NEW YORK – Just hours after President Benigno Aquino III’s final State of the Nation Address on Monday, Filipino activist groups served a copy of the International People’s Tribunal’s “guilty verdict” to the Philippine Consulate in New York.
A week ago, an International People’s Tribunal held in Washington, DC declared Philippine President Aquino and the US government, as represented by President Barack Obama, “guilty of gross and systematic violations of human rights.”
Philippine Forum’s Jonna Baldres said, “Pinatutunayan nito na maraming naging kasalanan ang mga gobyerno ni Aquino sa mga taong bayan, sa mga Pilipino.”
“I have here a copy of the front page. It’s signed received by Consul Felipe Carino,” said Bernadette Ellorin of Bayan USA.
The group claims this has a significant implication.
“Finally the verdict is in the hands of a representative of the Philippine government,” said Ellorin. “Significant kasi they’re the ones indicted – they recognize the verdict as a verdict of guilty and they have it in their hands.”
But Consul Carino told the ABS-CBN News team that that is not true. The Philippine Consulate does not recognize the verdict.
In a statement, Carino said “acceptance of a copy of the verdict is not an admission of guilt.” The consulate can only make sure it reaches proper authorities in manila, he said.
While the International People’s Tribunal has no legal authority such as a judicial tribunal, Ellorin says the “people’s court” is an alternative venue to seek justice for the alleged victims of human rights violations.
“We have no choice but to seek other channels, especially with the International community, to call for justice because as of now those victims have not achieved justice,” Ellorin said. “The people have a say, you know, and when people have a say, exercise that right, you know things can happen.”
US Pinoys for Good Governance community leader Loida Nicolas-Lewis previously dismissed the tribunal’s verdict.
Nicolas Lewis said, “It was only one way. They bring witnesses, and they make a decision. Ano ito, kangaroo court?”
But Ellorin says indictments were sent to Aquino and to Obama 10 days before the tribunal proceedings, as shown by postal receipts they sent to ABS-CBN News.
“Yes, I think that’s enough time. They did not respond. They, in essence, waived their right to defense,” said Ellorin.
“Nagbigay sila ng notice 10 days before the hearing?” Nicolas Lewis said. “It was a kangaroo court. It was not real. They heard the witnesses and they gave a judgement. That was not a true trial. Kangaroo court yun — lutong Macao.”
Supporters of the International People’s Tribunal are extending an open invitation for a dialogue with their critics.
“We can agree to disagree on the Philippine government,” NAFCON US’ Anneberyl Corotan-Naguit said. “But at least, we can agree that the people need to be served justly and appropriately. So that’s why I’m extending an invitation to have that formal discussion.”
Protesters say they will continue to seek accountability even after President Aquino steps down from office.
You may contact Don Tagala at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.