Workshop on the Permanent People’s Tribunal


The Rule of Law versus the Rule of Justice: Exposing the Gaps between Law Theory and Practice

On the afternoon of July 6, the Seminar on “The Rule of Law Versus the Rule of Justice” was held in Ambion Room, UP College of Law. Law students and practitioners, activists and jurists attended the conference workshop which aimed to expose the gaps between law theory and practice in democratic countries. The event was co-organized by Ibon, the International Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL), the National Union of People’s Lawyers and the Leilo0 Basso Foundation.


Rep. Neri Colmenares, President of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) and Representative from Bayan Muna Party list at the Lower House of the Republic of the Philippines, tackled the difference between the rule of the law and the rule of justice and why impunity is widespread in the Philippines. The rule of the law is perceived by the poor and marginalized as part of the system that oppresses and marginalizes them. Therefore, the rule of law doesn’t necessarily equate to the rule of justice. This is best exemplified by the recent Supreme Court decision on the case of Hacienda Luisita, Incorporated and its Stock Distribution Option which viewed the latter as constitutional. The said decision is clearly unjust to famers who are demanding land, instead of stocks or shares.


Prof. Gill Boehringer from the Macquarie University in Australia elaborated on the idea that law is violence and that the primary enemy of the world today is the capitalist mode of production. He explained how the law was not neutral and that it primarily served the interests of ruling classes in society.

Further, the triangular dimension of law was tackled by Irene Fernandez, co-founder of the migrants’ non-governmental organization Tenaganita and Right Livelihood Awardee. According to Fernandez, there are three dimensions of the law -- substance which is what it says; structure which is the system for implementing the law; and the culture, which according to her is the most decisive factor of all in determining the implementation of the law. She went on to demonstrate how these three dimensions often work against women and migrants in particular.

Dr. Gianni Tognoni gave an overview on how the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal tries to bridge the gap between law and practice. According to him, the 1970s appeared to be the height of international human rights law because of the signing of the covenants on political and social rights, except in Latin America where dictatorships were widespread. The peoples’ tribunal gives voice and visibility to people when states are absent and international law is blind. In fact, some of its decisions were used by official institutions like Africa Union and the United Nations.

Another panelist for the rule of justice was Annanya Battacharjee of Asia Floor Wage Alliance who considered the notion that labor standards and labor rights hurt economic development a myth. According to her, this notion contradicts two assumptions: (1) Improvements in labor conditions and government intervention have been integral to national economic development in some of the leading capitalist countries and (2) Right to Development is a universal and inalienable right and an integral part of fundamental human rights. She added that in order to advance labor standards and rights in the age of globalization, people should no longer work within the boundary of the nation-state. The peoples’ tribunal helps give space for labor issues in countries and also to bargain internationally.

Mr. Ramon Vera Herrera, a prolific writer and editor from Mexico, revealed that there is systemic impunity in his country. The Permanent Peoples Tribunal has expressed its concern and will start the investigation in October.

M. Puravalen, former Kuala Lumpur bar chief, said that crimes done by transnational corporations (e.g. cross border in nature) cannot be prosecuted within the framework of traditional jurisprudence and the legal framework of the state. Nevertheless, there are available instruments that can help prosecute the crimes done by corporations to citizens such as the International Court of Justice guidelines and Maastricht guidelines, holding the state responsible for these crimes.

The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, with its 30 years of experience, has indeed allowed close monitoring of key liberation struggles of tragic violation of peoples’ rights and of the conceptual and operational developments on one side of international law.



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