Center for International Law (CenterLaw) was founded in 2003 and incorporated as a non-stock non-profit corporation by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004. Its principal purpose as an advocacy group is to work for the recognition and application of international law norms — specifically those relating to human rights, humanitarian law, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press — as automatic and self-executory parts of Philippine law. For this purpose, CenterLaw has initiated and will initiate judicial cases that incorporate international law as causes of action, as well as harvest jurisprudence that recognize international law as source of rights and recourse for relief.
Moreover, CenterLaw seeks to avail of existing international remedies for the promotion of human rights, humanitarian law, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press, where local remedies have proven ineffectual. CenterLaw also promotes further research and dissemination of international law issues relevant to the Philippines in particular, and to Asia in general.
Finally, CenterLaw aims to serve as a beacon of example to advocacy groups working in other Asian countries in the fields of human rights, humanitarian law, freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
In the fields of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, CenterLaw represents the heirs of 15 victims of the massacre at Ampatuan town in Maguindanao. CenterLaw actively participates in the criminal cases filed against the 197 accused. Centerlaw has further taken the initiative of filing other cases against public and private individuals who had various forms of participation in the massacre. Among others, CenterLaw has filed administrative cases for the dismissal from service of the police officers involved in the massacre, criminal charges against the military officers who refused to provide security to the eventual massacre victims notwithstanding their prior possession of intelligence information that pointed to a planned massacre, complaints for graft and corruption and plunder against the public officials involved in the massacre, and a request for investigation with the anti-money laundering council.
CenterLaw also represents Dr. Patty Ortega, wife of slain journalist Dr. Gerry Ortega. Ortega was an environment advocate who spoke out against corruption involving the Malampaya Natural Gas Project. CenterLaw has assisted Dr. Patty Ortega through the preliminary investigation of the case. Centerlaw has likewise been instrumental in securing evidence and witnesses for the case.
On 24 February 2010, the Supreme Court handed down a victory for CenterLaw in the realm of free speech in G.R. No. 175241 IBP, Roque and Butuyan vs. Manila Mayor Lito Atienza (http://www.lawphil.net/judjuris/juri2010/feb2010/gr_175241_2010.html ). “It may be the single most important holding of the Supreme Court in recent years on the issue of free expression and peaceful public assembly for redress of grievances,” said lawyer Harry L. Roque, Jr., one of the petitioners, “because on the basis of this ruling, henceforth, local chief executives cannot anymore deny applications for permits to rally without any showing that there is a clear and present danger to society warranting denial of such applications.”
CenterLaw has also filed a challenge on the constitutionality of the Philippine Anti-Terror legislation, on the basis of CenterLaw’s submissions made before the International Commission of Jurists. CenterLaw has also been giving Pro Bono libel defense to The Daily Tribune (http://www.tribune.net.ph/), the recognized leading opposition broadsheet, which is currently facing no less than 15 separate libel suits filed during Mrs. Arroyo’s administration.
Centerlaw also handles a class action suit filed by Philippine journalists against the husband of former the Philippine President, Mike Arroyo, alleging that his filing of an unprecedented 45 libel cases against journalists is both an abuse of right and is intended to suppress freedom of the press.
In addition, CenterLaw also hosts training seminars on a variety of issues. Among these are a nationwide series of trainings on the investigation and prosecution of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture (2007-2009), the 2nd Southeast Asia Media Legal Defence Network Training seminar (October 2009) and a capacity-building training on freedom of expression for Lawyers and journalists from Burma, Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos. #