SONA 2009

July 25, 2009
Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chair,GABRIELA USA, (415) 244-9734,


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) will deliver what should finally be her last State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 27th. Like all of GMA’s 8 previous SONA speeches, it guaranteed that this one will also be full of wholesale lies regarding the economic, social, and military situations in the Philippines.

Days after GMA delivers her SONA speech, she will fly off  to Washington DC to meet with President Barack Obama on July 30, 2009. Since President Obama’s election, GMA has been desperate to capitalize on Obama’s popularity to raise her all-time low approval ratings, and push for Charter Change (Cha-Cha) of the Philippine constitution allowing her to stay in power indefinitely.

Simultaneous to SONA and the Obama/GMA meeting, GABRIELA-USA and other Filipino organizations will conduct People’s State of the Nation activities throughout the U.S., demanding justice for the Filipino American torture victim, Melissa Roxas, and speak out against the Cha-Cha.

Charter Change, which is pushed by U.S. corporate interests, seeks the protections of the 1986 Constitution; allowing foreign ownership of land and public utilities, foreign plunder of natural resources, and the stationing of more foreign military troops .  It will also allow GMA to stay in power beyond her current term limit as president, which ends May 2010.

President Obama was elected based on the message of “hope” and “change,” however, his administration has not so far moved away from the neo-colonial and Bush- era relations with the Philippines.  He recently applauded the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) that allows U.S. military troops to occupy all parts of the Philippine archipelago. The VFA also provides impunity to American military personnel for rape and other crimes committed while on Philippine soil, such as  U.S. Lieutenant Corporal Daniel Smith, who has since returned to the U.S as a free man, without serving a day in the Philippine prison system, though he was convicted of raping “Nicole” in 2005.

The Philippines is one of the top three recipients of US military aid, despite international condemnation against the rampant human rights violations resulting in the death and disappearances of hundreds of activists, community workers, and other civillians.

The most recent case that came to international attention is that of Melissa Roxas, the 31-year old Filipino American who was volunteering as a community health worker in the Philippines, who was abducted and brutally tortured between May 19-25, 2009.  It is believed that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) were responsible for this atrocity, and Melissa is currently back in the Philippines to testifying at a hearing for the Petition for Writ of Amparo and Habeus Data against the Philippine military.

GABRIELA – USA, comprised of Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SiGaW), Babae in San Francisco, Pinay Sa Seattle and Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment in New York City, calls on President Obama to ensure that U.S. tax dollars are NOT used to further human rights violations in the Philippines and to demand the impartial investigation and prosecution of those responsible for Melissa’s abduction and torture.

Instead of giving millions of dollars to a corrupt and murderous regime, our tax dollars are better spent on improving health care access, education, and employment opportunities to millions of women, children, and youth who are suffering the brunt of the economic crisis.




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.