Statement of support for the International People’s Tribunal on IHL violations in PH by US-backed Marcos Jr. and Duterte 

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IBON International, a Southern-based organisation with central offices in Manila, expresses support for the International People’s Tribunal (IPT) organised by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the Friends of the Filipino People in Struggle (FFPS) to investigate the alleged violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) by the Philippine government under the administrations of former president Rodrigo Duterte and current president Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in the context of counterinsurgency. The IPT will be held on 17-18 May 2024. We invite our allies and networks to show their solidarity and support to victims and the Filipino people’s struggles for rights and sovereignty by endorsing, joining, and promoting the IPT.

IHL refers to laws in the context of armed conflict that aim to protect civilians and people who are not participating in hostilities (including prisoners of war, combatants who are wounded and sick, among others), regulate warfare, and mitigate human suffering. The IPT aims to challenge the culture of impunity perpetuated by the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency efforts, and account IHL violations, such as summary killings of civilians misidentified as guerilla fighters, and wounded and sick combatants, and indiscriminate firings in and bombings of rural communities.

The “whole-of-nation” approach to counterinsurgency, which intensified under Duterte and continued by Marcos Jr., mobilises government agencies and local government units, systematising state attacks and rights violations against activists, people’s organisations, and civil society, while creating a culture of impunity. The FFPS cites 193 cases of bombings, shelling and strafing during Duterte’s term. FFPS has monitored continued bombings of rural communities under Marcos Jr. It links militarist attacks with US military aid to the Philippines, estimated at around USD 1.023 billion between 2016 to 2022. Marcos Jr. has reinforced US military influence in the Philippines, facilitating the return of quasi-military bases through the Enhanced Defence Cooperation Agreement and the largest joint military exercises involving 17,000 troops in 2023. Currently, the US and the Philippines are holding joint military exercises from April 22 to May 10.

Human rights monitor KARAPATAN documented cases of IHL violations, including extrajudicial killings, indiscriminate firing, bombings, and other rights violations, and the narratives around them. Peasants involved in land struggles against extractive and mega-infrastructure projects were especially targeted, with 336 victims of killings during Duterte’s term, and 59 victims so far under the first years of Marcos Jr.

The IPT will be presided by a panel of international jurors composed of Lennox Hinds, founder of the National Conference of Black Lawyers and former counsel for the African National Congress; Suzanne Adely, founder of the US-based Middle East, North Africa Labor Solidarity Network and member of Al-Awda-NY, the National Lawyers Guild, and the Defend the Egyptian Revolution Committee of New York; Joris Vercammen, a Belgian cleric and archbishop of the Old Catholic Church in the Netherlands; Séverine de Laveleye, a Belgian politician active for Ecolo and a member of the Chamber of Representatives since 2019; and Julen Arzuaga Gumuzio, a Basque politician and member of the Euskal Herria Bildu coalition in the Basque Parliament since 2012.

This year’s IPT is preceded by five tribunals that publicised human rights violations by the past administrations of dictator Marcos Sr., Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Benigno Aquino III, and Duterte, and garnered international solidarity and support for victims and people’s struggles.

The past tribunals also highlighted the role of the US government – from military agreements that violate sovereignty, policies on counterinsurgency and counterterrorism, to interventions in the Asia Pacific region – over the dire civil, political, as well as economic, social, and cultural rights situation in the Philippines. A 2023 International People’s Tribunal on US sanctions, blockades, and economic coercive measures, which held 15 country hearings involving 96 witnesses, concluded that “economic coercive measures constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity” and are “designed to destroy the economies of formerly colonised, Global South nations, and make them subservient to the US and its partners”.

IBON International recognises people’s tribunals as exemplary initiatives that assert people’s rights and sovereignty, and demand accountability for pervasive war crimes and IHL violations committed by states with support from the US, such as in Israel’s genocidal war and occupation of Palestine. The 2024 IPT tackling the US-backed Marcos Jr. and Duterte administrations is a crucial step in this regard, towards advancing truth, justice, and accountability.

You can learn more about the IPT by visiting the website or reaching out to #