Archive for melissa roxas

ON THE 37TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN THE PHILIPPINES, FILIPINA/O YOUTH & STUDENTS ARE VOCAL AS EVER AGAINST OPPRESSION.

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
Contact: sandiwa.national@gmail.com

ON THE 37TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE DECLARATION OF MARTIAL LAW IN THE PHILIPPINES, FILIPINA/O YOUTH & STUDENTS ARE VOCAL AS EVER AGAINST OPPRESSION.

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.

Advertisements

SANDIWA NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FIL-AM YOUTH JOIN THEIR FELLOW FILIPINA/OS AROUND THE WORLD IN VOICING THE PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

For Immediate Release
July 27, 2009

SanDiwa Statement on GMA’s 2009 State of the Nation Address

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth
Email: sandiwa.national@gmail.com

SANDIWA NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF FIL-AM YOUTH JOIN THEIR FELLOW FILIPINA/OS AROUND THE WORLD IN VOICING THE PEOPLE’S STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS

On July 27, 2009, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be giving her annual State of the Nation Address (SONA) to boast on the social, economic, and political progress that her administration believes the Philippines as a nation has made. This will mark her ninth SONA and potentially, her last. However, as in years past, the Filipina/o people are expecting the same rhetoric that does not reflect the reality of immense poverty, government corruption, human rights violations, and increasingly unattainable education.

This year’s SONA may very well be her last, and with an approval rating of only 26 percent, the majority of the people have high hopes it will be so. Recognizing this, Arroyo’s administration has orchestrated a plan in order to stay in power beyond her presidential term, taking the form of Charter Change, or “Cha-Cha” as it is commonly called. If “Cha-Cha” is approved, the current Philippine Constitution will be changed so that the current system of government will be changed to a parliamentary system, allowing Arroyo to become Prime Minister for an unspecified length of time. Given her administration’s horrible track record of government corruption, rampant human rights violations that even surpasses former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and worsening poverty, “Cha-Cha” is a desperate move for her to cling to power and is highly unpopular with the people. This political maneuvering will only result in the continuing worsening poverty, government corruption, and human rights violations, clearly at the people’s disadvantage.

The Filipina/o people know that because of these conditions in the Philippines, about 3,000 Filipina/os leave the country everyday to escape the poverty and find work abroad. Filipina/os living abroad often work to send money back to their families in the Philippines, and billions of dollars in remittances is what is keeping the Philippines’ already fragile economy afloat. If Arroyo’s boasts of economic progress were only true, then Filipina/os would not be leaving the country just to find work. “Cha-Cha” would only perpuate, if not worsen, these conditions. As Fil-Am youth in the United States, we are all too familiar with this situation, being children of Filipina/o immigrants who left their homeland for greener pastures in order to provide for their families.

The worsening economy has also made the Philippines unsafe for those who simply wish to address these social issues. Many journalists, workers, students, and even innocent civilians who have chosen to organize and speak out against poverty, corruption, and injustice have experienced human rights violations in the form of abduction, forced disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Their only crime was seeking justice. With the increasing incidences of human rights violations, which run rampant and unchecked, Filipina/o Americans are growing increasingly concerned about their kababayan (fellow countrymen) in the Philippines as well as their own safety when traveling back to the homeland, whether it be for visiting family or going on exposure trips. Recently, Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipina/o descent, was abducted and tortured by elements known to be connected to the Philippine military. Fortunately, she was resurfaced and safe after being missing for five days. 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 on an extended exposure trip simply doing volunteer healthcare work. After being resurfaced and returning to the U.S. to be reunited with her family, she is now back in the Philippines to testify about her abduction and torture before the Commission on Human Rights. SanDiwa applauds and commends her courage to return to the Philippines and speak not only for herself, but for all victims of human rights violations. Her courage is inspiring to SanDiwa and all people working towards social justice.

What is also happening in the Philippines that Filipina/o American youth can closely relate to is the rising cost of tuition at universities throughout the nation. More and more funding is being taken out of education, and college is becoming more and more unaffordable. Similar situations are happening in the U.S. In New York, the City University of New York system cut $51 million from its budget as the governor’s plan to address the state’s finances in the current financial crisis. In July 2009, The California State University system increased student fees by 20% and is not accepting applicants for Winter 2010 and Spring 2010 terms. In addition, classes are being cut and in effect lengthening the time for students to graduate. It is the students who are directly and severely affected by these budget cuts and tuition increases. These are just two examples of countless others throughout the U.S. What we see is less investment on education and more funding towards law enforcement and military, which is a very similar situation in the Philippines.

Yet despite all these unjust conditions, Filipina/o American youth stand in solidarity with our kababayan (countrymen/women) in the Philippines taking to the streets and voicing the true state of the nation, standing up against “Cha-Cha,” human rights violations, and rising college tuition fees. While our people in the Philippines struggle with these injustices, we realize that our struggles as Filipino Americans are closely connected, with the criminalization of immigrants and youth, the rising student fees at colleges and universities, and budget cuts to education that goes towards military funding instead. Our work as a National Alliance of Fil-Am youth is especially important here in the United States, because it is our U.S. tax dollars that support the GMA administration. In this new era of “hope” and “change,” we will tirelessly work to make those words hold true, for a better Philippines, for a better United States, for a better world.

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.

STOP THE ARROYO GOV’T’S COVER-UP OF THE ABDUCTION OF ROXAS, CARABEO, & HANDOC! –BAYAN USA

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: secgen@bayanusa.org

STOP THE ARROYO GOV’T’S COVER-UP OF THE ABDUCTION OF ROXAS, CARABEO, & HANDOC! –BAYAN USA

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:

PHRC:

“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.”

BAYAN USA:

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.

PHRC:

“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.”

BAYAN USA:

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.

PHRC:

“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.”

BAYAN USA:

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.

ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT, FILIPINA/O AMERICAN YOUTH CALL FOR ITS IMMEDIATE ABROGATION

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Reference: Ryan Leano, Secretary General, SanDiwa National Alliance of Fil-Am Youth
email: sandiwa.national@gmail.com

ON THE 10TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE VISITING FORCES AGREEMENT, FILIPINA/O AMERICAN YOUTH CALL FOR ITS IMMEDIATE ABROGATION

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: secgen@bayanusa.org

MELISSA ROXAS’ SURFACING A VICTORY OF THE PEOPLE’S STRUGGLE, BUT THE SEARCH CONTINUES FOR CARABEO & HANDOC– BAYAN USA

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. ###

NY TIMES
U.S. Woman Freed After Abduction in Philippines
By CARLOS H. CONDE
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.

SURFACE FILIPINO-AMERICAN ACTIVIST MELISSA ROXAS NOW!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on May 24, 2009 by kulturalguerilla

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 24, 2009

Reference: Kuusela Hilo, BAYAN-USA Vice Chair, 818-395-9207,
vicechair@bayanusa.org

Rhonda Ramiro, BAYAN-USA Secretary General, 415-377-2599, secgen@bayanusa.org

SURFACE FILIPINO-AMERICAN ACTIVIST MELISSA ROXAS NOW

BAYAN-USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino American organizations and
chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan Philippines), is calling
on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Department of National
Defense, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines to immediately
surface Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipino descent who was
abducted in the Philippines on May 19. BAYAN-USA also urgently calls
on our representatives in the U.S. Congress to act quickly to ensure
the safe return of Roxas.

Roxas is a well-known Filipino American activist, who served as the
first Regional Coordinator of BAYAN-USA in Los Angeles and co-founded
the cultural organization Habi Arts. Roxas is an active human rights
advocate and was instrumental in organizing a BAYAN-USA contingent
that participated in the International Solidarity Mission in 2005, an
international fact finding mission that called attention to the
escalating human rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas went to
the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights work, where she became
a full time volunteer health worker. She was abducted on May 19, 2009
at approximately 1:30 PM in Sitio Bagong Sikat, Barangay kapanikian,
La Paz, Tarlac. She was with two other volunteers, Juanito Carabeo and
John Edward Handoc.

Based on reports filed by the human rights group KARAPATAN and the La
Paz police, Roxas and her companions were taken by at least 8 armed,
hooded men riding two motorcycles and a Besta van without any license
plate numbers. There has been no word on the whereabouts and condition
of Roxas and her companions since the abduction. The circumstances of
Roxas’ abduction typify the abductions and enforced disappearances of
over 200 innocent civilians, allegedly last seen in the hands of
suspected state security forces.

“We are deeply concerned about the abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito
Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. We call for Melissa and her companions
to be immediately surfaced unharmed,” said BAYAN-USA Secretary General
Rhonda Ramiro. “We condemn the ongoing abductions and human rights
violations that have been rampant under the Arroyo administration and
victimized thousands of innocent people.”

The search for Roxas and her companions will be spearheaded by the
human rights organization KARAPATAN, while BAYAN-USA, its member
organizations, and allies will undertake an international campaign to
exert pressure on the Arroyo government to surface Roxas. “We appeal
to our elected officials, members of the Filipino American community,
and all people in the U.S. who believe in human rights to take action
to surface Melissa and her companions. Since we were founded in 2005,
BAYAN-USA has campaigned ceaselessly for an end to the human rights
violations in the Philippines, and we will not stop until we obtain
justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations under
Arroyo.”