HUMAN rights lawyers have vowed to contest in international courts the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement or EDCA between the United States and the Philippines, saying both countries could be held liable for threatening the peace and stability in the region.
Lawyers from various countries including the United States, South Korea, Japan, Greece and Spain have condemned what they claim are the attempts of the US to formally establish military bases in the Philippines.
They support the call of Filipino lawyers from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, or NUPL, for actions against the EDCA, according to lawyer Edre Olalia, NUPL secretary general.
But Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. defended the agreement.
“The Philippines’ objective in negotiating an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the US is to establish a more stable platform for the strategic partnership between the two countries that is aligned with the national interest,” Coloma said.
“Those who disagree with this objective and the processes involved in its attainment are free to express their dissenting views in the spirit of democratic dialog.”
Olalia said the expressions of support of the NUPL from international lawyers were given during the 18th Assembly of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers or IADL in Brussels, Belgium in from April 15 to 19 this year, he said.
More than 500 delegates from 50 countries consisting of lawyers, judges, magistrates, academics, law students and representatives from various sectors attended the five-day Congress held at the Vrije Universiteit Brussels with the theme “Lawyering for People’s Rights.”
“Many delegates believe that this new basing agreement and the US pivot in Asia will threaten the peace and stability of the region,” Olalia said.
“The expanded US military presence in the country is also a threat to the peace process in the Philippines considering the antagonism of the US to any form of peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front.”
The plenary speakers at the Brussels Congress included M. Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women; Samir Amin, co-founder of the World Social Forum; Michael Ratner, President of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights; Kumi Naido, International Executive Director of Greenpeace International, among others.
NUPL president and House Senior Deputy Minority Leader Neri Javier Colmenares talked about human rights issues in the Philippines.
The IADL is a non-governmental organization of lawyers with consultative status at the United Nations ECOSOC and UNESCO. It was founded in 1946 by legal professionals who had been active in the struggle against fascism. IADL’s first president was René Cassin, one of the principle authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
IADL’s first President Emeritus was Nelson Mandela.
“Support from many lawyers’ groups worldwide is important in the battle against this attempt by the US for economic and political hegemony in Asia,” Olalia said.
“We will continue to gather as many support from peace advocates and lawyers groups against the latest US initiative to escalate its presence in the Philippines. It is the US that provides material and moral support for the militarist approach to the conflict, making the calvary of the Filipino people even more tormenting.”
Colmenares, also Bayan Muna representative, warned the Philippine government that the US could be held accountable under international laws should it use its military facilities in the Philippines to commit aggression in other countries.
“We will get the support of international lawyers to file a case against the US and President Benigno Aquino III for crimes against humanity committed as a result of this new basing agreement,” Colmenares said.
Since its founding, IADL has assisted with legal advice to peoples and liberation movements throughout the world who struggled against colonialism, oppression, racism and exploitation. The NUPL is the Philippine affiliate of the IADL, which has hundreds of members all over the world. With Joyce Pangco Pañares