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Newsbreak: How the international tribunal judged Marcos in 1980


In 1980, the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) declared then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos “unfit to govern" and his regime “deprived of legitimate standing as a government" because of its “reliance on…martial law and numerous blatant abuses of state power." It also called on the international community to “support the struggle…[for] liberation from the Marcos regime." The PPT acted on the complaints filed in 1979 by the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) and the erstwhile secessionist group based in Mindanao, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). Both groups accused Marcos of committing political and economic crimes against Filipinos. The co-accused of Marcos in the complaints were “agents of the US government," as well as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The PPT is an international opinion tribunal, independent from any state authority, which examines cases regarding violations of people’s rights. It is ideologically sympathetic to liberation and socialist movements all over the world. It operates within the constitutional framework established by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples (The Algiers Declaration). However, its decisions are not enforceable by administrative means. The complainants submitted to the tribunal studies made by the University of the Philippines that showed that rural Filipinos who lived below the poverty line increased from 69 percent in 1971 to 71.3 percent in 1975. From October 30 to November 3, 1979, the tribunal received oral testimony and written evidence in support of the complaints filed by the NDF and the MNLF. In its verdict released in 1980, the PPT declared Marcos “guilty of grave and numerous economic and political crimes against his own people." The PPT recommended “severe punishment for his past wrongs, including economic plunder and failure to protect the sovereignty of his country from neo-liberal interventions." PPT added that the Algiers Declaration “affirms…as a matter of legal right, that liberation movements specifically, in this case the NDF and the MNLF, enjoy status in the international society. They are empowered, by Article 28 to enforce the rights of their peoples, by armed struggle if necessary." Marcos was ousted in a people power revolt in 1986. Three years later, he died in exile in Hawaii. Foreign capital increased by 1,000 percent from P83.7 million to more than P1 billion after Marcos declared Martial Law, according to data presented to the tribunal. “Increased profits were built on the repressive control of labor and democratic institutions," the PPT’s verdict said. According to the tribunal, Marcos prohibited the right to strike, gave businesses the right to dismiss without notice to any worker, abolished obligatory holiday for workers, and reduced the advantages given to pregnant women. He likewise suspended the writ of habeas corpus, closed down media organizations, and arrested hundreds of dissenters. The-Permanent-People's-Tribunal The PPT noted that only 22 percent of US aid went to projects that directly benefited the poor. In the same period, military aid increased by 138 percent, according to the tribunal. The PPT also “acknowledge[d] that the Bangsa Moro people are entitled to the right to self-determination… [and] welcome[d] the position of the NDF and the MNLF on the…issue of self-determination." It called on the US to “respect…the full sovereignty of the country, including the status of the NDF and the MNLF as legitimate representatives of their respective peoples." The PPT condemned the “full scale war against the Bangsa Moro people, using the Philippine Army, air force and navy for the bombing of the villages…. The Moros are being subjected to a planned and accelerating program of displacement from their ancestral lands and physical extermination." It added: “The basic Marcos-US role in the Philippines contravenes virtually every provision of the Algiers Declaration." The declaration provides, among others, the right to the respect of its national and cultural identity; right to retain peaceful possession of its territory; right to break free from any colonial or foreign domination, whether direct or indirect; exclusive right over its natural and wealth resources; rights to a fair evaluation of its labor; and the right to choose its own economic and social system to pursue its own path of economic development freely and without any foreign interference. “The abuses of the state power not only violate the Algiers Declaration, but are also condemned by the specific provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which all governments acknowledge as expressive of binding law."
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