By Gerry Albert Corpuz
MANILA, Philippines- The Netherlands based human rights group International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL) asked leading presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III to immediately prepare the grand prosecution of outgoing Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on charges of grave human rights violations which the group said was tantamount to crimes against humanity.
In a press statement sent to this author, the IAPL-a worldwide association of public interest and human rights lawyers, asserted the incoming Philippine administration should “immediately and vigorously pursue” all legal moves to make Mrs. Arroyo and her allies accountable for the crimes of plunder, human rights violations like killings, disappearances, torture, other crimes against humanity and other high offenses against the Filipino people.
Manila based human rights lawyer Atty. Edre Olalia who was in Utrecht, the Netherlands for the two-day IAPL 4th Congress revealed that the lawyers group also passed a resolution calling for the immediate and unconditional release of 43 health workers arrested by members of the Arroyo controlled military sometime early February this year.
Olalia who was re-elected as president of IAPL also told http://www.allvoices.com that another resolution was passed calling for the immediate prosecution of the Ampatuans and the Arroyo government for their active roles in the massacre of 57 people, mostly journalists in Maguindanao last year.
The IAPL congress was attended by some 35 lawyers, judges, paralegals and law students from Afghanistan, Brazil, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, the Philippines, and Turkey.
“As an organization of people’s lawyers, we will make it certain that the outgoing Arroyo government will not escape prosecutions and being accountable for crimes committed against the people,” said Atty. Olalia.
“This is also a litmus test for Noynoy Aquino. His attitude and policy towards human rights will be judged at the first instance on how he will pursue the prosecution and conviction of Mrs. Arroyo, her family members and allies who committed crimes against the people,” Olalia, who is also acting Secretary General of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), added.
Previously, the IAPL has already denounced the Arroyo government over its human rights record that is marred by the killings of activists, lawyers, judges and journalists.
Carlos Zarate, vice president for Mindanao of the NUPL, said the “culture of impunity” being promoted by the Arroyo government is the culprit behind the Ampatuan massacre that brutally claimed the lives of 57 civilians, including two lady members of the NUPL.
“The prosecution for such monstrous act should not be limited only to the members of the Ampatuan clan and their private army… it should also include police and military officials and other civilian authorities who are equally liable.”
Prior to the IAPL assembly, human rights activists belonging to Karapatan attended the 14th session of the United Nations human rights council in Geneva, Switzerland. The Filipino contingent led by veteran Martial law activist and human rights defender Marie Hilao-Enriquez issued another statement informing the human rights community in Manila that the case of 43 health workers arrested in Morong last February was already brought up to the UN commission on human rights.