No justice as Chairperson of Commission on Human Rights, Etta Rosales and Aquino administration fails to uphold the rights of Filipino-American torture survivor, Melissa Roxas.

For Immediate Release

May 19, 2011

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA,

No justice as Chairperson of Commission on Human Rights, Etta Rosales and Aquino administration fails to uphold the rights of Filipino-American torture survivor, Melissa Roxas.

On February 14, 2011, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines released its resolution on the case of torture survivor Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American activist who was abducted on May 19, 2009-exactly two years ago today, along with her two companions in La Paz, Tarlac by agents believed to be members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In her affidavit, Roxas describes in detail the mental and physical torture that was inflicted on her while she was held incommunicado for six days. Despite overwhelming evidence pointing to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the CHR and its chairperson Etta Rosales finds that, “there is insufficient evidence to support this conclusion, and insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probable perpetrators.” To make matters worse, the CHR carelessly points the fingers to the New People’s Army as the perpetrators without any evidence.

Though Melissa Roxas is the first Filipino-American who was subject to torture and abduction, there are over a thousand other activists who’ve fallen victim to extra judicial killings, and hundreds more who’ve been abducted and have yet to surface, like U.P. students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, both abducted in 2006 in the province of Bulacan. These violations occurred during former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration in which she implemented the counterinsurgency programs, Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2 (Operation Freedom Watch) to supposedly fight “terrorism” in the Philippines. However, Oplan Bantay Laya 1 & 2 only wrecked havoc in the lives of thousands of Filipinos who were killed, tortured, imprisoned, harassed, and villages ransacked by military forces, forcing families to leave their villages and seek refuge elsewhere. During Arroyo’s tyranny, the international community ranked the Philippines as the second most dangerous country for journalists after Iraq.

It is appalling that the U.S. government continues to support the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the current Aquino administration by providing millions in military aid and participating in joint military exercises or Balikatan Exercises (shoulder to shoulder). The Philippines has had a grave record of human rights violations under the Arroyo administration and continues to rise under Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. If the U.S. government truly prides itself for being an advocate and protector of democratic principles, it should immediately stop monetary and military aid to the Philippines. The promise of “change” by both the Obama and Aquino administrations remain a useless slogan as injustice prevails in the Philippines and the perpetrators who commit these violations continue to live with impunity while others live in fear.

“The CHR resolution on Roxas’ case is a step backwards and sends a clear statement that survivors of human rights violations cannot trust the very institution whose supposed purpose is to protect the interest of the victims and survivors,” states Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson of GABRIELA USA. “Worst of all, this resolution attempts to protect the unpopular reign of former President Arroyo, whose administration was rocked with scandals, including thousands human rights violations. We challenge President Aquino to hold Arroyo accountable for her responsibility as commander in chief and her contribution to these violations. We want the U.S. government to stop all military aid to the Philippines and scrap the Visiting Forces Agreement.”

GABRIELA-USA celebrates the courage of our friend Melissa Roxas, other survivors of torture and abductions, and the families of the disappeared, who are determined not to be silenced and to continue to fight until justice is served. If you’d like to support Melissa Roxas’ continued struggle, please sign the open letter to demand justice by clicking here.





Portrait by Franz DG


Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment with Melissa Roxas and Marie Hilao, Chairperson of KARAPATAN Human Rights Organization

Babae with Mel Roxas

Babae San Francisco with Melissa Roxas

Samaka with Mel Roxas

Samahan ng Kababaihan (SAMAKA) with Mel Roxas

Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SIGAW) with Mel Roxas

Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SIGAW) with Mel Roxas

FilAm Activists Protest Aquino’s State of the Nation Address

FilAm Activists Protest Aquino’s State of the Nation Address | Balitang America

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America Bureau, San Francisco and Don Tagala, ABS-CBN North America Bureau, New York
A day after President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s State of the Nation Address, Filipino-American activists from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York and New Jersey held simultaneous demonstrations protesting Aquino’s presidency.

Last night, activists in San Francisco held a protest march all the way to the Philippine Consulate.

These FilAm protesters say while they’re giving Aquino a chance to prove his worth as president, they’re also keeping a watchful eye on him.

Bernadette Herrera of the Samahan ng mga Kababaihan said, “Kailangan mapagbantay ang mga mamamayan.  Kung may maganda siyang ginawa, suportahan natin.  Pero kung may masama siyang ginawa, kailangan nating tuligsain para ma-remind siya na baguhin ang mali.” (We need to stay vigilant.  If he does something right, we need to support him.  But if he does something wrong, we need to hold him accountable.)

These activists say enough with the talk.  They want action.  They want to know if Aquino can truly champion all Filipinos, especially those working overseas.

Terry Valen of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns said, “We’re going to continue voicing our opinions as long as human rights violations are being committed, as long as overseas workers are being exploited, as long as immigration reform is not happening here in the United States, and Aquino does nothing about it.”

To be able to do his job as president, these FilAm activists say Aquino needs to stop dwelling on the past administration’s faults.

Elaine Villasper of Gabriela-USA said, “He spent so much time blaming Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during his State of the Nation Address.  We were waiting for his plan.  What is he going to do to find money for the Philippines, to lower poverty line, to answer these issues that he says Arroyo left him?”

These FilAm activists say instead of talking about corruption among politicians, Aquino needs to keep track of government spending.

Joshua Castro of Bayan USA said, “If there is discrepancy as to where the money is spent, then there should be an investigative process to make sure that the money is accounted for.  There are plenty of resources but we have to make sure that the money is spent properly and it goes where it’s supposed to go.”

Meantime, FilAm activists in New York and New Jersey say Aquino may have a lot riding on his shoulders right now, but the country’s future is at stake.

They held a protest last night in the heart of the Filipino community in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Protesters say Aquino’s State of the Nation Address lacks the teeth they were hoping for and does not include the demands they were asking from him.

Gary Labao of Bayan USA said, “Unang-una, narinig natin ang matamis na talumpati ng bagong administrasyong Aquino, subalit nalulungkot kami dahil malaki ang kakulangan sa kanyang mga pangako.” (We have heard those promises from Aquino before.  But we are disheartened that there is so much lacking in his promises.)

Yves Nibungco of Bayan USA added, “Unang una po wala po rito ang mga tunay na programa para tigilan yung pag-migrate ng mga kababayan natin dahil wala diyan yung job creation, national industrialization, yung genuine agrarian reform, at yung pagpapanagot kay Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.” (There are no programs to stop the migration of our fellow Filipinos.  There are no programs on job creation, national industrialization, genuine agrarian reform and holding Arroyo accountable for her past administration’s errors.)

Hanalei Ramos, a Gabriela USA member said that if President Aquino feels weighed down by the mess created by the former President, then he should start investigating and prosecuting Arroyo, “GMA needs to be held accountable for all the atrocious human rights violations that have accumulated over the last 9 years.”

This group also wants the U.S. forces completely out of the homeland by junking the Visiting Forces Agreement.

Meantime, a Jersey City resident who happened to see the protest said it’s premature to grade a new President’s job performance at this time since it’s only been a month since Aquino took office. “Alam mo ang mga tao walang patience, It doesn’t take overnight para mabago mo ang iyong country.”(People have no patience.  It doesn’t take overnight to change the country.)

These Filipino activist groups in New York and New Jersey vow to keep a close watch on President Aquino’s every step… to remain vigilant and to keep the pressure on the president until all their demands are finally met.