Posts tagged: justice for melissa roxas

Roxas’ Hometown Rallies to Demand Justice Now

Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign

Los Angeles Community Stands with Melissa to Condemn Philippine Government’s On-Going Cover-up of Enforced Disappearances and Torture

What: Emergency Rally
Where: Philippine Consulate, 3600 Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90010
When: Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 5:30 PM – 6:30 PM

*Photo Opportunity

Los Angeles, CA – On Wednesday, grassroots organizations and church leaders will rally in front of the Philippine Consulate with  Melissa Roxas, the first American to have survived abduction and torture in the Philippines during the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration. Supporters of the Justice for Melissa Roxas campaign are outraged at the Commission on Human Rights’ Resolution that protects the torturers and abandons the facts that Roxas courageously shared under oath with the CHR and the world in 2009 so that the perpetrators could be brought to justice.

Now almost two years since Roxas was abducted and tortured, there is still no justice for Roxas and all the other victims of human rights violations committed by Arroyo and her military.  BAYAN USA, National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, Rosewood United Methodist Church Advocacy Group, Rosewood United Methodist Women, Filipino Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino, AnakBayan LA, SiGAw!, Habi Arts, the Filipino Migrant Center and the Filipino American Health Workers Association will be joining the emergency rally.

CHR Resolution Only Serves To Maintain and Perpetuate Impunity

Personal Statement by Melissa Roxas

It has been nearly two years since the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) started their investigation into my case of abduction and torture. They have finally come out with a resolution but one that is filled with misleading and inconsistent conclusions.  Not only is it a far cry from the justice that I am seeking, but by practically absolving the Armed Forces of the Philippines of accountability, and instead give the unsubstantiated claim that the New People’s Army (NPA) was responsible, the CHR is in effect complicit with the effort of the military to cover up my abduction and torture.

At great risk to my safety, I returned to the Philippines in July of 2009, to testify about my abduction and torture before the CHR, the Court of Appeals, and the Lower House of Congress’ Committee on Human Rights . I did this because I believed it was important to bring the perpetrators, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to justice.

As a victim of enforced disappearance and torture, for the CHR to say that what I suffered through was not torture is simply reprehensible. If the CHR purports to exist in order to protect and to investigate human rights violations, using narrow definitions and making distinctions between what is “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” and what is “torture” is disturbing.  It does no good in obtaining real justice for victims of human rights violations.  “Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” is torture.  By any definition, what I went through at the hands of the AFP was torture.

The CHR Resolution has incorrectly concluded that there is “insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as responsible or probable perpetrators” of my abduction and torture.  They go on to say that they have received “credible” information that indicate that the NPA was responsible.  These conclusions are inconsistent with my testimony and presented evidence that point to the AFP as the perpetrators of my abduction and torture. It also deviates from the original leads and investigations the former CHR Chair, Leila De Lima initiated.

The CHR did not present any evidence or detail to support the claim that the NPA is responsible for my abduction and torture.  The CHR did not give details as to what standard was used to verify the credibility of the informant who claims this was done by the NPA.  Neither does the CHR offer any rigorous review of evidence and process of investigation to substantiate this claim.

There is a lack of due process for the CHR to come up with this conclusion. By doing this, the CHR Resolution makes it obvious that it wants to distract the investigation away from the AFP as being the real perpetrators.

In its recommendations, the CHR says it has now fulfilled its constitutional mandate and left in charge State parties–the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)–with the responsibility of further investigating my case. This is nothing else but cruel for the CHR to expect that I would obtain justice by putting in charge these state agents—the PNP being one of the respondents to my case in the courts. I suffered trauma and injuries from the abduction and torture by State agents. What kind of justice do I expect to get if the very institutions that are responsible for my abduction and torture are left to investigate my case?

The CHR has certainly not fulfilled its duty to protect my human rights.  This resolution only serves to maintain and perpetuate impunity for the Philippine government and military who commit these heinous crimes.


Related Press Statements:

CHR Resolution Protects Torturers, Torments Victims


Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
BAYAN-USA Secretary General

“This is a cover-up,” stated BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin in response to the release of a Resolution by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) on the case of the abduction and torture of Filipino American Melissa Roxas on May 19, 2009.  The result of an investigation begun on the 25th of May 2009, the CHR’s report cites copious evidence gathered through public inquiries, expert witnesses, inspections of the abduction site and military facilities where Roxas was possibly held, and sworn statements by Roxas herself, yet concludes that “In light of the lack of evidence against the persons who inflicted the physical and psychological maltreatment on the complainant, it is not possible for the Commission to reach any findings on torture” in Roxas’ case.

“With this single report, the CHR has virtually erased any progress made in its 1-1/2 year investigation into this case by the previous CHR chair.  It appears that now the CHR is more concerned with covering up the crimes of the Philippine military than with uncovering the truth about human rights violations in the country,” said Ellorin.

The first American citizen to be abducted and tortured under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Roxas is a well-known Filipino American human rights advocate and was BAYAN-USA’s first Regional Coordinator in Los Angeles, CA and a founding member of the Los Angeles-based cultural organization Habi Arts.  In her sworn affidavit and testimony provided in several court appearances and CHR Public Inquiries in 2009, Roxas described in detail the ordeal she experienced at the hands of the Philippine military: being abducted by approximately 15 armed men, handcuffed and blindfolded for six days, held in a jail cell, subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings to the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators, who tried to force her to admit that she was a member of the New People’s Army and advised her abandon communism and to “return to the fold.” Roxas said that one interrogator stated those who tortured her were from the Special Operations Group (SOG), and she heard one of her interrogators addressed as “Sir.” She also heard gunfire from what she believed to be a firing range as well as the sounds of aircraft, pointing to the high probability that she was held in a military camp.

By its own admission, the CHR report states that Roxas provided exceptionally consistent and detailed descriptions of the torture she underwent, the place she was held, and the physical appearance of five people involved in her abduction and detention, indicating that Roxas’ testimony is extremely credible. However, the CHR report still concludes that it has “insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probably perpetrators.”

Moreover, the CHR report dares to shift the blame from the Philippine military to the New People’s Army (NPA).  “The CHR has received information that indicate the possibility that members of the NPA committed the kidnapping, and other human rights violations on Roxas,” states the resolution on page 20.  In response, Ellorin said, “By making such blanket accusations without providing a speck of evidence, the CHR under President Aquino is showing that it is no different from the Philippine Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) under Arroyo, which tried to dismiss Melissa’s traumatic ordeal by saying that it was fabricated.  Falling for information like this is laughable, especially considering that Melissa’s captors tried to force her to admit she was an NPA member.  Even worse, the CHR resolution opportunistically supports the Aquino government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which is attempting to demonize the NPA while duping the public into believing that the AFP is a peace-making force.”

International human rights advocates such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings have repeatedly criticized the Philippine government’s cover-up of state-sponsored torture. “This CHR resolution perpetuates the culture of impunity that reigns in the Philippines. There is still no justice for the innocent women and journalists slaughtered in the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009, not one perpetrator has been apprehended in the cases of thousands of cases of extra-judicial killings, nor the abduction and torture of people like Melissa Roxas and the Morong 43 health workers,” said Ellorin.

“The CHR resolution will just add fuel to the fire of the Justice for Melissa campaign,” continued Ellorin.  “While the CHR under Aquino lacks the political will to uphold human rights, BAYAN-USA and Melissa’s supporters will persist in pursuing justice for Melissa through all vehicles available to us in the U.S.”

The timing of the release of the CHR Resolution comes as the U.S. Congress enters the final weeks of a contentious budget battle, expected by both Democrats and Republicans to result in hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to essential public services.  BAYAN-USA calls on the U.S. Congress and Obama administration to stop pouring millions of American taxpayer dollars into the Philippine military, which tortures and kills innocent people under the tacit protection of the so-called Commission on Human Rights.

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 14 progressive Filipino American organizations in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.


Related Press Statements:

Katotohanan ng Ating Bayan (The Truth of Our Nation)

Join us in a gathering of artists and community members in expressing the truths about issues facing our Filipino communities.

A collection of artwork  that tackles state-sponsored human rights violations in the Philippines will be exhibited entitled, “FACT SHEET: Activism is NOT a Crime” (courtesy of Con Cabrera and Lian Ladia of Artists’ ARREST).

Late in the afternoon until the early evening, we will launch the Habi Arts’ zine and end with poetry, spoken word, live music and performances.

This day-long event is in commemoration of International Day of the Disappeared (August 30) and will also serve as a fundraiser for the Justice for Melissa Roxas and Free the 43 human rights campaigns.

Katotohanan ng Ating Bayan

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