International Accompaniment and Witnessing State Violence in the Philippines



Abstract:  This paper is an examination of a fact-finding mission by Canadian grassroots organizations to the Philippines in November 2006, focused on investigating the large number of extra-judicial killings that have occurred since 2001. The mission accompanied KARAPATAN, a Philippines-based human rights organization, with hopes that their international status would allow KARAPATAN access to militarized regions otherwise inaccessible to them, and that the international attention brought by Canadians would protect them from military violence. The paper tackles the ethics, politics and potentials of such international human rights solidarity, and both explores and unsettles conventional concerns about the power dynamics of international solidarity by considering the complexity of the positionings of the Canadian observers. These positionings both reproduce and disrupt static stable geographies of the global North/South. In Central Luzon, for instance, the politics and ethics of their status as outsiders was a persistent issue. In Southern Tagalog, however, the Canadian observers could not quite keep their distance, found that they were not as firmly located in their Canadian identities as they might have supposed, and not only observed but experienced the theatrics of state violence.