U.S. Citizen Abducted and Tortured by Suspected Philippine Military Agents Speaks Publicly for First Time
What: Press Conference of Melissa Roxas, recent victim of abduction and torture
When: Saturday, June 27, 2009
Time: 7 PM EST, 4 PM PST (7 AM, Sunday, June 28, Manila time)
Where: Echo Park United Methodist Church
1226 N. Alvarado St.
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Live Web Stream: www.bayan.ph
VIEW RECORDING OF PRESS CONFERENCE HERE
LOS ANGELES, CA – In her first public appearance since being released from captivity, Melissa Roxas, a U.S. citizen abducted and tortured in the Philippines from May 19-25, will hold a press conference to describe the human rights abuses she endured while held for six days in an alleged military camp. Ms. Roxas, an American human rights advocate of Filipino descent, is the first known American citizen to have become a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines, a country which has drawn international condemnation for state-sponsored human rights atrocities.
In a sworn affidavit submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court, Ms. Roxas described being abducted at gunpoint by several heavily armed men, brought to what she believed is a military camp, held against her will, questioned without the presence of an attorney, beaten repeatedly, and asphyxiated using plastic bags before being released. During the press conference, Ms. Roxas is expected to demand accountability from the Philippine government and military, who she holds responsible for her ordeal, as well as the U.S. government for providing funding and training to the Philippine military. Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Philippine-based human rights organization Karapatan, and Human Rights Watch have overwhelmingly concluded that the Philippine military is responsible for systematically carrying out human rights violations such as abduction, torture and extra-judicial killings against innocent civilians. Nearly $1 billion worth of U.S. military aid and materiel has been granted to the Philippines since 1999, the year the U.S.- Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement was enacted.
The experience of Ms. Roxas is considered typical for the 200 cases of abduction and 1,010 cases of torture recorded since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president of the Philippines in 2001. The Philippine government’s quick denial of responsibility for Ms. Roxas’ abduction and torture is also considered a typical response; in his 2007 report on the Philippines, U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston cited such systematic denial by the government as one of the primary obstacles to stopping the rampant human rights violations plaguing the country. In his 2009 follow-up report, Alston indicated a general failure of the Arroyo government to stop the persistent human rights violations. In April 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) also released a report detailing the use of torture by the Philippine military.
At the press conference, Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, Attorney Arnedo Valera, will explain the potential legal remedies that are being explored, including the filing of a tort action in U.S. Federal Court for punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or the Arroyo government in the absence of named assailants; the lodging of a private complaint before the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Desk against the Philippine government for the violation of the fundamental rights of a U.S. citizen; and the filing of a complaints before the appropriate U.N. agencies for violations of the International Covenant Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.
The press conference will be held in Los Angeles, CA and broadcast live on the website www.bayan.ph. Media in the Philippines will be hosted simultaneously by Bayan Philippines and will be able to ask questions in real time. The U.S.-based press conference is sponsored by the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign, whose membership includes Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, BAYAN-USA, GABRIELA USA, Katarungan Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns.
June 26, 2009
Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
In a survey by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the Philippines ranked No. 1 in Asia and No. 3 in the world in the number of trade unionists killed in the past year. The Philippines has been on top of the list of most dangerous countries for workers for several years now.
From 2004 to 2008, the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), a Filipino human-rights NGO, recorded 70 killings and two cases of enforced disappearances in the labor sector. The authorities, especially elements from the military and the police force, are widely seen to be responsible for these killings.
Appealing for an immediate end to these killings, harassments and violations of workers’ rights, Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Anakpawis Partylist jointly said the ITUC findings validate their “accusations against the Arroyo regime’s killing and oppression of workers.”
More at: Philippines Still Asia’s Most Dangerous Country for Workers, Also No. 3 in the World - Bulatlat
Visit also: Workers Assistance Center http://www.wacphilippines.com/
Pressured by the military, officials of a high school in Quezon City rejected the enrollment of a student activist. She could only enroll at the school, they told her, if she signed a waiver that would prohibit her from participating in protest actions and rallies. Aghast and angry, the student decided to fight back.
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – Protests and mass actions are not new to Phoebe Kate Tubera. The daughter of parents who are activists, she knows that sometimes taking to the streets to express a conviction is a perfectly legitimate exercise, a right every Filipino is entitled to enjoy.
As an activist herself, dissent and fighting for what is right are something that Tubera learned to value early on.
Then one day in May, Tubera found herself confronting political repression, which tested the progressive values she imbibed from her parents.
Pressured by the military, officials at her school in Quezon City told Tubera that she could not be enrolled because she was an activist. She could only enroll if she signed a waiver promising never to participate in protest actions again.
Tubera was aghast. This, she told Bulatlat in a recent interview, is precisely why she is an activist. “I know that the rights of the youth and of students have been greatly abused by people in authority,” Tubera said.
Angry, Tubera refused to sign the waiver and decided to fight it.
Phoebe Kate Tubera is only 15 years old. She is the chairperson of the League of Filipino Students – High School. She has been a member of the organization for only a year now.
What happened to her that day, May 28, when the principal of the Culiat High School in Quezon City refused to accept her unless she signed a waiver, is a result of the ongoing militarization of schools and campuses in Metro Manila, according to the LFS and the office of Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino, which intervened in Tubera’s behalf.Read more at: Only 15, Student Confronts Military-Backed Political Repression in Quezon City School - Bulatlat
League of Filipino Students: http://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Field/4927/lfs/lfs2.htm
May 15, 2009
Greetings of Peace based on Justice!
A year from now, the Filipino people will once again have the opportunity to choose their public servants on the national and local level. Although their choices are limited to the mostly traditional politicians (“trapo” for short, which literally means rag), they nevertheless would want to express their will through these elections.
As in the past, election fraud and cheating are expected to come from those who are at present in position and possession of political power, namely the administration. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies will stop at nothing in order to ensure victory for their party and candidates.
But at the same time, they would try to project to the international community that the 2010 elections would be clean and credible. Sensitive to the ineternational comments and sentiments, they would want to present an image of fairness in the electoral exercise.
The reports and recommendations of People's IOM 2004 and 2007 must have reached Malacanang Palace, and made them aware that the world is watching. The presence of the international observers could at least lessen the brazenness of the administration's commission of massive fraud and cheating.
In view of this, we invite you to join the People's International Observers Mission 2010 (PIOM 2010). Your presence will be indispensable as far as the Filipino electorate are concerned. They will be more or less assured that their votes will be counted. Or if not, the thwarting of their sovereign will at last be exposed locally and internationally by the Mission. ...
We hope and trust that you will (again, for those who had joined the previous PIOMs) lend your precious time and energy to protecting the Filipino electorate's will as they participate in these crucial national and local elections.
Very truly yours,
BISHOP ELMER BOLOCON
Justice for Melissa Roxas and Juanito Carabeo!
Surface John Edward Jandoc!
Justice for all victims of political killings and forced disappearances in the Philippines!
FYI, please find below a news release from BAYAN and a series of links at the end of the statement with additional information including police reports and Melissa Roxas' affidavit and Writ of Amparo.
News release from BAYAN (Philippines)
Now it can be told.
Abducted Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, who was forcibly taken by armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19 and surfaced six days later, was subjected to physical and mental torture during her captivity. She now seeks the protection of the Supreme Court for herself and her relatives here in the Philippines.
Roxas is a member of BAYAN-USA , the overseas chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. She arrived in Los Angeles, California Monday morning June 1, Philippine time, to be reunited with her family. She has not faced the media or issued any statement since her release because of the trauma left by her abduction.
Based on her petition for a Writ of Amparo and based on her sworn testimony, Roxas was held for six days blindfolded and in handcuffs in an area suspected of being a military camp in Nueva Ecija, possibly Fort Magsaysay, headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division. It is a short distance from La Paz, Tarlac where she was abducted. During her captivity, Roxas said she heard radio communications where people were addressed as “Sir”. She also heard what she believed to be was a firing range as well as the sounds of aircraft.
Respondents in the petition for a writ of Amparo include President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, AFP Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police chief P/Dir. Gen. Jesus Verzosa and Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, commanding general of the Philippine Army.
During the time of detention, Roxas was denied counsel, subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a plastic bag and was hit repeatedly by her interrogators. She was forced to admit that she was a member of the New People’s Army and was asked to return to the fold of law.
Roxas was dropped off in front of her house around 6:30am on May 25. Her captors left her with a SIM card and phone as well as the handcuffs they used on her. One of her interrogators even called her on the phone after she was dropped off.
“There is credible basis to say that Melissa was abducted by the military as part of the government’s counter-insurgency operations. The abduction and torture were clear violations of her rights. It is despicable and those involved must be made accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
“The Arroyo government must now address this issue. For the past few days, it has systematically attempted to cover up the incident. The Ermita-led Presidential Commission on Human Rights has called the abduction a ‘fabrication’ by Bayan and Karapatan. Defense secretary and presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro has not conducted any investigation in the military’s involvement,” Reyes said.
Bayan said that the matter has also been brought to the attention of the United States government through its embassy in Manila.
“We cannot just let this incident pass. We do not raise these issues simply because we want to discredit the government, as the PHRC alleges. We raise these issues because we want an end to these abductions, torture and other extra-legal activities being undertaken by state security forces,” Reyes said.
“We demand that the incident be investigated and that the PHRC withdraw its earlier statements that the incident was a fabrication,” he added.
The following links are provided from the Facebook group "Surface Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward now!":
MELISSA ROXAS' affidavit: http://bayan.ph/downloads/Melissa%20C%20Roxas%20Affidavit.pdf
MELISSA ROXAS' medical certificate: http://bayan.ph/downloads/Melissa%20C%20Roxas%20Medical%20Certificate.pdf
HER PETITION FOR THE WRIT OF AMPARO AS WELL AS THE WRIT OF HABEAS DATA: http://bayan.ph/downloads/Melissa%20C%20Roxas%20Petition-%20writ%20of%20amparo.pdf
The first page of the Police report on the abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc: http://bayan.ph/downloads/la_paz_police_report.pdf
The second and last page of the Police report on the abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc: http://bayan.ph/downloads/pacer_let_karapatan.pdf
The latest press release of BAYAN announcing Melissa's writ petitions and affidavit: http://bayan.ph/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1243917983&archive=&start_from=&ucat=1&
The May 29 news release of human rights watchdog KARAPATAN rebuffing the pathetic allegations of the Arroyo regime against BAYAN and Karapatan that the abductions were "fabrications" of the two groups: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=105596281806&id=1003534206&ref=mf
The infamous press release from Gloria Arroyo's Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) alluded to just above this: http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org/NR-Roxas%20Carabeo%20Handoc%20Abduction%2027May09.html
The May 28 press statement of BAYAN-USA rebuffing as well the PHRC canard: http://bayanusa.org/?p=232
There are more online documents that can be found at the media board section of the Facebook Cause page "Surface Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward now!": http://apps.facebook.com/causes/288154/13115816?m=57cee73f . Kindly join this cause and invite many more to it as well as part of continuing efforts to shine bristling sunlight on this dark episode.