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Category Archives: Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA)

Anti-VFA protests ahead Clinton’s visit to Manila

MANILA – At least 100 members of a students’ activist group on Wednesday held a lightning protest in front of the United States embassy in Manila, signalling a series of demonstrations during US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit in the Philippines.

Terry Ridon, secretary-general of the League of Filipino Students, led at least 100 youth activists protesting the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) in front of the US embassy along Roxas Boulevard.

“Bumabati ang mga estudyante, ang mga kabataan (The students, the youth are greeting [Mrs. Clinton],” Ridon said, adding that they will be holding similar protests against VFA while Clinton is in the country.

Clinton will stay in Manila on Thursday noon until Friday before attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit (APEC) in Singapore.

Clinton is set to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Ministerial Meeting and will stop by the Philippines on Thursday noon until Friday. It will be Clinton’s first visit to the Philippines as US Secretary of State.

Clinton’s spokesman Ian Kelly said in a statement released Saturday that the US secretary of state will hold consultations with senior Philippine officials and tackle US-Philippines treaty alliance.

Malacañang said that aside from discussing US-RP treaties, Mrs. Arroyo will also discuss with Clinton next year’s elections and the “smooth turnover of power” in 2010.

Ridon said student activists will return to the US embassy on Thursday to welcome Clinton and make her hear their sentiments against the VFA.

as of 11/11/2009 3:04 PM

Press Statement
July 31, 2009

References:
Katrina Abarcar, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, email: katarungan@comcast.net;
Peter Arvin Jabido, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), email: nychrp@gmail.com

Filipino-American Rights Groups Disappointed in Obama for Standing with Leader on Wrong Side of History

See Related Photos:
http://www.katarungan-dc.org/gma-white-house-visit-picket-and-vigil/

US-based rights groups are registering disappointment over the outcome of US President Barack Obama’s meeting with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines yesterday at the White House.

“Yesterday, Obama shook hands with a leader who stands on the wrong side of history,” states Gary Labao of the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), a New York City-based human rights advocacy organization. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo fits the description of one who clings to power though deceit, corruption, and the silencing of dissent to a tee.”

A few hours before Arroyo’s arrival on the White House driveway, DC-rights group Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines and the Columban Center for Outreach and Advocacy sponsored a prayer vigil for the victims of extrajudicial killings and abductions by the Philippine military in front of the White House gate. Other sponsors of the vigil included the Ecumenical Advocacy Network for the Philippines, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church-USA Washington DC Office, the United Church of Christ Justice and Witness Ministries, the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the International Labor Rights Forum, and NYCHRP.

Members of NYCHRP, Anakbayan NY/NJ, Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment, and Sandiwa Fil-Am Youth Alliance traveled from New York to join the vigil, in which around 50 advocates stood in a circle in front of the White House gates and renewed their call for US Congress to cut a greater amount of US military aid to the Philippines and tag greater human rights conditions. Also discussed was the case of Melissa Roxas, an American abducted and tortured in the Philippines last May. It is widely-believed that Roxas was taken by elements of the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) based in Central Luzon.

Katrina Abarcar of Katarungan spoke on Roxas’ behalf and reiterated the words from a statement of Roxas, who is currently in the Philippines testifying against the Philippine military– “I can no longer count how many times I have narrated the incident and my ordeal. But I will not tire to tell the truth about what happened for I seek justice, not only for myself, but for others who have gone through the same. I seek justice, not only for what they did to me, but for other victims of human rights violations.”

Arroyo’s White House Arrival Met with Protest

After the vigil, the rights groups staged a protest in front of the White House gates in anticipation of Arroyo’s arrival.
Chanting “Gloria Tuta, Diktador Pasista!” (Gloria, Puppet! Fascist Dictator!) and “Inutang na Dugo, Singilin, Siniglin, Pagbayarin!” (Blood Debt, Payback Now!) and “Gloria, Don’t Lie to Me. Torture Don’t Make Democracy!”, as Arroyo’s car entourage drove into the White House driveway, protestors marched to and straddled the White House front gate with banners and signs reading “Justice for Melissa Roxas!” and “Obama: Say to No to Torture! Say No to Arroyo!”

During the 45-minute meeting between Obama and Arroyo, the groups stayed outside the White House holding picket-protest, explaining to tourists and passersby the state of unequal relations between the US and the Philippines, and why more Americans should demand that US Congress withdraw all forms of support to the Arroyo government.

Prior to the meeting, US human rights advocates were pushing for Obama to include raising the case of Roxas and human rights with Arroyo in person.

No Public Mention of Roxas or Human Rights in the Philippines

But the subsequent post-meeting press conference did not indicate whether or not the issues of Roxas or Arroyo’s human rights track record were raised behind closed doors. Instead, the only reference to human rights was Obama’s praise for Arroyo’s so-called efforts to address the human rights situation in Burma, as well as eagerness to work with the Arroyo government by appointing the Philippines as the coordinator of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), an economic organization of countries in the region framed to promote economic, social, and cultural progress.

“We assume his silence means he is more committed to continuing Bush’s foreign policy on the Philippines, which includes maintaining and even increasing US troop presence on the island nation, and using the Arroyo government as a proxy to uphold US economic and political interests in the region,” Abarcar said. “So much for standing ‘against torture wherever it takes place.’ ”

Arroyo critics continued with the picket until Arroyo’s departure, in which the chanting resumed until the car entourage was off the White House premises.

Katarungan and NYCHRP, along with other US-based groups and churches, have been actively lobbying the members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to cut a greater portion of US military aid to the Philippines. They expect a final decision on the 2010 military aid package released by September.

###

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 26, 2009

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599, secgen@bayanusa.org

U.S. CITIZEN ABDUCTED AND TORTURED BY SUSPECTED PHILIPPINE MILITARY AGENTS TO SPEAK PUBLICLY FOR FIRST TIME

U.N. Day in Support of Torture Victims Marked with Press Conference by Torture Survivor Melissa Roxas

What: Press Conference of Melissa Roxas, recent victim of abduction and torture

When: Saturday, June 27, 2009

Time: 4-5:30 PM

Where: Echo Park United Methodist Church

1226 N. Alvarado St.

Los Angeles, CA 90026

Live Web Stream: www.bayan.ph

LOS ANGELES, CA – In her first public appearance since being released from captivity, Melissa Roxas, a U.S. citizen abducted and tortured in the Philippines from May 19-25, will hold a press conference to describe the human rights abuses she endured while held for six days in an alleged military camp. Ms. Roxas, an American human rights advocate of Filipino descent, is the first known American citizen to have become a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines, a country which has drawn international condemnation for state-sponsored human rights atrocities.

In a sworn affidavit submitted to the Philippine Supreme Court, Ms. Roxas described being abducted at gunpoint by several heavily armed men, brought to what she believed is a military camp, held against her will, questioned without the presence of an attorney, beaten repeatedly, and asphyxiated using plastic bags before being released. During the press conference, Ms. Roxas is expected to demand accountability from the Philippine government and military, who she holds responsible for her ordeal, as well as the U.S. government for providing funding and training to the Philippine military. Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, Philippine-based human rights organization Karapatan, and Human Rights Watch have overwhelmingly concluded that the Philippine military is responsible for systematically carrying out human rights violations such as abduction, torture and extra-judicial killings against innocent civilians. Nearly $1 billion worth of U.S. military aid and materiel has been granted to the Philippines since 1999, the year the U.S.- Philippines Visiting Forces Agreement was enacted.

The experience of Ms. Roxas is considered typical for the 200 cases of abduction and 1,010 cases of torture recorded since Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president of the Philippines in 2001. The Philippine government’s quick denial of responsibility for Ms. Roxas’ abduction and torture is also considered a typical response; in his 2007 report on the Philippines, U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston cited such systematic denial by the government as one of the primary obstacles to stopping the rampant human rights violations plaguing the country. In his 2009 follow-up report, Alston indicated a general failure of the Arroyo government to stop the persistent human rights violations. In April 2009, the UN Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) also released a report detailing the use of torture by the Philippine military.

At the press conference, Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, Attorney Arnedo Valera, will explain the potential legal remedies that are being explored, including the filing of a tort action in U.S. Federal Court for punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or the Arroyo government in the absence of named assailants; the lodging of a private complaint before the U.S. Department of State, Human Rights Desk against the Philippine government for the violation of the fundamental rights of a U.S. citizen; and the filing of a complaints before the appropriate U.N. agencies for violations of the International Covenant Against Torture, the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.

The press conference will be held in Los Angeles, CA and broadcast live on the website www.bayan.ph. Media in the Philippines will be hosted simultaneously by Bayan Philippines and will be able to ask questions in real time. The U.S.-based press conference is sponsored by the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign, whose membership includes Ms. Roxas’ legal counsel, BAYAN-USA, GABRIELA USA, Katarungan Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights, and the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns. ###

For those who have missed the live feed of Melissa’s Press Conference here are the recorded videos:

For Immediate Release
June 26, 2009

Reference: Raquel Redondiez, Chairperson, GABRIELA USA, gabrielawomen@gmail.com, 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.

    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!

###

For more information regarding Melissa Roxas’ case, including a poem inspired by her story, please visit www.gabusa.org.

**URGENT ACTION ALERT!**
* STAND AGAINST TORTURE ON JUNE 26, THE UN INTERNATIONAL DAY IN SUPPORT OF VICTIMS OF TORTURE


SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION


*ASK THE US APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE TO CUT US MILITARY AID TO THE PHILIPPINES AND TO REQUIRE THE PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT TO FULLY COMPLY WITH INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE CASE OF MELISSA ROXAS!


June 26 is the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, a particularly significant day for those of us concerned about the continued use of this criminal act worldwide. Most recently, a US citizen of Filipino descent has fallen victim to this cruel and degrading act in the Philippines.
Her case is one of thousands of documented cases of torture, assassinations, kidnappings, and other forms of human rights violations that have gone uninvestigated and unresolved in the Philippines. Just last month the United Nations Committee Against Torture (UNCAT) expressed grave concern at the routine, widespread, and unpunished use of torture by military, police, and other state officials in their country report on the Philippines. As reported by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, in his 2007 report, although credible evidence points to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the main culprits behind these human rights violations, they are protected by the Philippine government’s culture of impunity which allows them to roam free. The Philippine government denies any responsibility for and frequently attempts to cover up these human rights violations, as they are also attempting to do in the case of Melissa Roxas despite her sworn testimony about her experience.
The Philippines is one of the largest recipients of US military aid in Southeast Asia. This means US tax dollars are being used as resources by the AFP to continue to perpetrate these human rights violations against innocent civilians. As US taxpayers, we need to tell our government that we DO NOT want the blood of the Filipino people on our hands.
At present, the US Senate Appropriations Committee is in the process of shaping the next US military aid package to the Philippines, and could come out with a decision as early as mid-July. Our Senators and Representatives have an influence on how our tax dollars are spent abroad. They have a responsibility to represent our concerns about how US military aid is being used to commit—and cover up—human rights atrocities in the Philippines, and to express our desire that NOT 1 CENT of our tax dollars support human rights violations in the Philippines.
In addition, a request has been made of the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee Patrick Leahy to introduce language into this year’s Appropriations bill that would require the Philippine military to full comply with the Writ of Amparo proceedings and any investigation into the case of Melissa Roxas. Please call your Senator/Representative to express your support for a thorough and impartial investigation into Melissa Roxas’ case.
SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION
Below is a sample text you can use as an email, phone script, or fax to your member of Congress. You can also draft your own language.
*************************
(SAMPLE TEXT)
Dear Member of the US Appropriations Committee,
The recent abduction, detainment, and torture of an American, Melissa Roxas, in the Philippines last May has me extremely concerned about the US government’s financial allocations to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Roxas, 31, is US citizen of Filipino descent and human rights advocate who was in the middle of a medical relief mission in La Paz, Tarlac, when she and her two companions– Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc– were kidnapped on May 19th, 2009. In a sworn statement, Roxas describes being abducted by approximately 15 armed men, thrown in a van, handcuffed and blindfolded for six days, and dragged from jail cell to jail cell. She recounts being subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings to the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators. She was denied legal counsel despite her persistent requests. Roxas was dropped off near her relative’s house around 6:30 AM on May 25 and warned not to go to Karapatan, the human rights alliance that handles cases like hers. Her captors left her with a SIM card and phone, which one of her interrogators used to contact her after she was released.
Today, fortunately, Roxas is back safe in her hometown of Los Angeles with her family. Credible sources, including Roxas herself, believe the detainment took place in nearby Fort Magsaysay, a military camp near the town Roxas and her companions were abducted.
As my Senator or Representative, I urge you to remember Melissa and all who have suffered the epidemic of torture, kidnappings, and unlawful detainment at the hands of the Philippine military. I am concerned that US military aid may be providing the “ammunition” (in both a literal and figurative sense) being used to pursue unarmed civilians whom the Arroyo administration has tagged as “Communists.”
I urge you to keep in mind my strong support for a full, impartial investigation into Melissa’s abduction and torture by the Philippine government. I urge you to impress on the US Congress and especially the House and Senate Appropriations Committee that you belong to that *I do not want one cent of my tax dollars going to human rights abuses in the Philippines, and that the Philippine military must fully cooperate with the Writ of Amparo proceedings as well any investigation by the Commission on Human Rights into the case of Melissa Roxas. * I hope you will do everything in your power to ensure that the Philippine government cooperates to the fullest extent in resolving Melissa’s case and in stopping all human rights violations in the Philippines.
As my US Senator/Representative, I urge you to raise your voice on my behalf. Please be a voice of conscience and human rights when your committee and Congress as a whole decides on the next US military aid package to the Philippines. In these tough economic times, many government budget choices are hard. This one shouldn’t be. Our hard-earned tax dollars should be used towards the betterment of society and for public service, not for human rights violations overseas. Please be the change America needs and help the Congress achieve this.
I hope to receive a response from you outlining your position on the human rights crisis in the Philippines and on the case of Melissa Roxas.
Sincerely,

—–
SIGN THE EMERGENCY ONLINE PETITION

MILITARY’S LAWYERS TOLD

‘Prove Fil-Am activist’s kidnap is staged’

By Tetch Torres
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 16:51:00 06/18/2009

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) The Court of Appeals on Thursday ordered government lawyers to prove the military’s allegation that the abduction of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas was staged to smear the integrity of the military, which claimed that its troops were at that time busy helping victims of Typhoon “Emong.”

“Who said that the abduction was stage-managed? Is that part of the report of the military?” Associate Justice Noel Tijam asked the government lawyers.

The appeals court gave the Office of the Solicitor General 10 days to give them a copy of the military’s findings.

Members of the appeals court also did not compel victim and petitioner Melissa Roxas to appear before them. They said she could do so only if she wants to.

“We understand her situation,” the court said.

At the same time, the appellate court ordered counsel of petitioner Rex Fernandez to produce the doctors who examined Roxas.

The military, particularly the Army’s 701st Infantry Brigade which has jurisdiction of the area where Roxas was abducted, maintained that no abduction occurred because its troops were busy helping victims of typhoon “Emong” at the time.

According to news reports, the military believed that the abduction was stage-managed to put the blame on them despite doing a good job of maintaining peace in Central Luzon.

Roxas is a member of Bayan-USA, the overseas chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. She was abducted by armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19 and surfaced six days later.

The appellate court’s 16th Division presided by Justice Tijam also directed Juanito Carabeo, 51 and John Edward Jandoc, 16 to appear in court to corroborate Roxas’ allegation.

While Roxas was released on May 24 and Carabeo the following day, Jandoc has not surfaced to this day.

Her abductors continued to communicate with her through a SIM card that they have given her prompting her to file the writ of amparo.

Bayan Secretary General Renato Reyes Jr. said, “Roxas has a detailed accounting of what happened during her detention in what we believe to be was a military camp. She also retained the handcuffs and blindfold that were used on her.”

“A plain denial of the incident by the Arroyo government is not acceptable. To this day we have not heard anything from the Arroyo administration, from the Department of Defense or from the Armed Forces of the Philippines regarding their so-called investigations into the abduction. The Ermita-led Presidential Commission on Human Rights had gone on to say that the abduction was a fabrication designed to embarrass the government,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, Commission on Human Rights Chairperson Leila De Lima personally went to the Court of Appeals to witness the proceedings on the amparo filed by Roxas.

De Lima said her office will conduct a separate investigation to determine those responsible for the abduction.

In her petition for a writ of amparo, Roxas named as respondents President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, Armed Forces Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado, national police chief Jesus Verzosa, Army commanding general Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit;

Philippine National Police-Region 3 Regional Director Chief Superintendent Leon Nilo De la Cruz, Army 7th Infantry Division chief Major General Ralph Villanueva, Tarlac Police director Senior Supt. Rudy Gamido Lacadin, and three others identified only as Dex, RC and Rose, who are believed to be military intelligence agents.

With reports from Dona Pazzibugan, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Press Statement June 1, 2009

Contact:

Angelica Cabande, San Francisco CHRP, email: (SFCHRP) sfchrp@yahoo.com

Gary Labao, New York CHRP, email: nychrp@yahoo.com

Claire Oliveros, Portland CHRP, email: portlandchrp@gmail.com

(San Francisco, CA, New York, NY, and Portland, OR) In the 10th year marking of the Visiting Forces Agreement ratification, Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) across the U.S., member organizations of BAYAN USA, launches protest to demand the termination of the VFA and justice for victims of abduction and all human rights violations, which have climbed to record levels in the Philippines since the VFA was ratified on May 27, 1999.

“The VFA paved the way for U.S. military advisers, troops and equipment to flood the Philippines and to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture”, stated Angelica Cabande from SF CHRP. “The VFA also stripped away the rights and welfare of our fellow Filipinas by standing firm to the VFA laws in the case of Daniel Smith, who was acquitted from charges of raping Nicole. After Nicole, another rape victim, Vanessa, has come out, but decided not to file a case because she was scared that the Philippine government would only favor the US.”

“This treaty between the Philippines and the United States governments has been nothing, but detrimental to our country and people. The Philippines has its own constitutions and laws, but yet this kind of act under the leadership of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime emphasizes that the US imperialist interest is firmly what the Philippine Government will uphold.” Lolan Sevilla of NY CHRP said.

Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) across the U.S also denounced recent claims by the Arroyo government’s Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) that the abduction of Juanito Carabeo, John Edward Handoc and Filipino American, Melissa Roxas, 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 May 28th on the website of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. 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.

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a volunteer health worker team preparing for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint on May 19 by at least eight heavily-armed masked men riding motorcycles and in a van without license plates. The circumstances of their abduction typify the pattern of dozens of politically-motivated abductions of activists critical of the Arroyo administration, and evidence points to the military as responsible for these acts. Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc officially surfaced on May 24th, 25th and 27th.

“Melissa’s abduction adds an American citizen to the list of over 200 victims of enforced disappearance under Arroyo. We are elated all 3 have surfaced, however, we are outraged by all the abductions, killings and human rightsviolations that have been occurring since GMA took office,” said Claire Oliveros from Portland CHRP. “We call for justice for all three, including a full investigation and prosecution of the abductors. We also reprove the United States in its continuing funding to the Philippines and demand a stop of using American tax dollars in funding violent acts of human right violations to civilians.”

What should alarm Filipinos in the US even more than Melissa’s case is the fact that the Arroyo administration, one that has been internationally chided time and time again for perpetrating rampant human rights violations through the Philippine military, continues to receive a generous military aid package from the US government. In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston released a scathing report on the Philippines pointing out the Philippine military’s culpability as the main perpetrators of human rights violations. That same year, testimonies by a Philippine church delegation to the US Senate identified a correlation between the continuing rise of human rights violations in the Philippines to an increase in US military aid.

Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) across the U.S stress the importance of raising public awareness and participation in pressuring U.S. legislators to stop sending military aid to the Philippine government responsible for the extrajudicial killings and forced disappearances as sited in Professor Philip Alston, UN Special Rapporteur.

Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) across the U.S will be participating in an Emergency Summit on Human Rights in the Philippines. The one day event is on June 6, 2009 at the United Methodist Building, 100 Maryland Ave., NE, Washington, D.C. 20002.

The goal of the Summit is to build upon the strong but relatively dispersed response of US-based communities of faith, human rights and labor advocates, and members of the Filipino community to the human rights crisis in the Philippines. It aims to convene institutions, organizations, networks, individuals and initiatives to share their work and analysis on human rights in the Philippines. The hope is that participants will be able to identify ways to better coordinate and mutually support each other’s efforts to increase pressure on the Philippine government and create more impact.

For more information regarding the event Summit and a co-sponsorship form, please contact Katrina Abarcar at da_keese@hotmail.com

Activism it not a CRIME!

Terminate the VFA!

No U.S. Military aid to the Philippines!

###

Its has been 10 yrs since the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has been active, allowing the U.S. to send troops to the Philippines. Its like the they never left…

The VFA allows U.S. troops into the Philippines without having to go through customs, where they are screened for things like the swine flu. Any soldier that may have the swine flu may walk in as they please where anyone else that may have at least one of the symptoms will be detained for a days. Furthermore, a Philippine citizen that may have caught the virus will have a hard time getting over the flu because health care is not affordable  which makes it lethal.

The VFA allows the U.S. troops full access anywhere in the Philippines. That means land, sea and air. They could even occupy a house that a family owns.

Collateral damage has increased due to weapons testing and exercises. Family have lost their houses, mothers, fathers, children due to these exercises. Bullets have entered houses while people were sleeping, killing innocent civilians.

U.S. troops  are above any laws in the Philippines. An example is the ‘Nicole’ case where a college student is raped by a U.S. soldier Daniel Smith. Smith was sentenced to jail in the Philippines, however, on his first night in jail he was taken to the U.S. Embassy. If a person was convicted for rape in the U.S. they would have to be in custody until the trial is over. 

Nicole and Vanessa, another Filipina that was raped, we can see that number of cases went up; belittling the rights of Filipinas; and that the Philippines judicial system is a joke because of how Smith was treated with a pardon. 

The VFA is funded by U.S. Taxdollars, therefore we as Americans have blood and injustice on our hands. The money that is funding the killing and injustice of the Filipinos can be used to bail out the struggling Americans in an economic crisis. 

We say no more blood on our hands and not in our name!

JUNK THE VFA!!!!

Basic CMYK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599,

secgen@bayanusa.org, www.bayanusa.org

10 Years Too Long, 200 People Too Many: Filipinos Across the U.S. Call for the Termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Justice for the Disappeared

In the wake of the abduction of Filipino American human rights advocate and health worker Melissa Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc one week ago in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA launches actions against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) today, the 10th anniversary of the VFA’s ratification. BAYAN-USA demands the termination of the VFA and justice for victims of abduction and all human rights violations, which have climbed to record levels in the Philippines since the VFA was ratified on May 27, 1999.

“Human rights violations have escalated to unprecedented heights since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president and the U.S. launched its ‘war on terror.’ It is no coincidence that the Visiting Forces Agreement was ratified just two years earlier in 1999,” stated BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “The VFA paved the way for U.S. military advisers, troops and equipment to flood the Philippines and to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture. Melissa’s abduction adds an American citizen to the list of over 200 victims of enforced disappearance under Arroyo.”

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a volunteer health worker team preparing for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint on May 19 by at least eight heavily-armed masked men riding motorcycles and in a van without license plates. The circumstances of their abduction typify the pattern of dozens of politically-motivated abductions of activists critical of the Arroyo administration, and evidence points to the military as responsible for these acts. Roxas and Carabeo were officially surfaced on May 24 and 25, respectively; unconfirmed reports of Handoc’s surfacing were received as of the writing of this statement. Because the vast majority of abductions and enforced disappearances remain unresolved, BAYAN-USA believes their surfacing was a direct result of rapid community response and an international campaign by BAYAN Philippines, BAYAN-USA, and the human rights organization Karapatan.

“While we are elated that Melissa and Juanito have surfaced and that John Edward might also have been found, we are outraged that they were even abducted in the first place,” said Ramiro. “We call for justice for all three, including a full investigation and prosecution of the abductors.”

“The abduction of Melissa, Juanito and John Edward is directly linked to the VFA and U.S. military aid to the Philippines,” continued Ramiro. “The U.S. government cannot claim ignorance or wash its hands of responsibility, when it is U.S. advisors who are training the Philippine military, U.S. aid that is funding the military training, and U.S. guns and bullets that are being used to threaten and kill innocent civilians.”

BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to the Philippines.  Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the annual joint military exercises known as “Balikatan” (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”).   The estimated total expense borne by U.S. taxpayers for U.S. militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted in 1999 is a lofty $1 billion.  An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be granted to the Philippines in the coming year.

The VFA also provides justification for the basing of U.S. troops throughout the country, in what is widely perceived as an affront to national sovereignty. Moreover, witnesses have observed U.S. troops participating in combat operations, which is in violation of the VFA itself. In the months of February-May this year alone, the “Balikatan” exercises also led directly to the killing of a young girl and wounding of four more children, the rape of 22 year old Filipina “Vanessa,” and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of residents in Bicol where the exercises were held. No one was held responsible for the killing of the child, and although there was clear evidence that “Vanessa” was raped by a U.S. marine, she refrained from pressing charges because she did not believe she could obtain justice. “Vanessa’s” rape was committed just weeks after the acquittal of U.S. Marine Daniel Smith, who was the only American ever convicted of raping a Filipina despite reports of thousands of rapes committed by U.S. military personnel.

“The VFA fosters a culture of militarization and violence, and both the U.S. and Philippine military are guilty of committing human rights violations with impunity,” stated Ramiro. “Melissa’s abduction should give Congress and the Obama administration even more impetus to terminate the VFA and stop pouring billions of dollars into a regime that abducts and kills innocent people. In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions, it is unconscionable to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA.  Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.  BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/. The online petition to demand justice for Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.

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Actions being held in the U.S.

Los Angeles

Vigil in front of the PhilippineConsulate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 7:30pm
3600 Wilshire Blvd (between S Harvard Blvd and S Kingsley Dr)
Los Angeles, CA 90010

New York

Rally at the Philippine Consulate and March to Military Recruitment Center

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 5:30 PM

556 Fifth Ave., New York

San Francisco

Action and Meeting with the Philippine Consulate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 4:00 PM

447 Sutter Street, San Francisco

Teach-In on the VFA

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 6:00-8:00 PM

At South of Market Community Action Center

1070 Howard Street, San Francisco

Seattle

Visiting Forces Agreement Teach-In

Thursday, March 28, 6:30-8:30 PM

Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

San Diego

“As If They Never Left” Teach-In on the VFA

Thursday, May 28, 7:00-9:00 PM

At Filipino American Veterans Association Hall

2926 Market Street, San Diego

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. ###

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