For Immediate Release
May 19, 2011
Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA-USA, firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
JUSTICE FOR MELISSA ROXAS!
JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS!
STOP U.S. MILITARY AID TO THE PHILIPPINES!
SCRAP THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT!
Portrait by Franz DG
Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment with Melissa Roxas and Marie Hilao, Chairperson of KARAPATAN Human Rights Organization
Babae San Francisco with Melissa Roxas
Samahan ng Kababaihan (SAMAKA) with Mel Roxas
Sisters of Gabriela Awaken (SIGAW) with Mel Roxas