Patricia Fox testifies vs Duterte administration in international tribunal hearing

Jofelle Tesorio, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau

Posted at Sep 18 2018 08:20 PM

Australian nun Patricia Fox was among witnesses who testified Tuesday in a hearing on alleged human rights violations under the Duterte administration at the International People’s Tribunal (IPT2018) in Brussels, Belgium.

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.

Through a live video interview from the Philippines conducted by a lawyer from the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, Fox, whose missionary visa the Philippine immigration bureau had canceled, narrated the harassment she experienced during her deportation proceedings that Duterte himself had ordered.

The Australian missionary also spoke of other instances of supposed widespread harassment of missionaries and social workers in the Philippines.

The Philippines' Bureau of Immigration earlier denied Fox's request to extend her missionary visa for supposedly violating the conditions of her stay in the Philippines, including allegedly participating in political activities. 

The bureau first ordered Fox's deportation in July. Her missionary visa expired on Sept. 5.

The 71-year-old nun, who has been living in the Philippines for nearly 3 decades, had previously denied accusations that she was engaged in "partisan political activities." 

She earlier said her missionary work involves dealing with farmers, indigenous peoples, and victims of social injustice. 

Sultan Hamidullah Atar of Marawi City also testified on the human rights violations allegedly committed by the Duterte regime on the Maranaws during the Marawi City siege, and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Atar said because of the martial law and the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao, they could not do something about building peace in the region.

Mindanao has been under military rule since firefights between Islamic State-linked terrorists and state troopers flared up in Marawi City in May last year. The siege ended in October. 

“Anybody who intervenes will be tagged as terrorist or supporters of terrorist groups…When martial law was implemented… it was very, very horrible. When the writ of habeas corpus was suspended… we were silent and could not do anything,” he testified.

Malacañang on Tuesday said it was not affected by the move of Atar to testify before the International People’s Tribunal and called the proceedings there a "sham."

According to a statement released by the IPT 2018 media unit, local organizations in the Philippines led by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) and Karapatan will raise a total of 21 cases or incidents before the IPT2018.

“These cases can fall into these categories: violations on economic, social and cultural rights, violations on civil and political rights, and violations on the right to self-determination,” according to the statement.

The complaint filed by groups in the Philippines at the IPT cited civil and political rights violations, as evidenced by the alleged “mass murder of more than 23,000 poor Filipinos through the brutal war on drugs, and more than 160 extrajudicial killings mostly of peasant and indigenous leaders”.

It added that within one year of martial law in Mindanao, “at least 49 victims of extrajudicial killings have been documented" by Karapatan.

"There were also 22 documented cases of torture, 89 victims of illegal arrest and detention, and 336,124 victims of indiscriminate gunfire and aerial bombings," the complaint read.

The Philippine government has several times denied involvement in summary killings, saying drug suspects slain in police anti-drug operations had put up violent resistance

The court's verdict is expected to be handed on Wednesday and would be submitted to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Parliament in Brussels, and the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, where complaints against Duterte are pending.