GABRIELA-USA Demands Justice for Melissa Roxas and Victims of Torture and State Repression

For Immediate Release
June 26, 2009

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA,, 415-244-9734

GABRIELA-USA Demands Justice for Melissa Roxas
and Victims of Torture and State Repression

In 1987, the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, passed an international human rights instrument to ensure that states neither condone torture within their borders nor return citizens to countries with the chance of torture upon their arrival. On June 26, 2009 marking this convention, the International Day in Support of Torture Victims, in solidarity with anyone affected by torture reminds us about the injustices that ring across the world as torture is still commonplace practice in militarized situations, occupations and war.

For GABRIELA USA, a national alliance of progressive Filipino women’s organizations in the US, the significance of this day hits very close to home. Only one month earlier, Melissa Roxas, a Filipino American and US citizen was abducted in the Philippines between May 19-25 during her time working as a community health worker. Roxas, an avid human rights advocate and member of BAYAN USA, joins thousands of Filipino citizens who have fallen victim to the state repression under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime in the Philippines.

An international campaign resonating in many countries where Filipino immigrants and migrants live and work has brought about attention to the human rights crisis in the Philippines beginning in 2001 with the onset of the US-funded Balikatan military training exercises. Throughout the long and drawn out George W. Bush administration, militarism and military aid in the Philippines increased along with the record of human rights violations; including extrajudicial murders, abductions, torture, summary executions and heightened harassment of community leaders and common people.

Only a month before Roxas’ abduction and torture, US troops in the thousands were deployed to the central region of Luzon, Philippines; a stone’s throw away from the site of Roxas’ forced disappearance. On the day that Roxas and 2 of her companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc, were taken from their work site, a police report was quickly filed and clamor began for their surfacing. The occupation of US troops in the Philippines justifies a cruel and unjust witch hunt for “terrorists” that are, in reality, community health workers and human rights advocates. The Philippine armed forces have historically used military training exercises to legitimate harassment and crude investigations.

With all of this said and done, a pretentious GMA-led effort through the channels of Philippine judiciary and foreign relations offices has claimed that Roxas’ abduction was staged. They have casted doubt on Roxas’ case even in the face of the successfully passed Writ of Amparo filed against Arroyo and Secretary of Defense Gilberto Teodora, among others. We will not stay silent as the GMA regime seeks to discredit Melissa Roxas. GMA’s corruption and denial have been ringing in our ears for too long.

On this International Day Against Torture, GABRIELA USA is standing shoulder to shoulder with Melissa Roxas for her fight for justice. We call on US politicians, lawmakers, representatives of foreign relations committee, members of budget committees and President Barack Obama to rescind the increasing military aid budget to the Philippines. We demand that Gloria Macapagal Arroyo regime surface all political prisoners, including Karen Empeno and Sheryl Cadapan! We ask our Filipino American community to join with us in solidarity with torture victims and across the world to say, “NO MORE!”

Justice for Melissa Roxas!



Inspired by Melissa Roxas’ experience, a GABRIELA-USA member wrote the following fictional poem. For resources and more information regarding Melissa Roxas’ case, please visit

“Elisa Roxas”

Leo was eight and it was summer in Tarlac.
He snuck away from the house, after lunch,
New Gameboy from Leo’s uncle in the States
Was hot in his hands and needed to be
Shown and shared, and shown off
Just a little.
When he heard, when he heard
The yelling and the screaming
And the name, that sounded like
Elisa Roxas
Elisa Roxas
He started to walk to the yelling
A house in Tarlac
A van in the front
His heart beating fast
And sweat coming down his face
And the yelling, that sounded like
Elisa Roxas
Elisa Roxas
And he saw men with guns
Without any faces
The boy’s stomach started to ache
And he barely noticed
The other people coming
Nanay Lita from the sari-sari store
Bong, Dino, brothers drinking at Nanay Lita’s store
Gina, the gay hairstylist coming through her door
Coming nearer to the yelling
Elisa Roxas
Elisa Roxas
But the men with the guns and no faces
They wouldn’t let anyone near
A woman being dragged
She fought and kicked
Five men pushing
To get her into the van
That’s how hard she was fighting.
And Boss Pito tried to talk
To the men with guns and no faces
And the boy’s stomach
Churned acid as the fear
Rose in his throat
But the men with guns and no faces
Drove even Boss Pito away
As right before the boy’s eyes
The woman yelling
What sounded like
Elisa Roxas
Elisa Roxas
Right before his eyes
Right before his eyes
Just like that.
And a hand came down
On Leo’s shoulder
And Leo dropped his Gameboy
Fear overflowing
Of men with guns and no faces
And it was Lola Insing
Who watched the van drive away
And she said, her eyes on the
Disappearing van
“Don’t be afraid, Leo.
Don’t be afraid.
There will be a howl
And we won’t stay silent
And we won’t keep quiet.”
Like the woman yelling
What sounded like
Elisa Roxas
Elisa Roxas
Her name is Melissa Roxas.
And we won’t stay silent
And we won’t keep quiet.