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Here is more updates on the Melissa Roxas  situation via ABS/CBN

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http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/06/10/09/fil-am-activists-abduction-raises-howl-washington

WASHINGTON D.C. – The alleged detention and torture of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas is fueling efforts by militant groups to again catch the eye of US lawmakers on human rights abuses back home.

“People get kidnapped and just because they’re Filipino-Americans, their country of origin feels some right to kidnap, even to abuse them. The reality is they are Americans,” Congressman Jim Moran (8th District, Virginia) told a largely Fil-Am crowd last Sunday.

Moran is a 10-term congressman for a district that encompasses Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church – home to a large Fil-Am constituency. He was the principal guest at the People’s Ball, which traditionally kicks off the series of Philippine Independence Day celebrations in the American capital.

After his speech, Moran told ABS-CBN’s Balitang America that he views Roxas as “an American just like my daughter is an American.”

“The Philippine government or military or paramilitary, whoever it was that abducted her, committed a crime. She is an American citizen and I sure hope for their sake that they have not harmed her,” he said.

Roxas, 31, a member of Bayan USA was abducted last May 19 in Lapaz, Tarlac.

In her petition before the Philippine Supreme Court, Roxas said she was kidnapped by suspected paramilitaries and brought to a military camp in Nueva Ecija where she was interrogated and tortured for six days on suspicions that she was a communist rebel.

She said she was only released after she convinced her captors that she would return to the folds of the law.

Roxas has gone home to Los Angeles, California after her ordeal in the Philippines, according to lawyer Arnedo Valera. He said Roxas has been traumatized after undergoing “physical and psychological torture” from her captors.

Roxas will undergo a more through medical and psychological examination, to determine if she was sexually assaulted as well. “She said there were times when she could no longer take it and she lost consciousness,” Valera said.

He said Roxas identified herself as an American citizen, adding she was on a research and writing assignment. Her abductors accused her of being a communist insurgent.

“I have never seen this kind of treatment to an American citizen, even during the time of Marcos,” Valera said.

He revealed they will file a complaint with the United Nations, ask the Special UN Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak to investigate the Roxas case, file a complaint with the State Department against the Philippine government, and fie a case with a US federal district court under the Alien Tort Law.

Under the Alien Tort Law, US federal courts are given “original jurisdiction” for any suit filed by a foreigner for violation of the law of nations – especially human rights violations.

Valera said he has spoken with Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, urging his cooperation.

“There is an obligation that the culprits, because the victim is a US citizen, can be brought over here for trial under the Convention Against Torture,” Valera said.

Rights crisis

Last Saturday, a different group convened an “emergency summit” on the growing human rights crisis in the Philippines at the Methodist Building, right across the US Congress.

“We organized the summit in response to what we perceive as a resurgence of political killings and other human rights abuses in the Philippines,” explained Katrina Abarcar, coordinator for the group Katarungan.

The group said it is urging US Congress to set their sights anew to abuses in the Philippines. “This is like a first step to what you might call building bridges or stronger partnerships, between groups working on human rights that have for the most part worked independently of each other,” she said.

Militant groups are closing ranks with American churches, labor and civil liberty groups that have seen many of their leaders, members and friends fall victim to extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

“We want to educate the American people, Congress, the Obama administration. It’s good this summit was organized so we can see the impact of killings in the Philippines, which are now felt here,” said Jon Melegrito, a leader of the influential National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).

Melegrito worked for Filipino World War II veterans equity and was active in the political campaigns of both State Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama last year.

“I am a Methodist, a church that is very committed to social justice. And the churches, not only the Methodists, the UCCP, Episcopalians, Lutherans and even the Catholic Church all have a commitment to social justice especially for the oppressed,” he said.

Human rights groups said over 800 union leaders, peasant organizers, churchmen and journalists have been killed under the administration of President Arroyo. The government has claimed only about 400 of these were politically-motivated murders.

“As far as the church is concerned, they are all part of God’s children. And if God’s children are being exploited, repressed and killed, then it’s against our religious upbringing. So the sponsorship and promotion of the church for human rights is just natural,” Melegrito said.

In March 2007, human rights groups submitted a report on the extrajudicial killings at a hearing chaired by Senator Barbara Boxer in March 2007. Not surprisingly, the State Department has alluded to a “culture of impunity” that allow abuses to continue.

Battle of perceptions

The Arroyo administration has worked hard to counter hardening perceptions, organizing a national summit in July 2007 to discuss extrajudicial killings.

Malacanang also launched a counter-lobby on Capitol Hill, dispatching top Philippine police officials to speak with lawmakers willing to listen.

It seemed to work – the Arroyo administration managed to convince senators to restore US military aid for 2008 – the Filipino militants’ main target – to $30 million, about two-thirds more than what the State Department suggested.

But the release of $2 million is predicated on the Philippine government meeting certain human rights criteria, particularly compliance with the Ralston Report.

Lawyer Brian Campbell of the International Labor Rights Forum told the summit audience that the money has not been released. He added that as far as he knows, the State Department has not yet submitted a certification to the US Senate that the Philippines has complied with the conditions.

“This all started the grassroots level. It started with people in Minnesota calling their congressman, people in California calling their senator, telling them ‘There’s a problem here and these are our families that’s being impacted’ and it’s time to raise this issue,” Campbell said.

“That resulted in the hearings chaired by Sen. Boxer which then led to human rights conditions on part of the military aid,” he explained.

Campbell acknowledged “little, systemic changes” implemented by the Arroyo administration to address human rights problems, but stressed the need for continuing pressure. The group is trying to convince lawmakers to tie future aid for the Philippines – economic and military – to improving human rights conditions.

Congressman Moran is an early supporter of the move. “There should be a direct link between military aid to a country and the way that country treats its own people and its neighbors.

“If a military is going to try to act with impunity whether it be in the Philippines, Indonesia, any other nation whether in Asia, Africa or South America, they should not be receiving military assistance because military assistance is meant to be used to further American values,” Moran told Balitang America.

Raising the ante vs violators

“If somebody has been tortured, it doesn’t matter if they’re in the United States or in their home country, if the US courts can get jurisdiction over the torturer, then they can bring a law suit here,” Campbell said.

He added that the Philippines already has first-hand experience with this legal avenue when human rights victims won a class suit against the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Campbell said that while winning compensation may be difficult, there are other sanctions to be imposed on human rights violators.

“Those torturers cannot come to the United States, they cannot go to Las Vegas to watch Manny Pacquiao fight. They can not do it because then they will be subject to the jurisdiction of US courts,” he said.

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