International People's Tribunal convicts Duterte of human rights abuses

Jofelle Tesorio, ABS-CBN News Europe

Posted at Sep 20 2018 12:00 PM | Updated as of Sep 20 2018 10:15 PM

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Palace scoffs at 'sham decision'

BRUSSELS - The International People's Tribunal (IPT) has found President Rodrigo Duterte guilty of human rights violations, citing witness testimonies on alleged incidents. 

The ruling, handed out by a jury here Wednesday, is expected to be forwarded to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Parliament, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, where complaints against Duterte are pending. 

"We heard the summary of testimonies of witnesses-- many of them heart-wrenching, traumatic and horrific- experts and resource persons as well as the digest of wealth of data, information, facts and other evidence," the jury said in its decision.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the ruling was a "sham decision" that has "no official sanction."

"The validity of the findings will depend on the validity of the tribunal," he told reporters in a press briefing.

"They appear to be a propaganda body of the international left and, therefore, we set it aside as being a useless piece of propaganda against the government," he said.

Former Bayan Muna party-list Neri Colmenares was elated to hear the decision. 

In his closing argument, the lead prosecutor said a guilty verdict would serve as a message and a lesson "that justice and accountability cannot be detained forever, that there will come a time when the victims of these atrocities will be able to get the justice that have eluded them so far and that President Duterte will be given the punishment he so richly deserves."

In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, Colmenares added that this was a warning to dictators and an inspiration and encouragement to people.

"This is a message that will be sent to various human rights organizations. So it should be given to human rights bodies, institutions, the International Criminal Court and human rights bodies who may find importance in the voluminous documentary evidence, the sworn statements and the video and other evidence presented by the complainants," he said. 

He said the tribunal was important as it served as a platform to discuss remedies for human rights violations against Filipinos who may never see justice back home.

The IPT2018 was convened this week to hear cases charging Duterte of violations of civil and political rights, economic, social and cultural rights, the right to self-determination and development, and international humanitarian law.

Peter Murphy, IPT spokesperson and one of the convenors, said the proceedings was "a very serious event and it is a very determined effort to try to change, to make a difference in the Philippines."

Murphy said that the international community has the responsibility to be real in resolving the situation in the Philippines.

A total of 31 witnesses, both on video and in Brussels, were heard during the two-day session. Among them was Australian missionary nun Patricia Fox, who has been ordered deported from the Philippines for alleged participation in political activities. 

The IPT2018 is a global court convened by the European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights, Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, IBON International, and the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines.


Edre Olalia, president of the National Union of People's Lawyers, said IPT2018 was a "legitimate venue and alternative or parallel platform" where the people may seek redress outside traditional institutions. 

"Under the prevailing circumstances, a peoples’ tribunal provides a unique arena and perhaps the only adequate and immediate platform for the urgent process of establishing the truth. It is a direct exercise of the people’s inherent right and search for real justice," he said in a statement. 

He said the tribunal "follows and respects due process" as respondents are notified of charges and given a chance to defend themselves. 

"Leaders and governments must take these credible initiatives by the people seriously. They must frontally address the complaints, grievances and charges against them before the international community," he said.