Archive for human rights violations

NAFCON-US Demands the Immediate Release of 43 Health Workers Illegally Arrested and Illegally Detained in a Military Raid

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2010 by kulturalguerilla

8 February 2010

Reference: NAFCON National Office 718-565-8862 718-565-8856 (fax)

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns-US (NAFCON-US) Demands the Immediate Release of 43 Health Workers Illegally Arrested and Illegally Detained in a Military Raid, Rizal Province, Philippines

New York—NAFCON-US, an alliance of Filipino American organizations based in 23 cities, condemns the Philippine police and military’s illegal raid and abduction of 43 health workers and doctors who were conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal, Philippines on Saturday, February 6. The health workers and doctors administer health services to poor communities, and were participating in a First Responders Training, sponsored by the Community Medicine Foundation, Inc. (COMMED) and Council for Health and Development (CHD). Their personal belongings, as well the training materials used, were all confiscated by the military.

The human rights alliance KARAPATAN reports approximately 300 soldiers and police of the Southern Luzon Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Rizal Philippine National Police (PNP) forcibly entered the farmhouse of Dr. Melecia Velmonte at 6:15 AM. At gunpoint, the military forced the caretaker to open the gates. Inside, the soldiers fanned out to different directions. They also kicked the main door to get into the building.

When Dr. Velmonte and her son, Bob demanded for a search warrant, they were merely brushed aside by the military. All medical practitioners and health workers, were ordered to line up at the garage, frisked, and handcuffed. The victims were also questioned and photographed by the military, while another took a video recording of the interrogation. The male victims were then blindfolded with old shirts brought in by the soldiers and secured with packaging tape.

When the participants were already handcuffed, it was only then that Police Superintendent Marion P. Balonglong showed Bob a search warrant for a certain Mario Condes of Bgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal, charged with illegal possession of firearms. The search warrant dated February 5, 2010 and issued by Judge Cesar A. Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court, did not indicate the exact address of the Velmonte compound. Bob asserted that the warrant did not specify their address, and that Mario Condes, who is subject of the warrant, is not even the owner of the house, but he was ignored by the authorities.

The health workers were forced into the military trucks and were brought to Camp Capinpin in Tanay, Rizal, headquarters of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of Philippine Army. The health workers have been held incommunicado since then, and have been denied their right to legal counsel. A team from the Commission on Human Rights was also blocked from seeing the detainees.

“The PNP and AFP’s illegal abduction and detention of health professionals is reprehensible and again highlights the Arroyo regime’s disregard for human rights,” states Father Benjamin Alforque, NAFCON-US President. “We condemn the government for arresting these health care providers while they were undergoing ‘First Response Training,’ to serve the poor who are in most need of critical healthcare.”

“If the Philippine government was truly concerned with the welfare of the Filipino people, especially in light of the recent devastation caused by natural disasters such as Ondoy and Pepeng, it would be supporting, not arresting, health professionals who are trained in emergency response and who seek to serve communities,” adds Julia Camagong, NAFCON Vice President of Programs.

Karapatan Recommended action endorsed by NAFCON-US:
Send letters, emails or fax messages calling for:

1. The immediate release of the health workers who are illegally arrested and illegally detained at Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

2. The government to ensure the safety of the victims and that they are not harmed; their belongings be returned immediately to them.

3. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into raid and illegal arrest of the health workers conducting health skills training in Morong, Rizal.

4. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”

5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

You may send your communications to:
H.E.Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace,
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila Philippines
Voice: (+632) 564 1451 to 80
Fax: (+632) 742-1641 / 929-3968
Cell#: (+ 63) 919 898 4622 / (+63) 917 839 8462
E-mail: /

Gen. Avelino Razon, Ret. PNP
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP)
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Voice:+63 (2) 636 0701 to 066
Fax:+63 (2) 638 2216

Norberto Gonzales
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo,
E. de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City
Voice:+63(2) 911-9281 / 911-0488
Fax:+63(2) 911 6213

Atty. Agnes Devanadera
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St., Manila
Direct Line 521-8344; 5213721
Trunkline 523-84-81 loc.214
Fax: (+632) 521-1614

Atty. Leila De Lima
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex
Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines
Voice: (+632) 928-5655, 926-6188
Fax: (+632) 929 0102





NAFCON Mission and Purpose

The National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) is a national network of Filipino organizations, institutions, and individuals committed to advancing the rights and welfare, celebrating culture and history, and building unity among Filipinos living and working in the United States. Founded in 2003, NAFCON members are based in over 23 cities across the country. Member organizations include: SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns, Filipino Community Center–San Francisco, Filipino Community Support–Silicon Valley, Philippine Forum—New York and New Jersey, F.I.R.E.—New York, Habi Arts—Los Angeles, Liwanag Kultural Center—Daly City, Filipino Ministry of DSB—San Bernardino, Fellowship for Filipino Migrants—Illinois, and Filipino Migrant Heritage Commission—Virginia.

The main purpose of NAFCON is to contribute our time and efforts to fight and protect the Rights and Welfare of the Filipino immigrants all over the globe. Through education, organizing, mobilizing, fundraising, networking and lobbying; we hope to restore social justice and equality for our people in the United States and in the Philippines.


Filipina/o American Youth Denounces the Arroyo Administration’s Renewed Campaign Against Activists

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on December 2, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release

December 1, 2009

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General of SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


Filipina/o American Youth Denounces the Arroyo Administration’s Renewed Campaign Against Activists
Scare Tactics by “Special Intelligence Group” Claims the Life of a Migrant Organizer

SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth mourns and expresses outrage over the death of Danilo Benalo, a member of the Center for Filipino Seafarers (CENTERFILS), who, after harassment by suspected state agents, died of a stroke on November 24. Benalo was an organizer for Migrante International, a worldwide alliance of grassroots organizations addressing concerns of Filipino migrants.

Members of a “special intelligence group” confronted Benalo around noon on November 23 and threatened to harm his family should he refuse to cooperate with the group. They warned him that they had information about him, including his record as an activist and the whereabouts of his family. In distress Benalo agreed to meet with the state agents again that afternoon. However, when a friend, with whom
he had shared the incident and whom he had promised to call after his meeting, tried to reach him later that day, Benalo had already been rushed to a hospital due to a stroke. Benalo died the next morning.

SanDiwa not only grieves the loss of a dedicated migrant organizer, but also condemns the Arroyo administration’s renewed campaign against activists critical of the government, under the direction of newly appointed Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzeles. The death of Mr. Benalo is an addition to the growing list of political killings, enforced disappearances and torture of activists committed by military and secret intelligence groups under the Arroyo regime. “This is no different from the abduction of student activists such as Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan, the abduction and torture of Filipino American Melissa Roxas, and the violent dispersal of student rallyists at Malacanang last August. All these human rights violations were committed by state forces under the direct watch of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. All the victims were people advocating for human rights and fighting for positive and genuine change in Philippine society,” said Aurora Victoria David, officer of Stanford University’s Pilipino American Student Union, a member organization of Sandiwa.

“Because of desperation of the Arroyo government in quelling resistance, it is willing to use any strategy—scare tactics, torture, or direct abduction and killing—to silence its critics. This brutal campaign indiscriminately victimizes activists, journalists, women, and church people. As long as you are vocal in criticizing the government, you are an enemy and a target.” declared Anne Beryl Corotan, Chairperson of Sandiwa. With the 2010 Philippine elections fast approaching, and due to fear of losing their positions, those in power resort to coercive acts. The recent massacre of journalists and innocent civilians over local electoral campaigns in Maguindanao, and the delisting of Migrante Partylist from contending in the coming elections are just a couple of examples of countless repressive tactics utilized by the Arroyo administration and its allies in their desperate clutch to power.

Despite all of the repression, SanDiwa vows to continue to educate, organize, and mobilize Filipina/os in the United States in demanding justice for these violations of human rights. “We will continue to protect the rights of the people and will not stop until justice is brought to Mr. Benalo and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines,” ended Corotan.

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


September 21, 1972, is a day that the Filipina/o people bitterly remember as the day their freedom was suppressed by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Marcos declared the Philippines placed under martial law, an abuse of power he exercised to silence his critics and suppress the opposition. Marcos ruled the Philippines with an iron fist for the subsequent years until his downfall in 1986, when the people rose up against his brutal dictatorship and ousted him from office. The years during his rule are remembered a dark period in Philippine history, when human rights violations ran rampant, which included, but limited to, enforced disappearances, arrests based on trumped up charges, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

In the years leading up to the declaration of martial law, Marcos was facing a growing opposition for a failing Philippine economy, riddled with government graft and corruption. Among the many criticisms of his administration was also a failing education system, during which the Philippine youth and student population grew restless and began massive organizing to demand education reforms. Youth and students held massive rallies, some having up to 50,000 participants. The youth and students were among those in the forefront of this opposition, during a period of time known as the First Quarter Storm. Massive oppositions from the youth and students, as well as the poor and working class, are what led Marcos to violently retaliate by declaring martial law, fearful that his power over the people was waning.

37 years later, we are seeing striking similarities. Current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) is also facing massive opposition from the Philippine people. Her administration has also faced several charges of graft and corruption, as well as over 1,000 cases of human rights violations, the same brutal power tactics of Marcos that the GMA administration is seemingly trying to emulate. Again, the youth and students are among the forefront of the opposition, this time against GMA.

In May 2009, Melissa Roxas, a Filipina American student and human rights activist, was abducted along with two companions while doing volunteer medical work in the Philippines by elements believed to be the Philippine military. After being brutally tortured for five days, she resurfaced and returned to the safety of her family in the United States. However, instead of quietly accepting this injustice, she courageously returned to the Philippines to speak out and seek justice for these atrocities, not just for her, but for all victims of human rights violations under GMA. In August 2009, about 200 youth and students conducted a rally in front of Malacañang Palace to express their outrage and disgust over the expensive international trips of Arroyo and her large entourage, prime examples of the President’s insensitivity towards the majority of Philippines who live in immense hunger and poverty. This raises the question of how much of the people’s money is being used to fund these excesses. The youth and student rallyists were met with indiscriminant and arbitrary arrests, as well as brutal physical injuries at the hands of the Philippine police.

The SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am youth joins with their fellow youth and student kababayans in the Philippines and Filipina/os worldwide in remembering the dark and brutal days of martial law, and the conditions of today that are strikingly similar. We recognize that it is because of oppressive regimes like those of Marcos and GMA that thousands of Filipina/os were and are forced to make the choice to leave the Philippines. Because of massive unemployment and poverty in the Philippines, many Filipina/os immigrated to other countries like the United States, which has the largest Filipina/o population outside of the Philippines. It is also because of oppression that a massive resistance was fomented, which ousted the Marcos dictatorship in the People Power uprising in 1986. And with the current state of “undeclared martial law” in the Philippines under the GMA administration, the youth and student opposition is as strong as ever. We will never forget the dark days of martial law and the many Filipina/os who suffered and died during this period. We will never forget the victims of the current brutal regime of GMA. And with the power of our youth voice, we will continue fighting until declared and “undeclared” martial law is “never again.”

SanDiwa, the youth and students arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.

Statement on the Killing of Fr. Cecilio Lucero

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

Quo usque tandem abutere, Gloria, patientia nostra?

(How long will you, Gloria, abuse our patience?)

Statement on the Killing of Fr. Cecilio Lucero

By the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns

We, of the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns (NEFFCON), an alliance of Church-based individuals and groups in the United States of America, condemn the killing of Fr. Cecilio Lucero as an evil deed by an evil regime in the Philippines. With our fraternal organization in the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns in the US (NAFCON), the SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth, we express our vehement moral indignation at the murder of Fr. Lucero.

What has Fr. Lucero done so as to provoke the vile regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to aim its guns, reportedly held by some thirty people in ambush, on an early Sunday morning, against a priest-minister of God and servant-minister of the people?

Fr. Cecilio Lucero was a Roman Catholic priest, and pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish of Catubig, Samar in Eastern Visayas. His life and work mirrored his deep convictions as Minister of God, disciple of Jesus and servant of the people! As a justice and peace and human rights advocate, he headed the Catarman Diocesan Human Rights and Social Action Desk, chaired the Committee on Human Rights and the Task Force Peace and Order of the Diocese of Catarman. Fr. Lucero was also an outstanding member of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR), an ecumenical national organization of church people dedicated to the promotion and defense of justice, peace, human rights and integrity of creation. PCPR itself is listed as a legal front of the Communist Party of the Philippines in the Trinity of War, Book III, of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and as “one of the enemies of the State” in the Order of Battle of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in its Oplan Bantay Laya II counter-insurgency campaigns.

According to reports, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself was engaged in anti-communist witch-hunting when she labeled Fr. Lucero as ‘that communist priest’ before a civilian crowd and in front of her military officers at the inauguration of the Catubig Bridge last June 16, 2009. By that act, the so-called President of the Philippines and Commander In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines sealed the death sentence of Fr. Lucero.

The brutal ambush of Fr. Lucero once again speaks of the wanton violations of human rights committed with impunity in the Philippines. Backed by the record of more than 1,100 under the GMA regime, Fr. Lucero’s killing should by now convince the Bishops and the Christian churches in the Philippines to openly withdraw their support to the GMA regime. Fr. Lucero’s inhuman death should by now prick the conscience of this priest-ideologue and his partner in the defense department of the GMA regime that their moral interpretation to justify GMA’s anti-communist war has shed the blood of a civilian fellow-priest.

We of NEFFCON and SanDiwa, with our fraternal organizations in NAFCON, remember the heroism of Fr. Lucero and his dedicated service to the poor and the victims of human rights abuses. His martyrdom adds one more candle to the Light that is guiding the struggle of the Filipino people for Jobs and Justice, Food and Freedom, Land and Liberation. With Fr. Lucero’s interment on September 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross in the Catholic Tradition, we celebrate his 22nd sacerdotal anniversary and his share of Christ’s gift of the Resurrection. We pledge to carry on his cause and the struggle of the Filipino people by urging the US government to withhold military aid to the Philippines until the GMA regime prosecute these human rights violators, indemnify their victims, and create a climate for genuine peace talks that shall usher in a transformed society of justice and peace. We exhort the Filipino Youth in the Philippines, and the FilAm Youth in the United States of America to take inspiration from the life and death of Fr. Lucero in the vigorous defense of human rights. We call on the Filipino and the American peoples to withdraw their recognition of the GMA regime, for we cannot tolerate its abuses anymore.

Fr. Cecilio Lucero’s blood cries out from the depth of the earth: How long will you, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, abuse our patience?

“Blessed are they who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the Reign of Heaven!” (Matt 5, 10).


For the National Ecumenical Forum for Filipino Concerns (NEFFCON)

Bishop Val Lorejo, IFI

Pastor Roy Padilla, United Methodist Church

For the SanDiwa National Alliance of FilAm Youth

Ryan Leano, SanDiwa Secretary General and Northern California Regional Coordinator

For the National Alliance of Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)

Fr. Benjamin E. Alforque, MSC


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 2, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release
May 28, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email:


All efforts to cover up the truth must be stopped and exposed, starting with the removal of the Philippine Embassy’s latest post on its website.

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, denounced recent claims by the Arroyo government’s Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) that the triple abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Handoc was a mere fabrication by BAYAN Philippines and human rights group Karapatan, as well that the disappearance of the three involved immersion with the New People’s Army (NPA). The statement from the PHRC was posted yesterday on the website of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.

That same day, BAYAN USA and allies were launching indignation actions across the United States for the abduction of Roxas, one of the alliance’s founding members from Los Angeles, as well as her companions Carabeo and Handoc, who have all since surfaced.

“The Arroyo government is working double-time to cover up its tracks in the case of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Handoc by spewing outright lies. Its claims in its latest statement on the case are not only false, but reprehensible and condemnable in its aim to set the real perpetrators of this heinous crime free and save face. What we are witnessing is the Philippine government’s obstruction of justice through its culture of impunity,” states BAYAN USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin.

Inaccuracies and Gross Distortion of Facts

Ellorin pointed out several factual errors to the PHRC’s statement released just yesterday. Such outstanding errors are as follows:


“There are no reports of this case in the local government office or with local police authorities of the Municipality of La Paz, Tarlac, where the
abduction allegedly took place, filed by anyone, let alone Bayan and Karapatan.”


At least two police reports were filed on the triple abduction. An initial police report was filed on May 20th, 2009 signed and filed by La Paz Police Chief Inspector Ronald R. Fernandez. The report, detailing the account of witnesses of the May 19th abduction by armed men, was addressed to Tarlac Provincial Director Supt. Rudy Lacadin based in Camp Malabulos. On May 26th, after Roxas surfacing, Police Senior Supt. Chief of the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER) Leonardo Arias Espina issued a letter request to human rights group Karapatan, acknowledging the previous initial La Paz, Tarlac police report and inviting Roxas in for questioning.


“There is strong possibility that Roxas and company were on an “immersion” in NPA-infested areas. And that the NPAs could have hidden them for safety purposes, perhaps after receiving reports of a possible encounter or attack by government forces. At some point, organizations like Bayan and Karapatan wanted to take advantage of the situation by letting loose a press statement that an abduction took place, in anticipation of the possibility that Roxas and company would be killed in the crossfire.”


Sufficient documentary evidence compiled by Karapatan– an internationally-recognized and credible Philippine human rights monitoring group– into a fact sheet on the case reports that Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc were part of a medical mission team in La Paz, Tarlac, not an an immersion with the NPA. Quick claims of NPA-involvement are a tactic of the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, which aims to annihilate the armed NPA through the violent targeting of civilian groups engaged in social justice work and community service. By baselessly branding groups such as BAYAN and Karapatan as “communist fronts” and shifting the blame of confirmed human rights violations to the NPA, the Arroyo government absolves itself from having to take the appropriate legal and judicial measures in the over 1,000 cases of extrajudicial killings and over 200 cases of enforced disappearances of unarmed leftist activists.


“We recall the 836 alleged cases of unsolved killings (aka extra-judicial killings) Karapatan released to media in 2006 but which was eventually debunked to be an exaggeration, and the recent 1,016 alleged cases of torture it raised before the UN Committee Against Torture and which to this date remain unsubstantiated.”


As officially reported by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his 2007 country report, the pattern of rampant extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances remains due to a culture of impunity, which includes non-efforts by the Philippine authorities to conduct investigations and prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, despite confirmation and documentation of such cases. Just recently in his 2009 followup report, Alston points out the continuing failure of the Arroyo government to provide a good faith effort to address the killings committed by the Philippine military, and that the culture of impunity remains, leaving thousands of cases of confirmed killings and abductions unresolved.

The Truth Will Come Out

According the PHRC, no Philippine law authority has ever received an official report about the abduction. BAYAN USA believes the fact that the official reports filed with signatures from Philippine law authorities exposes to the highest degree that outrageous propaganda machinery of the Arroyo administration. These reports must be popularized, as well as the case fact sheet generated by Karapatan.

BAYAN USA calls on the Philippine Embassy in DC to remove the PHRC statement from its website immediately. It also encourages action by the international community to counter efforts by the Arroyo government to cover-up the triple abduction starting with an email/fax barrage of copies of the official police reports and Karapatan fact sheet on the case, to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the PHRC. The Philippine Embassy’s website was amongst the first to publish the statement from the PHRC.

BAYAN USA remains confident that the truth will eventually surface on what happened to Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc. “Once Melissa Roxas speaks out, no amount of lies concocted by the Arroyo administration’s propaganda machine will be able to save it from the consequences,” Ellorin ended.


Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 27, 2009 by kulturalguerilla


Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth


On May 27, 2009, Filipina/o American youth join with Filipina/os in the U.S., the Philippines, and throughout the world in globally coordinated actions calling for the abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) currently in effect in the Philippines. Since going into effect on May 27, 1999, this unilateral agreement between the U.S. and the Philippines has allowed for unregulated stocking of war material, American troops full access to military and civic facilities in the Philippines, and immunity to offenses made by American military officials on Philippine soil, just to name a few. It also has allowed the U.S. to fund the Philippine military millions of dollars annually, a military responsible for over 1,000 cases of human rights violations against innocent civilians since the government of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo took office in 2001. These human rights violations include intimidation, abduction, torture, and extrajudicial killings of innocent people whom the Philippine government and military target as enemies of the state. The victims of these atrocities were innocent people who simply addressed the problems of the Philippines such as poverty, landlessness, and broken education systems.

As a national alliance of Filipina/o American youth, SanDiwa, the youth and student arm of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), recognizes the harmful effects the VFA has on the people of the Philippines, both in the homeland and abroad. SanDiwa was born out of the Philippine Studies Program, an annual study abroad summer program in which Filipina/o American youth and students go to the Philippines to learn about the history, culture, and current conditions of the land of their heritage. The first batch of participants in 2003 returned to the U.S. inspired by their experience in the Philippines to establish a national organization that connected their issues as Filipina/o Americans to the issues in the Philippines, which eventually became SanDiwa. “How can our safety be guaranteed? With the increasing incidences of human rights violations, which run rampant and unchecked because of things like the VFA, Filipina/o Americans are concerned about their kababayan (fellow countrymen) in the Philippines as well as their own safety when traveling to the homeland, whether it be for visiting family or going on exposure trips,” stated Francis Leo Bronola, a member of a community based fraternity, Kapatirang Pilipino.

On May 19, 2009, a Filipina American activist named Melissa Roxas was abducted by elements known to be connected to the Philippine military. Fortunately, she was resurfaced and safe after being missing for five days. This is the first known case of an American citizen of Filipina descent being a victim of human rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas was a founding member of Habi-Arts in Los Angeles, a cultural organization that is also a part of NAFCON. She was in the Philippines volunteering as a health worker in Tarlac when she was abducted, along with her two companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. Carabeo fortunately was also resurfaced, however Handoc remains missing. Roxas and Carabeo are two of the very few victims who have resurfaced after being abducted by elements of the Philippine military, which is funded by U.S. tax dollars to carry out these atrocities because of policies like the VFA.

“As Fil-Am youth and students who have the privilege of going to the Philippines for study abroad programs and visiting trips, our safety while in the Philippines should not have to be compromised because of human rights violations, due to funded policies such as the VFA. Our tax dollars should have been funding our safety and security and not threaten the people of the Philippines and their Filipina/o American kababayan who innocently conduct humanitarian efforts to improve and uplift the country. It is because of trips to the Philippines that SanDiwa came into existence, to learn the rich history, culture, and current conditions of the homeland,” Anne Beryl Corotan, the national Chairperson of SanDiwa expressed, over the issue of VFA and the resurfacing of Roxas and Carabeo. “While we express joy over the resurfacing Roxas and Carabeo, the countless number of other victims of human rights violations is still of great concern and needs to be addressed. Therefore, SanDiwa calls for the immediate abrogation of the VFA, the resurfacing of John Edward Handoc and all victims of abduction, and an end to all forms of human rights violations,” Corotan ended.

SanDiwa, the youth arm of NAFCON, is a national alliance of youth, students, and community youth organizations, united to (re)educate, celebrate, and advocate for issues that affect our Filipino communities in the United States and in the Philippines. As an alliance, we seek to work cross-culturally in reclaiming our humanity and to work collaboratively with “other” minority groups to protect the rights and welfare of young Filipinos all over the United States.

Update: Melissa Roxas Surfaced but search continues for CARABEO & HANDOC

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

News Statement
May 24, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email:


The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino social justice organizations across the United States, is elated to confirm that Filipina-American activist Melissa Roxas, 32, surfaced hours ago in Manila as of Sunday, May 24th. BAYAN USA confirmed this report with the human rights group Karapatan. A detailed account about the circumstances of her surfacing is still forthcoming.

“We are happy to hear about Melissa’s surfacing, but we are still concerned about the whereabouts of her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc, who were abducted along with Melissa on May 19th and are still missing to this day,” states BAYAN USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin. “We fully intend to pursue the demand for the surfacing of Carabeo and Handoc, as well as justice for Melissa. This abduction should never have taken place.”

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a medical mission team in La Paz, Tarlac, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint by at least eight masked men in the middle of the night last week. Upon learning of Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc’s enforced disappearance, BAYAN USA, along with BAYAN Philippines and Karapatan, exerted strong efforts calling for their immediate surfacing, including releasing an online petition addressed to US elected officials that gathered hundreds of signatures in a matter of hours.

“Because more than five days had passed since their abduction, we believe Melissa’s surfacing is a direct result of rapid community response and international pressure exerted from the Philippines and the United States first and foremost,” Ellorin continued. BAYAN USA in Southern California has also been working closely with Roxas’ family in Los Angeles in their campaign efforts to surface Roxas and her companions in the Philippines.

Roxas, a founding member of the cultural organization Habi-Arts in Los Angeles and founding Southern California Representative for BAYAN USA, went to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights advocacy full-time. Her move was set amidst an acute human rights crisis in the Philippines that includes reports of rampant extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrest, torture, and summary executions. In 2005, Roxas participated in an international fact-finding mission investigating human rights violations throughout the Philippines under the Arroyo administration.

On Wednesday, May 27th, BAYAN USA member organizations across the United States will be launching actions denouncing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), a military pact that allows for the basing of US military troops in over 20 ports throughout the Philippines. Included in these actions will be the call for justice for Melissa Roxas and for the immediate surfacing of Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. BAYAN USA firmly believes the continuing, unabated human rights violations committed by the Philippine military and death squads are generously funded by US military aid to the Arroyo government. BAYAN USA also ultimately holds the Arroyo government accountable for the pattern of killings and abductions against civilians critical of the regime since 2001.

“As we continue to campaign for justice for Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward, we are consciously raising awareness of the role of US tax dollars in funding these abductions and other human rights violations. There are hundreds more victims of politically-motivated abductions in the Philippines that are still missing to this day,” Ellorin ended. ###

U.S. Woman Freed After Abduction in Philippines
Published: May 25, 2009

MANILA — An American woman has been freed five days after armed and hooded men believed to have been military agents abducted her and two other companions in a province north of Manila, her colleagues said Monday.

Melissa Roxas, 31, an activist from Los Angeles who had been doing volunteer health work in Tarlac Province, was kidnapped on May 19 along with two other health volunteers for a nongovernment group.

She “surfaced this morning,” said Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of the group Bayan, of which Ms. Roxas is a member. Mr. Reyes said it was not yet clear why only Ms. Roxas was freed. The fate of the two other workers, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc, remained unknown.

It was the first time that an American citizen had fallen victim to what Bayan and human rights groups here call “enforced disappearances,” or the abduction of activists by those suspected of being military agents.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., the spokesman of the armed forces, said the military had received a report on Ms. Roxas’ disappearance but declined to comment. “We are verifying it,” he said.

According to Mr. Reyes, Ms. Roxas and her companions were taken at gunpoint from the village where they were working and shoved into a van without license plates.

Mr. Reyes could not yet say whether Ms. Roxas was harmed by her abductors. “The circumstances of her release are still unknown to us, and there is concern for her safety as well even if she has been released,” he said. Mr. Reyes said that Ms. Roxas was resting with her family in Manila.

Ms. Roxas — who is of Filipino descent — moved to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue “human rights advocacy full-time,” Bernadette Ellorin, a colleague in the United States, said in an e-mail message.

According to the human rights group Karapatan, more than 200 Filipino activists have been kidnapped and never heard from since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to power. Others have turned up dead or showing signs of torture. Groups including Human Rights Watch have said that the disappearances are part of the government’s counterinsurgency campaign against leftist rebels. The military has consistently denied such charges, calling it propaganda by leftist groups sympathetic to the three-decade-old Communist movement in the Philippines.
But the United Nations Human Rights Council, in a report last year prepared by its special rapporteur Philip Alston, called on Ms. Arroyo to institute reforms within the military as well as to investigate thoroughly what Mr. Alston called “credible allegations” that the military was behind most of these killings and abductions. Eduardo Ermita, Ms. Arroyo’s executive secretary and spokesman, called the U.N. rapporteur’s report inaccurate and said Mr. Alston was biased in favor of leftist groups.