a rally and march throughout D.C. this Monday, July 20 beginning at 10:00am.

In closing, Atty. Shahshahani stated that the panel of jurors “enjoin the Defendants to undertake, and the People to pursue proper remedial measures to prevent the commission or continuance of such illegal and criminal acts.”

The International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) was convened by the National Lawyers Guild, the International Association of Democratic Laywers, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, and IBON International. For more information, copy of evidence submitted, and the full verdict, visit internationalpeoplestribunal.org. Full coverage on testimonies heard is available on Twitter @IPT_2015. Interviews available upon request.

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Post verdict

Post verdict cheer

Jurors.
Jurors.
Jurors and witnesses.
Jurors and witnesses.


Victims of Human Rights Violations Launch Tribunal in D.C., Highlight U.S. Culpability in War Crimes in the Philippines

For immediate release
July 17, 2015

Contact: Berna Ellorin, 347-244-8953

IPT

WASHINGTON DC– In the first day of an International Peoples’ Tribunal in D.C. yesterday, victims and expert witnesses to torture, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, forced evacuations, and violations of international humanitarian law gave testimonies drawing strong connection between the U.S. and Philippine governments’ collaboration and culpability in perpetrating these abuses.

Cynthia Jaramillo shared details on the torture and murder of her husband, a member of the New Peoples’ Army, along with 6 other combatants and 2 unarmed civilians in September 2014: “They were not killed during a legitimate running battle with the AFP. The state of their bodies when recovered clearly indicated the torture, willful killing, and desecration of the remains. Almost all of them suffered from non-encounter wounds according to the post-mortem reports and the review of evidence by forensic experts.”

She recounted, “Autopsy reports show that my husband Arnold Jaramillo was taken alive. He was killed at close range and his body had been desecrated. He was riddled with multiple gunshot wounds on his back and lower extremities. His internal organs appeared macerated and his body was porous like a sponge. He had multiple fractures in his upper and lower extremities. There was massive laceration of his upper lip, fractures in his upper and lower jaws and a shattering of both jaws inward into his throat so that the embalmer had to insert cement into his mouth to remedy the disfigurement.”

Jaramillo stated of the perpetrators, “They openly identified themselves in newspaper articles, they were part of the 41st infantry battalion of the Philippine army of the AFP who belong to the Northern Luzon command.”

U.S. supported crimes of war

The apparent torture and murder of Jaramillo’s husband by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, not in an armed encounter, but rather after he had been captured and disarmed, is a gross violation of international humanitarian law with respect to rules of combat in times of war.

Jaramillo noted, “The Philippine govt. had been signatories to international instruments on engagement on the rules of war. One of which is the Geneva Convention and protocols 1 and 2 on the ‘hors de combat’ on those that have been incapacitated to fight. There is also the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law that the National Democratic Front and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines had agreed upon to protect the rights of civilians as well as combatants, but all these were violated by the military.” She continued, “This is the conduct of the Philippine government in the civil war that is going on in our country. It is patterned after the US counter-insurgency strategy and it is heavily funded by the US government.”

Targets of war crimes include unarmed civilians and U.S. citizens

Also killed in the same attack as Jaramillo’s husband was unarmed civil engineer Fidela Salvador who had been in the area monitoring projects being implemented by her office. Jaramillo stated that Salvador was “a member of a Non-Governmental Organization, which has been politically vilified by the military” and subsequently “subjected to surveillance, harassment, threat, and other forms of human rights violations.”

She continued: “She was captured by the military in circumstances that we still have to establish, but the evidence of her wounds say that she was heavily tortured, that they repeatedly hit the back of her head with a blunt object before nine shots were fired upon her body blowing her heart and macerating her lungs.”

Melissa Roxas, a U.S. citizen from Los Angeles, also shared testimony of her own abduction and torture while participating in a medical mission in 2009: “When I was in Tarlac preparing for a mission, fifteen men in civilian clothing with high powered rifles, bonnets, and ski masks forced me and my two other companions, which were health workers into a van and took us to what I believed to be a military camp. In there, I was handcuffed and blindfolded and for the six days that I was there, I was repeatedly beaten, suffocated, and underwent other forms of torture.”

Roxas stated, “anytime that you work with the poor community, they automatically label you as the NPA and they try to vilify your work and justify the abduction and torture.”

Culture of impunity breeds a growing Peoples’ War

Though Melissa Roxas has testified in Philippine courts, her case has not been resolved. For her husband’s case, Cynthia Jaramillo filed complaints with numerous government agencies including the Commission on Human Rights and Department of Justice, but has yet to receive the results of their investigation. Jaramillo asserted: “For Aquino, instead of ordering an investigation on these brutal killings he instead awarded all of those involved in the military operation, especially the officials, with medals of honor. Some of them were even promoted.”

“I urge this tribunal to hold President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III, as the commander in chief of the AFP, directly accountable for the war crimes committed against my husband, the other members of the NPA, as well as the other civilians,” Jaramillo implored.

She closed with stating that joining the New Peoples’ Army “was one of the most difficult decisions my husband had ever made in his entire life because it meant leaving us his loved ones, his family, especially our two children. But he said, it is only through revolutionary armed struggle that we can dismantle the oppressive and exploitative system that has been causing great suffering among our people.”

The International Peoples’ Tribunal will continue through July 18, at which time the panel of jurors will issue their verdict. For more information and a live stream of the proceedings, visit: http://www.internationalpeoplestribunal.org. Interviews available upon request.

Melissa Roxas
Melissa Roxas
Cynthia Jaramillo
Cynthia Jaramillo

DC Tribunal Begins, Testimonies Articulate Human Rights Crisis Under Aquino

For Immediate Release
July 17, 2015

Contact: Berna Ellorin, 347.244.8953

IPT

WASHINGTON DC– Nearly 200 flocked to Catholic University of America yesterday for the opening of the International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) on the Philippines. Victims and families of victims of gross human rights abuses from the Philippines travelled to DC to testify in front a distinguished panel of jurors that include Azadeh Shahshahani, president of the National Lawyers Guild; Camilo Bustillo-Perez, prominent Latin American human rights advocate, author, and lecturer; and Reverend Molofe Tsele, a minister with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in South Africa and former South African Ambassador.

Structural Evil

“There is structural evil in our country,” testified Bishop Solito Toquero of the United Methodist Church and professor at Union Theological Seminary in Manila. Toquero recalled an encounter with the police in 2012 during the State of the Nation Address of President Benigno Aquino III, where police intimidated and violently dispersed a contingent of seminarians he mobilized from his class who were seeking to enter Congress.

“We marched with the most marginalized in our country because we wanted to hear the real state of the nation from their point of view as the poor. It is the mission of Christ to be in solidarity with the poor, the voiceless,” Toquero continued. “Not only to minister to them, but to be with them.”

Toquero described how their contingent was met with violence from the police despite their attempts to peacefully dialogue with them. Toquero and several of his colleagues were brutalized and sent to the hospital that day. Weeks later, Toquero was subpoenaed by the government with charges of sedition and rebellion.

Trumped Up Charges

In another testimony, Coy Gemarino recounted the extrajudicial killing of her husband, fair trade activist Romy Capalla, in March 2014 by Philippine state forces.

“He was brutally shot in front of my mother, who was 91 years old. Prior to that, we received a lot of messages that my husband is being targeted as a supposedly high ranking official of the communist party in Iloilo,” Gemarino testified.

“My mother uses a walker due to a hip fracture and Romy would usually pick her up at our store, which is located at the center of the public market…. it was there he was shot,” Gemarino continued. “I was told he was killed by unknown soldiers. The national police supposedly filed charges, but it was dismissed for lack of evidence.”

Culture of Impunity

Los Angeles-based health worker Melissa Roxas recounted her 2009 ordeal where she was abducted at gunpoint while conducting preparations for a medical mission for a poor rural community in La Paz, Tarmac.

Roxas was blindfolded, held in illegal detention, and tortured for 6 days before being released.

“While they were torturing me, they were forcing me to sign papers stating I was a member of the New Peoples Army and that I surrendered. But I refused,” Roxas testified.

Roxas also shared contextual points on how Aquino’s national security program “Operation Plan Bayanihan” is patterned after the US State Department’s Counter-insurgency guide.

Having filed a complaint to the Philippine Department of Justice, the Philippine Supreme Court, the US State Department and the United Nations, not only to the military general respondents remain free, some have been promoted.

According to the Philippine human rights group Karapatan, there have been a documented 238 cases of extrajudicial killings, 26 enforced disappearances, 110 cases of torture, and 723 cases of illegal arrest and detention that remain unprosecuted.

Convened by the National Lawyers Guild, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, and Ibon International, the IPT will continue till Saturday, July 18.

Charges against the Philippine President Aquino and the US government under Barack Obama include violations of the right of the Filipino people to self-determination and liberation.

​For more information, visit internationalpeoplestribunal.org.

 

Melissa Roxas
Melissa Roxas
Coy Gemarino
Coy Gemarino
​Bishop Solito Toquero
​Bishop Solito Toquero

AS U.S. Bases Return to the Philippines, Human Rights Advocates Tackle Military Agreements in DC Tribunal

Media Advisory
For Thursday, July 16
Contact: Berna Ellorin, 347-244-8953

WASHINGTON DC– As the Aquino government reopens Subic Naval Base for US military use, Filipino human rights advocates are in Washington DC to testify on the adverse impact of increasing US military presence in the Philippines in the context of the Asia Pivot. The International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines will try both Philippine President Benigno Aquino III and the US government under Barack Obama for gross human rights violations and crimes against the Filipino people, including violations to the right to self-determination and liberation through the imposition of the US War on Terror and US military intervention.

WHAT: International Peoples’ Tribunal on the Philippines

WHEN: Thursday, July 16 to Saturday, July 18; Proceedings begin 8:00 am

WHERE: Catholic University of America, Gowan Hall, 620 Michigan Ave., N.E. Washington, DC 20064

WHO: Witnesses from the Philippines include Philippine Congressman Neri Colmenares and Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) survivor Efleda Bautista; Convenors include the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL), and Ibon International; former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark will serve as lead prosecutor; jurors include NLG President Azadeh Shashahani and prominent Latin American human rights advocate, author, and attorney Camilo Bustillo-Perez.

*Media is invited to cover this event. Interviews will be made available*

BACKGROUND

In 2001, the Bush administration tagged the Philippines as the “Second Front” to the Global War on Terror. This set a pretext for increasing US military exercises in the country under the guise of counter-terrorism.

Since then the presence of US military personnel has been linked to various human rights abuses in the country, including the gang rape of Filipina Suzette “Nicole” Nicolas in 2005 and murder of Filipina transwoman Jennifer Laude in 2014.

In the context of Obama’s Asia Pivot, an April meeting between the two heads of state in Manila led to the signing of a new military pact—the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. (EDCA).

Secret US drone operations in Mindanao recently came to light with direct US military involvement in the botched February 2015 anti-terrorist operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that led to the death of over 70, including 44 Special Action Forces of the Philippine National Police.

One expert witness and outspoken critic on US military presence in the Philippines, former Philippine Congresswoman Liza Maza, was prevented from boarding her plane to the US last July 9, due to an order from US Homeland Security to her airline, Korean Air. Liza was on her way to the US upon the invitation of community organizations and to testify at the IPT. Despite holding a valid 10-year multiple-entry visa to the US, Liza was barred from travel to the US.

For more information, visit internationalpeoplestribunal.org.