Two members of the Philippine Congress and a Dutch senator endorse the Tribunal.
Upon the plea of several Philippine human rights and popular organizations, the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal: Second Session on the Philippines was convened in The Hague on 30 October 2006. Previously, a first session on the Philippines was held in 1980 in Antwerp, Belgium that indicted the Marcos dictatorship of grave crimes against the Filipino people.
Present for the convening of the Tribunal were Dr. Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, Philippine Senator Maria Ana “Jamby” Madrigal, Philippine Congressman Teodoro Casiño, Senator Tiny Kox of the Dutch Parliament, Atty. Jan Fermon of the Belgian Progress Law Network, Dr. Edelina de la Paz, Chairperson of KARAPATAN (a Philippine human rights organization) and Mr. Wim Vugts, a Dutch volunteer residing in the Philippines.
An International Coordinating Secretariat headed by Dr. Angelica Gonzales, of the Philippine Peace Center prepared and organized the convening of the Tribunal in The Hague while a Philippine Secretariat held a parallel launching activity on the same day in the Philippines.
Dr. Gianni Tognoni, General Secretary of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal presided over the convening of the Tribunal. In his opening speech, Tognoni stated the three reasons why the PPT accepted the appeal of the Philippine organizations:
- the Philippines is a model case where the old dictatorships are now being replaced by low intensity war conducted by governments;
- the Philippines is a model where a climate of silence reigns in the face of the grave human rights abuses being committed because of a serious lack of awareness and concern by the international community;
- the Philippines is a model of globalization where Filipinos are forced to migrate due to socio-economic underdevelopment but suffer exploitation in the western democracies where they are forced to migrate.
Belgian lawyer Jan Fermon read a summary of the charges prepared by Atty. Romeo T. Capulong of the Public Interest Law Center against the Arroyo government and its foreign accomplices. These involve violations of the civil and political rights, social, economic and cultural rights and Philippine national sovereignty and independence.
Philippine Senator M. A. Madrigal compared Philippine President Gloria Arroyo to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini because of the latter’s totalitarian policies and attacks on democratic institutions such as the Philippine Congress and the press. Sen. Madrigal pointed to the filing of cases against the editor and two columnists of the opposition newspaper Daily Tribune and the filing of libel cases by her husband against 30 media people critical of Arroyo.
She cited her experience of being targeted with water cannons together with former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, three bishops and a former cabinet secretary while they were leading a prayer rally to protest the suppression of democracy in the country.
She said, “Like Mussolini, Mrs. Arroyo is attempting a Fascist march on Rome. She is attacking every institution and trampling every right to ensure total control for her party, her allies and herself.” She said that the Philippines is under virtual martial law as Pres. Arroyo has assumed almost absolute power and uses violence against all her political opponents.
She expressed the hope that the Tribunal will raise international awareness on the alarming situation in the Philippines and contribute to the defense of democracy in the country.
Congressman Casiño cited the arrest and continued detention of Congressman Crispin Beltran and the filing of rebellion charges against five other congressmen including himself as an example of the political repression in the country. He also informed the audience about the resolution passed by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, composed of more than 140 national parliaments all over the world in its 115th Assembly in Geneva last week, that called on the Philippine government to release Cong. Beltran and called the persecution of the six congressmen an attack not only on their persons and parties but on parliament itself.
Senator Tiny Kox expressed his concern that he said was shared by many of his colleagues in the Dutch parliament about the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines. He said that the current situation in the Philippines reminded him of the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship. He expressed the hope that the Tribunal will help bring out the truth and contribute to the defense and promotion of democracy in the Philippines.
Tognoni closed the assembly with the formal acceptance of the appeal of the Philippine organizations to convene the Tribunal and announced the holding of the formal trial proceedings on March 21 25, 2007 in The Hague. #
October 31, 2006
International Coordinating Secretariat
Reference: Angelica Gonzales
secretariat @ philippinetribunal . org