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Monday, June 24, 2024

A second look at the cases presented at the International Peoples Tribunal on the Philippines


MANILA – The International Peoples Tribunal (IPT) issued a guilty verdict to Ferdinand Marcos Jr., former President Rodrigo Duterte, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the United States government for war crimes against the Filipino people and violations of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) by the International Peoples Tribunal last Saturday, May 18.

For this year’s IPT, the tribunal focused on the war crimes and IHL violations.

Here are the cases presented at the tribunal:

Massacres of civilians

Tumandok Massacre. On December 30, 2020, a series of raids was conducted by the combined forces of the police and military purportedly to serve search warrants in different Tumandok communities in Iloilo and Capiz.

The police insisted that the victims were members of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and that they fought back when the warrants were served. Leaders of the Tumandok communities, namely Roy Giganto, Reynaldo Katipunan, Mario Aguirre, Eliseo Gayas, Maurito Diaz, Arlilito Katipunan, Jomer Vidal, Garson Catamin, and Rolando Diaz were killed during the raids.

The families of the victims recounted that the combined forces of police and soldiers forcibly entered their homes and killed their loved ones, while the others, including children, were violently pushed outside their homes.

Read: Gov’t troops massacre 9 Tumandok in Panay

New Bataan 5. On February 23, 2022, five individuals, namely Chad Errol Ramirez Booc, Gelejurain Alce Ngujo II, Elegyn Balonga, Robert Aragon, and Tirso Añar, were killed in New Bataan, Davao de Oro while they were about to visit a community for research work for the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network.

The military claimed that an armed encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA) took place, but the locals confirmed that no such encounter took place. Prior to their deaths, the victims were subjected to threats, harassment, intimidation, red-tagging, surveillance, and other forms of death threats.

Read: 5 killed in Davao de Oro are civilians, not NPA, group says

Fausto family. Spouses Billy and Emelda Fausto, 55 and 50 years old, respectively, were killed along with their two sons on June 14, 2023 in Sitio Kangkiling, Barangay Buenavista, Himamaylan City, Negros Occidental. Ben Fausto was 15 years old while Ravin Fausto was 12 years old.

Before the incident, soldiers subjected the family to illegal searches, robbery, interrogation, and red-tagging.

On June 14, 2023, government soldiers arrived at their residence and opened fire at the house. After an hour, a neighbor of the victims woke up one of Fausto’s daughters, Emely, and informed her of the gunshots believing that it came from her parent’s house. They rushed to the residence and saw Emelda, Ben, and Raben lifeless, and only found the body of Billy in the morning, near a cornfield behind their house. The military claimed that it was the New People’s Army who was responsible for their death.

Read: ‘Probe massacre of peasant family in Negros’ – rights group

Attempted extrajudicial killing of Brandon Lee

On August 6, 2019, human rights worker Brandon Lee was shot by two unnamed soldiers outside of his residence in Lagawe, Ifugao. Lee, an American citizen and a permanent resident in the Philippines, is married to an Igorot, an indigenous people from the Cordillera region.

The attempted killing of Lee has resulted in paralysis from the chest down due to an injury to his spinal cord. Prior to the shooting, Lee has been subjected to threats and harassment by the members of the Philippine Army.

Lee is a correspondent of the alternative online newspaper, the Northern Dispatch, and a paralegal volunteer and provincial human rights officer in Ifugao for the Cordillera Human Rights Alliance and Ifugao Peasant Movement (IPM).

Read: Journalist, rights defender shot, seriously wounded in Ifugao

Killing of hors de combat and desecration of remains

Bilar 5. On Feb. 23, 2024 in Bilar, Bohol, five members of the New People’s Army, namely Hannah Jay A. Cesista, Domingo Compoc, Perlito Historia, Marlon Osomura and Alberto Sancho, were killed by members of the 47th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army and the Bohol Provincial Police Office.

Witnesses said the house where the five were staying were strafed by the military. A woman, whom the witnesses assumed was Cesista, a lawyer, coming from inside of the house shouted to stop the gunfire because there were children inside and that they would just surrender. Witnesses saw men coming out of the house with no shirts on. They identified one man as Compoc, a native of the area. The five were made to walk and crawl in the mud and they later heard Cesista begging for their lives.

Authorities claimed that the five were killed in a three-hour gun battle that also killed a police officer. But the Communist Party of the Philippines insisted that the five NPA fighters were caught alive.

Families of the dead also said that they noticed several things unusual in the bodies of their loved ones. They had wounds which could not have been caused by a firefight. The autopsies supported the families’ observations.

Read: Young lawyer, 4 NPA comrades massacred by AFP—CPP

Jevelyn Cullamat. On Nov. 28, 2020, New Peoples Army fighter Jevelyn Cullamat was killed by unidentified members of the military in Surigao del Sur. The Philippine Army claimed that 22-year-old Cullamat was killed during a clash between the NPA and a 12-man Army Special Forces team in the mountains of Surigao del Sur. After the killing, various units of the military released photographs of her corpse with a rifle clinging to her chest and surrounded by firearms and personal belongings. Flags of the Communist Party of the Philippines, the NPA, and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDF) were displayed behind her, with soldiers also posing in front of the camera, some grinning and gloating. Her mother, then Bayan Muna Party-list representative, Manobo tribe leader Eufemia denounced the use of her daughter’s body as a “trophy” in what she called the government’s propaganda war.

Fake surrenders

Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. On the evening of September 2, 2023 Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro were forced into a waiting vehicle while doing research in Bataan. They were brought to a room and were interrogated while blindfolded.

Later on, the two were surfaced at a press conference organized by the military, presenting them as “NPA surrenderees.” However, the activists exposed that they were abducted by soldiers and that they were made to sign affidavits under duress inside a military camp.

Read: 2 environmental activists defy military, expose abduction

Fake surrender in Tumandok communities. Aside from the massacre that took place on Dec. 30, 2020, several individuals were arrested and charged with illegal possession of firearms and explosives, namely: Marilyn Castor, Luisito Bautista, Wilsio Chiva, Benito Caballero, Rodolfo Diaz, Lauriano Castor Jr., Marevic Aguirre, Ailyn Catamiin, Rolando Diaz Sr., Marilou Catamin, Rollen Catamin, Jucie Katipunan Caro, Eleuteria Caro, Benny Loraña, Ferdinand Caspillo, and Carlito Diaz.

The police tagged them as members of the Communist Party of the Philippines. In June 2021, a court quashed the search warrants used during the raids, releasing those who were arrested.

Read: Iloilo court says search warrant in deadly raid vs. Tumandok invalid

Bombing and militarization

A series of aerial bombings in two villages in the municipality of Balbalan, Kalinga took place in March 2023. About 1,000 residents or around 247 households from barangay Gawaan and Poswoy were affected. Soldiers were also stationed within the communities conducting house-to-house inspections and restricting the movements of the residents. Accordingly, the soldiers told the residents that the bombings and blockade were part of “cleaning” operations against the NPAs.

Other violations recorded were shelling, hamletting, denial of human access, arbitrary detention and attempted killing.

The bombing resulted in livestock deaths and has affected the residents’ livelihood. The said communities were earmarked as potential sites for hydroelectric power plant and large dam projects which the residents are opposing.

Read: Explosions in Kalinga community cause fear, anxiety

Terrorist labeling

Hailey Pecayo, Kenneth Rementilla, Jasmin Rubia, Rev. Glofie Baluntong were all charged with violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 2020, international humanitarian law and common crimes because of their work.

Charges against them were junked by the courts.

Read: Court junks terror charges vs. Batangas rights defender for lack of evidence
Read: ‘How quickly the dominoes fall,’ terror charges vs. ST youth activists dismissed
Read: Clergywoman slapped with trumped-up charges for standing with the indigenous peoples

Extrajudicial killing of Peace Consultant Randall Echanis and his companion Louie Tagapia

Seventy-two year old Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis was a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) for the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms between the NDFP and the government. He was killed by five unidentified men at midnight in his apartment in Quezon City. According to witnesses, they heard a commotion coming from the unit where Echanis and Tagapia were residing and the sound of footsteps as if several people were running away. A witness said that he saw about five to eight individuals wearing face masks coming from Echanis’s unit and two suspicious vehicles parked outside the apartment gate.

Read: ‘Randall Echanis was made to suffer before he was killed’ – forensic expert

Enforced disappearances

Dexter Capuyan, 56, and Gene Roz de Jesus, 27. Both were indigenous peoples rights activists who were abducted by 10 state agents aboard two vehicles, introducing themselves as members of the Criminal Investigation and Detective Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police (PNP).

On April 28, 2023, they were supposed to be home after buying groceries at a nearby shopping center in Tanay where Capuyan was renting a room. A testimony from a tricycle driver said that they were abducted inside the subdivision. They remain missing until today.

Read: ‘We shall overcome’ | Searching for Bazoo and Dexter with a firmer resolve

The International People’s Tribunal 2024 is a quasi-judicial forum convened by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle (FFPS) to investigate and address alleged war crimes committed by the US-supported Marcos and Duterte regimes.

It serves as a platform for victims and advocates and their organizations to present evidence and legal arguments related to the crimes committed against the Filipino people.

The IPT 2024 follows a series of tribunals on the Philippines, which first started with the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) in 1980 also in Belgium. The 1980 tribunal heard the two cases filed by the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), and found the Marcos Sr. dictatorship “guilty of grave and numerous economic and political crimes against the Filipino.” The tribunal also declared the NDFP as the genuine representative of the Filipino people.

The panel of jurors consist of legal experts and prominent human rights personalities such as Lennox Hinds, professor of Law at Rutgers University and former legal counsel for the African National Congress; Suzanne Adely, president of the National Lawyers Guild (US); Severine De Laveleye, member of the Chamber of Representatives of Belgium; Julen Arzuraga Gumuzio, member of the Basque Parliament; and Archbishop Joris Vercamen, former member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

Subsequent tribunals in 2005, 2007, 2015 and 2018 have indicted the Philippine administrations together with the U.S. government for committing crimes against the Filipino people. (RTS, RVO)

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