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surfacemelissa

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.”

# # #

Please visit and sign the petition demanding for the surfacing of Melissa Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc at

http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html

Melissa, age 32, was a founding member of Habi Ng Kalinangan, or Habi-Arts, a Filipino cultural organization based in Los Angeles. She is also the founding Southern California Representative of BAYAN USA, an alliance of 14 Filipino social justice organizations across the United States. In addition to her social justice activism and human rights advocacy, Melissa was an accomplished writer-poet. She was a recipient of the 2004 PEN USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellowship, and was a 2005 & 2006 Kundiman Fellow.

We believe Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward were abducted for politically-motivated reasons. While conducting community service as health workers, they are also critics of the policies of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government in the Philippines. The Arroyo government is internationally-notorious for going after its known critics with political repression. In fact, even in Los Angeles, Melissa devoted much of her time to human rights advocacy work to oppose the alarming state of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and summary executions in the Philippines as early as 2005, when she participated in an international fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations in the Philippines.

The human rights crisis in the Philippines under the Arroyo administration and the culpability of the Philippine military in perpetrating the killings and abductions would later be pointed out by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston in his 2007 report on the Philippines. 2007 was also the year Melissa decided to move to the Philippines to serve the cause of human rights for the Filipino people.

We in BAYAN USA are working closely with BAYAN Philippines and Karapatan: Alliance for the Advancement of People Rights in the campaign to surface Melissa Roxas. Because she is a US citizen, we are appealing to US elected officials and the US Embassy in Manila to take immediate action to ensure Melissa’s surfacing and safety.

BAYAN USA will be forwarding the said online petition to the members of US Congress, the US State Department, as well as US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie A. Kenney. A detailed fact sheet on the abduction compiled by human rights group Karapatan is attached for public reference.

Please help us pursue justice for our beloved friend and kasama.

SURFACE MELISSA ROXAS, JUANITO CARABEO, & JOHN EDWARD HANDOC NOW!

For the BAYAN USA Executive Committee,

Bernadette Ellorin
Chairperson
BAYAN USA
www.bayanusa.org

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