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FilAm activist accuses military of torture

Seeks Supreme Court protection

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Thea Alberto, Tetch Torres

Reporter

INQUIRER.net

Posted date: June 02, 2009

MANILA, Philippines– (UPDATE 3) A Filipino-American activist who went missing for six days has claimed that she was tortured by military operatives and asked the Supreme Court for protection.

In her petition for a Writ of Amparo, Melissa Roxas said she was detained blindfolded and in handcuffs in what she presumed was Fort Magsaysay in Laur town, Nueva Ecija province, a major military camp in the north.

There, Roxas said her captors repeatedly told her that she was being held because she was a member of the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army).

Fort Magsaysay is over an hour-long drive from La Paz town, Tarlac province, where Roxas and two other left-wing activists, Juanito Carabeo and Edward Jandoc, were abducted last May 19. Jandoc remains missing.

Named respondents in Roxas’ petition were: President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff General Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, and Army Chief Lieutenant General Delfin Bangit.

Roxas’ lawyer, Rex Fernandez, filed the petition before the high tribunal on Tuesday.

“The distance of the travel and the sounds heard by petitioner [Roxas] in the place where the petitioner and the two men were brought, as well as the buildings described by petitioner, are places inside Fort Magsaysay,” according to the petition.

Roxas recounted her ordeal in the petition, saying: “I heard construction activities—blowtorching, hammering and the construction bustle—and these stopped in the late afternoon and I also heard gun firing as though in a firing range and planes taking off and landing and it was loud and I could also hear goats bleating.”

The activist said she slept light on her first night there, and in the morning, she was interrogated without being served breakfast or lunch. She said she was also not allowed to see a lawyer.

“I was asked repeatedly if I knew why I was there and was told by them that I was abducted because I was a member of the CPP-NPA,” she said.

She said her captors told her that “it was because of people like me who are costing the government so much money and people like me are the ones who are making it difficult for the government.”

Roxas said several men took turns in interrogating her, including a certain RC and a certan Dex, whom she called as her “religious interrogators” because they only discussed religion and the evils of communism to her.

She said she sought for a certain Rose, the female in the next barracks who helped her take a bath, with the plan of finally talking to her, “to delay the expected torture.”

Throughout the interrogation, Roxas refused to talk and kept telling the men that she had rights.

“I did not answer and he would hit me on the chest strongly and I would lose breath and gasped for air after and then he would press my throat with his thumb and say ‘Huh…huh…huh!’ and I would gag and then he would hit me on my jaws, ringing my ears and numbing my jaws,” Roxas said.

“I would see a flash of white bright light and ringing in my ears and again the pressure to my throat with the ‘Huh … huh…huh.’ And saying to me, ‘ayaw mo pa din magsasalita [you still don’t want to talk]’ and then punched me in my rib cage and I crumpled but the other men forced me up. This torture continued and every time I crumpled the other men would force me up,” she said in a sworn affidavit.

Roxas continued, “I was having a streaming thought that I was going to die there and then, they held my feet and my hands down and doubled up plastic bags were pulled down on my head and face and closed on my neck and I started to suffocate and I could not breath anymore and I was seeing white and thinking I was going to die and then he released the hold and I could breathe but I was faint and weak [lantang lanta] and he patted me in the back and several men carried me to my cell.”

She said she was asked to sign a document and when she refused to, she was brought to another room where the interrogator “gripped and pressed my right shoulder hard.”

“It was very painful because there was a dislocation and he knew I had that dislocation and when he was telling me that I was hardheaded he pounded his pointer finger on my forehead and it hurt,” she said.

When she was released, Roxas said her captors gave her a SIM card so that they could contact her. As they dropped her off a few feet from her house, she said her captors also warned her against contacting the human rights group Karapatan.

She said her abductors also warned her that they would monitor all her movements. They also took her memory card, iPod music player, laptop, journal, sphygmomanometer, stethoscope and P15,000 in cash.

“I was so afraid to go out believing that they were just around monitoring me that I just stayed inside the room not even going out of that room…” she said.

Roxas said her cousin threw away the SIM card but she kept the clothes, handcuffs, and a piece of paper containing an email address and password that her captors had created for her, which would be used as evidence.

In her affidavit, Roxas said that at the time of abduction, the armed men “punched repeatedly at my right rib cage” while her two companions were “blindfolded and taped at the mouth and herded to a blue van.”

In six days of captivity, Roxas said she “was always blindfolded and handcuffed even in my sleep,” except when she took a bath.

Roxas said she suffered extreme physical and mental torture with her abductors constantly taunting her and even warning her she would be executed anytime.

Roxas said she was strangled several times when she refused to answer questions about her affiliations and she was even called Maita once, which supposedly referred to a Canadian activist.

“A fist struck me at my upper sternum and it hurt and then a thumb was pressed strongly to my throat, making me suffocate for quite a time and when he released the pressure I gagged and I coughed and then he struck me with his fist on my left jaw ringing my ears and numbing my jaw,” she said in her affidavit.

“I prepared for the worst,” she added, however maintaining vigilance and taking note of the sounds around her.

Roxas said she was even subjected to a “religious interrogator” and made to drink an “orange soda” that made her groggy just to convince her to speak on her supposed connection with the NPA.

Roxas however said she is a member of Bayan-USA and not of the NPA.

After days of ordeal, Roxas was brought back to her home but was warned that her abductors will continue to monitor her moves.

“RC [abductor] told me that they will be monitoring all my actions and something bad will happen to me if I do not cooperate that made me more afraid and I did what they told me,” she said.

“There is credible basis tod say that Melissa was abducted by the military as part of the government’s counter-insurgency operations. The abduction and torture were clear violations of her rights. It is despicable and those involved must be made accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr.

Reyes said that the matter has been brought to the attention of the US embassy in Manila.

Roxas bore bruises when she was surfaced last week, said Doctor Reggie Pumagas of the Health Action for Human Rights.

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