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Picture

Dr. Alex Montes and patient
We need money for healthcare and education! So why is the US sending over $30 million taxpayer dollars each year to arrest, jail and torture health care workers and other innocent civilians in the Philippines?

Every year, the US sends tens of millions of dollars in military aid to the Philippines–and it’s added up to a whopping $1 billion US taxpayer dollars since 1999.  What has been the result? Record-high numbers of human rights violations have been committed against innocent civilians, including: 1,118 killings  • 1,026 cases of torture • 204 forced disappearances • 1,983 illegal arrests. Who is perpetrating these human rights violations?  Reports by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and KARAPATAN all conclude that the Philippine military, police and paramilitary units are the perpetrators, and are targeting pastors, teachers, union leaders, students, lawyers, journalists, healthcare workers, artists and others whose only “crime” is voicing criticism of the government for neglecting and exploiting the Filipino people. They are being arrested, tortured and killed for doing what the government should be doing–serving the poor and oppressed.

The arrest, detention and torture of 43 healthcare workers is the latest outrageous case of human rights abuse. On Saturday, Feb. 6, the Philippine military and police used a bogus search warrant to raid a First Responders healthcare skills training in Rizal, where they violently arrested and jailed 43 community healthcare workers, including two renowned doctors, a nurse, and midwives. The military has inflicted physical and psychological torture on the healthcare workers, including: sleep deprivation, prolonged tactical interrogation with death threats, 36+ hours of being blindfolded and handcuffed, solitary confinement, and denial of legal counsel and medical treatment.  The health workers are still being held in jail on trumped up charges of being rebels, and the military has even defied a Supreme Court order to produce the 43 health workers at a court hearing.

The 43 health workers and doctors were undergoing health training to serve the vast majority of Filipino people who do not have access to healthcare. They should be treated like heroes!  But instead, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her military are persecuting them.

You can help.  Join the growing movement of grassroots organizations, churches, individuals, and labor organizations and unions such as the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), National Nurses United (NNU), and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to demand the release of the 43 healthcare workers.

Sign the petition at http://www.PetitionOnline.com/Free43/petition.html so you can
1.    Tell Congress and the Obama administration to end all US military aid to the Philippines. No US tax dollars for torture!
2.    Tell President Arroyo to Free the 43 health care workers and end all human rights violations being committed by her military.

For more info: www.bayan.ph/freethe43.php or http://freethehealthworkers.blogspot.com or www.bayanusa.org.

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A Primer on the Illegal Arrest, Detention and Torture of 43 Health Workers

Who are the 43 health workers?

The 43 health workers, also known as “Morong 43”, are health professionals and volunteer community health workers who were arrested in Rizal on February 6, following a raid by the combined forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The 43 were part of a Community First Responders’ Health Training sponsored jointly by the Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) and the Council for Health and Development (CHD). The training was held at the residential compound located at 266 E. Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal. The compound is owned by Dr. Melecia Velmonte, chairperson of COMMED’s Board of Directors and a renowned and respected infectious disease specialist and a professor emeritus of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Medicine.

On February 6, 2010 at 6:15 am, joint elements of the 202nd Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army (202nd IBPA) headed by its commander, Colonel Aurelio Baladad and the Rizal Provincial Police (PNP) headed by Police Superintendent Marion Balonglong raided the l compound of Dr. Velmonte.

Among those arrested were 2 doctors, 1 registered nurse and 2 midwives and 38 volunteer community health workers.

They are :

1. Merry Clamor y Mia, 33 y/o, medical doctor, CHD staff
2. Alexis Montes y Sulinap, 62 y/o, medical doctor, Commed volunteer
3. Gary Liberal y Apuhin, 43 y/o, registered nurse, AHW
4. Ma. Teresa Quinawayan y Roncales, 26 y/o midwife, CHD staff
5. Lydia “Del” Ayo Obera, 61 y/o, AHW staff & health educator
6. Reynaldo Macabenta y Torres, 30 y/o, CHD staff
7. Angela Doloricon y Manogon, 50 y/o, health educator
8. Delia Ocasla y Medrano, 46 y/o, community health worker
9. Janice Javier y Quiatchon, 22 y/o, community health worker
10. Franco Remoroso y Bilugan, 28 y/o community health worker
11. Linda Racel Otanez community health worker
12. Pearl Irene Martinez y de los Reyes, 25 y/o community health worker
13. Eleonor Carandang y Orgena, 30 y/o community health worker
14. Danny Pi�ero, community health worker
15. Ray-om Among, community health worker
16. Emily Marquez y Manguba, 23 y/ocommunity health worker
17. Emilia Marquez y Manguba,20 y/o, community health worker
18. Jane Balleta y Beltran 27 y/o, community health worker
19. Glenda Murillo y Cervantes, 26 y/o, community health worker
20. Eulogio “Ely” Castillo, community health worker
21. Jovy Ortiz y Quidor, 23 y/o, community health worker
22. Samson Castillo y Mayuga, 42 y/o, community health worker
23. Miann Oseo y Edjao, 31 y/o, community health worker
24. Sylvia Labrador y Pajanustan, 43 y/o, community health worker
25. Lilibeth Donasco, 24 y/o, community health worker
26. Jenilyn Vatar y Pizarro, 19 y/o, community health worker
27. Ramon de la Cruz y Santos, 21 y/o, community health worker
28. Jaqueline Gonzales, community health worker
29. Maria Elena Serato y Edeo, 35 y/o, community health worker
30. Ma. Mercedes Castro y Icban, 27 y/o, community health worker
31. Leah de Luna y Bautista, 28 y/o, community health worker
32. Judilyn Oliveros Y Abuyan, 26 y/o, community health worker
33. Yolanda Yaun y Bellesa, 51 y/o, registered midwife
34. Edwin Dematera y Bustamante, 37 y/o, community health worker
35. Cherielyn Riocasa Tawagon, 31 y/o, community health worker
36. John Mark Barrientos y Roldan, 20 y/o, community health worker
37. Mark Escartin y Esperida, 20 y/o, community health worker
38. Julius Duano, 30 y/o, community health worker
39. Ronilo Espera, 31 y/o, community health worker
40.Romeo de la Cruz, 53 y/o, community health worker
41. Valentino Paulino y Abale, 35 y/o, community health worker
42. Ace Millena, community health worker
43. Lorelyn Saligumba, community health worker

Why were they arrested?

The arresting authorities claim that the 43 health workers were caught in the act of undergoing training on bomb-making and that they are members of the New People’s Army (NPA). The arresting authorities claim to have found firearms and explosives in the premises where the 43 were staying.

The military allege that they found C4 explosives, a pistol with seven bullets, three grenades (one allegedly found under a pillow) and some improvised landmines beside the grenade. However the search was conducted without being witnessed by Dr. Velmonte, any other house occupant, or independent witnesses such as baranggay officials. According to witnesses, the military conducted the search in the compound premises only after all the victims as well as the house owners and their house help were already outside the buildings.

Were the arrests legal?

No, the arrests were illegal. These were based on a patently defective February 5, 2010 search warrant issued by Judge Cesar Mangrobang of Branch 22 of the Imus, Cavite Regional Trial Court. The warrant was issued against a certain Mario Condes of Barangay Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal on allegations of illegal possession of firearms. It did not specify any address except for the name of the barangay. The house raided was not that of Mario Condes but that of Dr. Velmonte. There is no Mario Condes among the 43 arrested.

Were there violations of the rights of the 43 health workers?

Yes, there were gross violations of the right to due process, the right against illegal searches and seizures and the right against torture.

1. Violations in securing the search warrant

As stated earlier, the search warrant was patently defective and issued with grave abuse of discretion. The warrant did not indicate any exact address and in effect covered the entire baranggay, thus violating the rights of the accused against unreasonable searches and seizures. The house that was searched was not indicated in the warrant and did not belong to “Mario Condes”.

2. Violations during arrest

The 43 were arrested without any warrants of arrest; they were not informed of the reasons for their arrest nor where they were being taken. All throughout they were denied the right to call a lawyer.

All the training participants were frisked and ordered to line up outside the house. They were immediately handcuffed, interrogated and photographed by the military. Their personal belongings were confiscated. The military used old shirts and packaging tape which they brought with them to blindfold all the participants before loading them onto several trucks.

3. Violations during detention

For five days, the 43 were denied their right to counsel During the first 36 hours of their detention, the 43 were not informed of the reasons why they were being held. They were subjected to continuous interrogation and were being forced to admit that they were members of the NPA. Their fingerprints were taken while they were blindfolded.

Only during the inquest proceedings on the second day were they finally informed of the charges being levelled against them. The prosecutor from the Department of Justice (DOJ), State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, simply called out their names, then read the charges against them. The 43 were denied their right to counsel even during the inquest proceedings.

There were several accounts of torture and ill-treatment as attested to by the detainees and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The AFP violated several provisions of Republic Act No. 9745 or the Anti-Torture Law: both physical and psychological torture were inflicted on the 43. These include: being blindfolded and handcuffed for 36 hours; being subjected to multiple and prolonged tactical interrogation with death threats, harassment and intimidation; being deprived of sleep and urgent medication; being manhandled and beaten; being denied legal counsel for days; being denied medical treatment; being coerced to wrongly make admissions and implicate others; and being subjected to various indignities during their captivity. Some were held incommunicado and some remain in solitary confinement up to now.

Some detainees who were blindfolded and handcuffed were also subjected to the indignity of having their captors lower their pants and underwear just so they could relieve themselves.

The 43 remain detained in a military camp when they should have been transferred to a civilian detention facility especially after charges were filed against them in court.

Have the 43 health workers been charged in court?

Despite all the violations of due process committed by the AFP, PNP and the DOJ, charges of illegal possession of firearms and explosives and violations of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban were filed against the 43 at Branch 78 of the Rizal Regional Trial Court in Morong. The charges were only filed on February 11, five days after they were arrested. Forty of the accused face non-bailable offenses (illegal possession of explosives). Clearly, the purpose of the hasty filing of said charges is to attempt to cure violations of due process and justify the continued illegal detention of the 43.

Were the health workers really members of the NPA? Were they really making bombs at the time of their arrest?

The military has made the sweeping accusation that the 43 are members of the NPA. Their proof consists of the firearms and explosives allegedly found in the premises of Dr. Velmonte. But the accounts of Dr. Velmonte and her household give sufficient ground to believe that the firearms and explosives were planted by the military/police.

Mere membership in the NPA cannot be used as basis for a warrantless arrest. Jurisprudence tells us that an overt act or an actual crime (in this case, taking up arms against the government) must first be committed to justify an arrest. There was no shoot-out at the time of the arrest; the 43 and Dr. Velmonte’s household were either doing their morning ablutions or getting ready for breakfast. It is a stretch of the imagination to claim that the 43 health workers were caught in the act of making bombs as early as 6:00 am when they were arrested.

What the military did was to fabricate and plant evidence and then accuse the health workers as NPA members, to justify their warrantless arrest and illegal detention.

The military has since concocted many versions of who the 43 really are. At first, the military alleged that the 43 were not health workers but bomb-makers. Later, the military would allege that the 43 were indeed health workers but were also undergoing training in making explosives. The military now calls them “medics” of the NPA.

The military also goes on to make the preposterous claim that Dr. Alexis Montes, a 62-year old surgeon, is a member of the NPA Special Operations Group tasked to assassinate Gen. Jovito Palparan.

According to CHR Chair Leila de Lima, even assuming for the sake of argument that the 43 health workers are NPA members, they still have the right to due process, including the presumption of innocence and the right to be free from torture and other degrading treatment.

Have the 43 health workers taken legal action? What has been done to secure their release?

The health workers through their relatives and their organizations have filed before the Supreme Court a petition for the writ of habeas corpus last February 9. The Supreme Court ordered the AFP to produce the 43 at the hearing at the Court of Appeals on February 12, 2010. The military defied the SC by not bringing the 43 to the scheduled hearing citing alleged security reasons and lack of time to prepare. The AFP received a strong rebuke from the CA and was ordered to produce the 43 at another hearing on February 15. As of this writing, the CA has yet to issue its decision on the petition.

A complaint has also been filed before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), asking it to investigate the allegations of rights abuses committed against the 43. The CHR has issued the order for the AFP to present the Morong 43 before the Commission in a scheduled hearing on March 18.

Who are supporting campaign to free the 43?

The campaign “Free the 43” is supported by a broad range of sectors of society, from colleagues in the health professions, lawyers, lawmakers, political leaders across party lines, religious formations, human rights advocates, artists, and advocates and beneficiaries of community-based health programs where the community health workers render their services. It is a national and international campaign calling on the Arroyo government to immediately release the Morong 43 and drop all charges against them. It is a campaign that supports the legal defense of the 43 and undertakes advocacy work and mobilizations. The campaign also supports the immediate needs of the families of the 43 in terms of visits, psycho-social counseling and other forms of concrete assistance.

Why are there volunteer community health workers?

In the Philippines, where seven out of 10 Filipinos die without ever seeing a doctor and where public health services are sorely lacking or inaccessible, non-government organizations (NGOs) like CHD and COMMED play an important role by bringing health services to the people. This means that these non-government organizations try to reach poor and underserved communities, set up community-based health programs, organize health committees, and train community health workers (CHWs). This way, the poor people living in urban and rural areas can attend to their health needs in the absence or dearth of government services.

For 37 years, community-based health program practitioners have been training volunteers who would like to become CHWs regardless of their educational attainment. CHD, for example, has trained tens of thousands of community health workers nationwide. Training participants are selected by the people themselves with little regard to their educational and socio-economic background nor their religious or political beliefs, so as long as they commit themselves to serving the people in their communities.

The Community First Responders’ Health Training is one of the courses CHD offers to community health workers. The training is in response to the assessed needs of the communities after the disastrous effects of the lack of disaster preparedness in the wake of tropical storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng”. The community health workers are also the frontliners in providing health services during disasters, so additional health skills are needed for them to be able to respond adequately, especially since many communities have no access to government health services.

Is this the first time doctors, health workers and volunteers have become victims of human rights abuse?

No, there have been similar attacks against health workers in the past. These can be better understood in the context of the government’s counterinsurgency programs, most especially the Arroyo regime’s US-supported Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) or Operation Freedom Watch.

The illegal arrest and detention of 43 doctors and health workers is directly linked to OBL. The latter has given rise to a rash of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, torture, illegal arrests and detention and mass displacement of poor communities. Under OBL the military has been given a carte blanche by the Arroyo regime to disregard the most basic tenets of due process and human rights. For the AFP, once a person is accused of being an “insurgent” or “terrorist”, he or she is guilty until proven innocent. This is the kind of militarist mindset that the Arroyo regime has in pursuing its counter-insurgency program.

The military has a track record of targeting several other doctors and health personnel.

Just recently, on February 23, 2010, Ronald Capitania, a community health worker of Sipalay, Negros Occidental was shot by two unidentified bonnet-clad men on a motorcycle. Luckily, he survived the attack.

On February 11, 2010, Benjei Faldas, a community health worker in Davao del Sur was reportedly charged with frustrated murder following the wounding of a CAFGU member in an encounter with the New People’s Army. He is prevented from performing his duties as a community health worker.

In July last year, Dr. Reynaldo Lesaca Jr., a respected psychiatrist at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute and chairperson emeritus of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), filed a complaint before the CHR regarding his inclusion, together with four Davao-based doctors, in the military’s “Order of Battle” thus making him vulnerable to being targeted for “neutralization” by military and paramilitary “death squads”.

This was a month after another Davao-based physician, Dr. Rogelio Pe�era, was shot and killed by motorcycle-riding assailants near his house in Davao City.

In 2008, Dr. Oliver Gimenes, a community-based doctor serving farmers’ communities in Cebu and Bohol, was placed under surveillance by the military and was vilified as a “rebel sympathizer”. He was later charged with murder in a questionable criminal case stemming from an NPA raid of a military detachment.

In 2007, sisters Emilia and Maricris Quirante, both community health workers of Guihulngan Mountain Clinic in Negros Oriental were arrested for trumped-up charges of child abuse and rebellion.

In July 2006, unidentified armed men ambushed Dr. Chandu Claver and his family in Kalinga province. The attack killed Dr. Claver’s wife, Alyce, seriously injured Dr. Claver himself, and traumatized their young daughter.

These attacks share several characteristics: they are politically-motivated; they are directed against those who serve poor communities or underserved sectors; the government attempts to justify these attacks by red-baiting the victims; and they have all been all perpetrated with impunity.

As the government’s self-imposed deadline to defeat or “render inconsequential” the communist-led armed revolutionary movement draws near, the military will even be more hard-pressed to show results. Thus, human rights violations are bound to continue and even escalate.

What are the implications of the arrest of the 43 health workers?

The illegal arrest, illegal detention and torture committed against the 43 health workers by the AFP are clear violations of human rights. The methods resorted to by the military are clearly unconstitutional, show a blatant disregard for the rule of law and pose a grave threat to ordinary Filipinos everywhere.

This incident is disturbing for health professionals and health science students as it imperils the people’s initiatives and efforts to build their own capacity and capability to manage their health needs in the absence of adequate public service.

For health professionals who may be considering the option of public service, this incident has a chilling effect. For the community-oriented academe, this single act of the military could undo decades of encouraging graduates to stay in the Philippines and create the necessary exposure and experience in community-based health trainings

This will deprive the people of much needed health services which will worsen the already deplorable state of health.

What are our demands and calls?

The campaign “FREE THE 43” demands the immediate and unconditional release of the 43 health workers who were illegally arrested in Morong, Rizal and are currently illegally detained in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal. We also demand that all the false charges against them be dropped.

We hold to account all the government officials involved in the illegal arrest, detention and torture of the 43 including those who have command responsibility over the military and police forces directly involved in the incident.

The complaint filed before the CHR states those responsible as:

“The President of the Republic of the Philippines herself, Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is primarily responsible as Commander-in-Chief under the principle of command responsibility because she knew or, owing to the circumstances at the time, should have known that the state forces were committing or about to commit the crimes stated in this complaint.

The public officials and cabinet secretaries also responsible for gross violations of Constitutional rights following the doctrine of command responsibility include National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, the Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

Meanwhile, the public officers who are also exercising command responsibility over the 202nd IB, 2nd ID PA and the Rizal Provincial Police, PNP and directly responsible for the illegal search, illegal arrests, physical and mental torture and other blatant violations of the Constitutional rights of the 43 doctors and health workers are Gen. Victor Ibrado, the Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, the Commanding General of the Philippine Army; Lt. Gen. Roland Detabali, Commanding General, SOLCOM, Philippine Army; Brig. Gen. Jorge Segovia, Chief of the 2nd Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Col. Aurelio Baladad, Commander of the 202nd Infantry Brigade, Philippine Army; Lt. Col. Jaime Abawag, Commander of the 16th Infantry Battalion; Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa; and P/Supt. Marion Balonglong of the Rizal Provincial Police.

In the same vein, the Honorable Judge Cesar Mangrobang is also responsible for the issuance of the bogus and constitutionally defective Search Warrant that the military and police officers used to justify the raid of the farmhouse located at 266 Dela Paz St., Brgy. Maybangcal, Morong, Rizal.

State Prosecutor II Romeo Senson, the Department of Justice Prosecutor who conducted the defective inquest of the 43 doctors, nurses and medical workers and issued the Resolution indicting them with trumped-up charges, and Senior Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Severino Ga�a, the reviewing prosecutor who signed the findings of Prosecutor Romeo Senson, and Department of Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera are accountable for their complicity in the efforts to legitimize the military and police’s commission of human rights violations.”

We demand an end to the counter-insurgency program OBL, which has targeted unarmed civilians accused of supporting the NPA, in the name of fighting insurgency.

We call on freedom-loving people to make a stand for human rights and condemn in the strongest terms the human rights violations perpetrated with impunity by the Arroyo government.

(This primer was prepared by Free the 43 Health Workers)

Article printed from Bulatlat: http://www.bulatlat.com/main


Press Statement

December 5, 2009

Statement on the declaration of Martial Law in Maguindanao

The declaration of a state of Martial Law in Maguindanao sets a most dangerous precedent for the nation. Not since September 21, 1972 has there been any declaration of Martial Law, not even during the years of tumult under the Aquino, Estrada and, prior to this, the Arroyo regime. For the first time since 1972, the writ of habeas corpus has been suspended in an area in the Philippines.

We reiterate our call for justice for the victims of the Ampatuan Massacre but we cannot support measures that are both dangerous and questionable.

The alleged purpose of Proclamation 1959 is the arrest of the Ampatuan family members who are implicated in the November 23 Ampatuan, Maguindanao massacre. The regime justifies the declaration in saying that civilian institutions, especially the courts, are no longer functioning and that the dispensation of justice would not be possible.

The Constitution says Martial Law can only be declared during an invasion or during a rebellion. The failure of civilian government institutions, as in the case of the local government offices and courts in Maguindanao, cannot be used as a pretext for declaring Martial Law. The difficulty of gathering evidence, securing warrants and enforcing arrests also cannot be used as a basis for the declaration.

We demand the lifting of Martial Law in Maguindanao and the restoration of the civilian government institutions. Martial Law cannot solve the problem of state-sponsored warlordism and violence in the province. Martial Law will always lead to abuses because those implementing it, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, have very poor human rights records.

The national government must endeavor to restore the civilian administrative and judicial institutions in the province.

If Mrs. Arroyo refuses to lift the declaration, we call on Congress to exercise its powers to revoke Martial Law. Mrs. Arroyo is required by the Constitution to report to Congress within 48 hours. It falls on Congress, though dominated by Arroyo loyalists, to revoke this dangerous declaration. We must not wait for the maximum 60-day period allowed by the Constitution for the enforcement of martial rule. The leaders of the Lower House and Senate must convene within 24 hours to address this issue.

That Martial Law has been declared in a province less than six months before the national elections raises fresh fears that similar scenarios can also follow, thus severely undermining the conduct of the 2010 polls to benefit the incumbent president. We must not allow this scenario to be replicated in other regions for whatever pretexts. If Arroyo can declare martial law for reasons not defined in the constitution, imagine what she can do before the 2010 elections.

The Arroyo regime and its police and military have to be made accountable for its role in arming the Ampatuan family. The recently discovered arms cache in the Ampatuan residence shows the complicity of the AFP, PNP and the regime in supplying weapons to the local warlords. With this kind of track record, how do you trust the AFP and PNP with the vast powers of Martial rule? This kind of corruption and complicity cannot be solved by the declaration of Martial rule. l

We have learned the bitter lessons of Martial Law even as we are acutely aware of the propensity for abuse by the current regime. As we continue to demand justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre, we call on the public to remain vigilant at this time against possible abuses on civilians that may stem from this declaration. ###
ANAKBAYAN (Sons and Daughters of the People)
For Immediate Release
September 13, 2009
SURFACE NORIEL RODRIGUEZ!
Justice for victims of enforced disappearances!
ANAKBAYAN condemns in the strongest possible terms the recent abduction of Noriel Rodriguez in Cagayan by elements of the fascist Arroyo regime. This incident proves yet again the policy of the Arroyo regime of employing extra-judicial means to silence progressive individuals whose only advocacy is the advancement of people’s welfare.
Noriel Rodriguez, 26 years old, was forcibly abducted by suspected elements of the 17th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army stationed at San Jose, Gonzalo, Cagayan last September 7, 2009. According to initial reports gathered by KARAPATAN-Cagayan, Noriel was taken at gun-point by four armed men in civilian clothes at around 5:00 p.m. Monday in Sitio Sta. Isabel, Barangay Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan.
We demand the leadership of the Philippine Army, particularly the 17th IB-PA, to immediately surface and release Noriel Rodriguez. We demand accountability from the Arroyo regime for this atrocity.
We are furthermore outraged by the fact that he has been missing for nearly a week as of today. And with the military’s despicable record of enforced disappearances, time is of the essence. Habang tumatagal na walang impormasyon sa kinalalagyan ni Noriel, mas lalong nalalagay sa panganib ang kanyang buhay, at gayundin ang iba pa namin kasamahan.
Rodriguez is an active member of ANAKBAYAN-National Capital Region and regularly joins in ANAKBAYAN’s annual integration program with the peasant and workers. He helped in the organizing of peasant communities in Cagayan through the KAGIMUNGAN peasant group.
This incident is nothing new. In 2006, elements of the Philippine Army also abducted activists Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan. Despite overwhelming evidence proving the military’s role in their disappearances, they are still missing up to now.
The list of desaparacidos will continue as long as the fascist Arroyo regime uses force to protect her self-interests.
But we will not cower in fear. Instead, we will continue our search for our missing comrades. Hahalughugin namin ang bawat kampo at bawat instalasyon ng militar hanggang hindi namin nakikita ang aming mga kasamahan. Magpoprotesta kami sa harap ng Malacanang hanggang hindi nakakamit ang hustisya.
Once again, we reiterate our call to the military to immediately surface and release Noriel Rodriguez! We call on our fellow Filipino youth to help in extracting accountability for the Arroyo government. We demand justice, not just for Noriel, but for all victims of enforced disappearances and political repression!
==========

Student Christian Movement of the Philippines

NCCP Compound,  879 Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, Quezon City, Philippines

Mobile Number 09289526973                              e-mail: scmpinas@gmail.com

CONVENOR: TANGGULAN Youth Network for Civil Liberties and Human Rights

Press Statement

September  13, 2009

Reference: Ma. Cristina Guevarra, Chairperson (09186106275)

Call to surface and release Noriel Rodriquez from the hands of 17th Infantry Brigade

The Student Christian Movement of the Philippines calls for the immediate surfacing of Noriel Rodriguez, 26 years old, and a member of Anakbayan who was reportedly abducted by suspected elements of 17thIBPA stationed at San Jose, Gonzaga, Cagayan on September 7.

According to initial reports gathered by KARAPATAN-Cagayan, Noriel was taken at gun-point by four armed men in plainclothes at around 5:00 p.m. Monday in Sitio Sta. Isabel, Barangay Tapel, Gonzaga, Cagayan while he was aboard a tricycle.

We condemn this atrocious act by the security forces under the baton of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Arroyo has been presiding over the numerous enforced disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the country. According to KARAPATAN there are 207 victims of enforced disappearance as of June this year and not one of the perpetrators had been prosecuted even in the cases of Manalo brothers and Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan whose military captors were clearly identified.

Rodriguez is an active member of ANAKBAYAN-National Capital Region and regularly joined in ANAKBAYAN’s annual basic masses integration program with the farmers. He helped in the organizing of peasant communities in Cagayan and joined the KAGIMUNGAN peasant group there.

It is outrageous that these young people who give their time and efforts in worthwhile service to their communities especially among the marginalized, are the ones victimized.

We hold accountable the Arroyo government and demand the immediate surfacing of Noriel by his captors. We join the calls of Noriel’s family and demand the 17th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army not to harm Noriel and immediately release him unconditionally.

We challenge the military to open its detachments, which often becomes a detention place of many of our missing friends and fellow activists.

Surface and release Noriel now! We continue our call for justice to all the victims of state terrorism under Arroyo regime!

####

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:

**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

Nestlé Philippines Inc. Nestlé S.A.
No. 31 Plaza Drive Avenue Nestlé 55
Rockwell Center 1800 Vevey, Switzerland
Makati City 1200 Philippines

International Labor Organizations (ILO) Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) 4 route des Morillons Muralla St. cor. Gen. Luna St., Intramuros
CH-1211 Genève 22, Switzerland 1002 Manila, Philippines

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais des Nations
CH-1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines
SAAC Building, Commonwealth Avenue
UP Complex, Diliman, Quezon City

Petition-Appeal for Justice “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits” Exodus 23:6

We, citizens of various nationalities and from different walks of life, have joined together to seek justice for the more than 600 employees of Nestle Cabuyao Philippines, Inc. who for over two decades now have been suffering human rights violations as they struggle for their right to collective bargaining (ILO Convention no.98).

The issue of retirement benefits is a valid issue in collective bargaining as decided by the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC) in its resolution-order earlier and affirmed by the ruling of the Supreme Court in February 1991. The Supreme Court again ruled on the labor dispute on 22 August 2006 reaffirming the validity of its 1991 decision.

And on 26 March 2009, the final and executory decision is recorded in the Book of Entries of Judgment: the Nestle Management has been explicitly mandated to return to the negotiating table and resume Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiation with the Union, especially on the issue of retirement benefits.

The workers and their union launched on January 14, 2002 an arduous strike that has lasted up to the present because the Nestle Management continues to disregard the above rulings and directives and relevant international agreements.

“Nestlé uses all state instruments such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE), the MTC-Cabuyao (Municipal Trial Court) and RTC-Binan (Regional Trial Court), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), with the blessings of a Philippine president who continuously clings to power …” (Nestlé abusing workers’ rights in the Philippines – and ignoring Supreme Court rulings, February 2009) http://www.nestlecritics.org/pdfs/nestlecabuyao0209.pdf

“Pres. Arroyo is betraying the people instead of defending the workers who have moral and just basis in their struggles. The Arroyo government likens the workers to criminals, drug lords, gambling lords and terrorists. It is like a rabid dog in kowtowing to the dictates of imperialist globalization and giant monopoly capitalists. Not contented, Arroyo further strengthened its iron hand rule by implementing the Calibrated Preemptive Response (CPR) on Sept. 21, 2005 to further repress the rights of the people.” (ibid)

“This repression has directly or indirectly resulted in 23 strike-related deaths, including union leader Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, who was assassinated on his way home from a picket line on September 22, 2005. His predecessor, Union president Meliton Roxas, was assassinated in front of the picket line on January 20, 1989, during the workers’ previous strike involving the same issue. To date, not a single perpetrator has been apprehended for these murders.“ (ibid)

The represssion and oppression and other forms of violence perpetrated against the striking Nestle Cabuyao workers continue, the latest manifestation of which being the arrest and detention of Noel Alemania, the acting Union of Filipro Employees (UFE) President.

We, the undersigned demand:
Recognize the right of UFE to collective bargaining (ILO Convention no.98) especially the right to negotiate for their retirement benefits!
Stop the other repression / oppression and other forms of violence perpetrated against the striking Nestle Cabuyao workers!

We call on
a) the Nestle Management to return to the negotiating table and resume CBA negotiation with the Union, especially on the issue of retirement benefits
b) the Philippines government thru the Department of Labor and Employment to mediate and/ or conciliate the labor dispute
c) the International Labor organization (ILO) to take cognizance of the labor dispute, and
d) the United Nations Commission on HR to send representative(s) to the Philippines and/or ask the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines to conduct a thorough investigation of the human rights violations i.e., killing of Diosdado “Fort” Fortuna, and other related human rights issues.

SIGN OUR PETITION http://pinas-first.com/petition/

7-42-karensherlyn

On June 26. 20006, two University of the Philippines Karen Empeño, Sherlyn Cadapan and Manuel Marino, were abducted by unidentifible men while doing research in a farm community of Hagony, Bulacan.

When I was in the Philippines in November of 2007,  I met Erlinda Cadapan (Karen’s mother) while going to a viewing  of the Batasan bombing victim 54 yr old driver, Marcial Taldo, for Gabriela Partylist Representative Luz Ilangan. Connie narrated  how the Raymund Manalo and his brother escaped from their capturers and have attested of meeting Sherlyn and Karen while they were in Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Camp Tecson in San Miguel, Bulacan.

Manalo testified that Karen told him that she was being molested and raped by army personel who used the names Mickey, Donald and Billy. Manlo described the details of what the three men looked like.

Erlinda went on to add that Manalo stated they were all transfered to the 24th Infantry Battalion (IB) camp in Limay, Bataan where the two women  were tortured, taunted, touched and had wooden sticks inserted inside their sex organs.

Manuel was said  to have witnessed the murder of two suspected realtives of New People’s Army (NPA) guerillas.

Manalo said that he last saw the two women after they were taken to the forrest and when they returned the next morning the two women were no longer sited.

Next week in the Philippines there will be a week of commemoration for Sherlyn and Karen…..

Huling-Balita-2

In light of the third year anniversary of the involuntary disappearance of UP students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan on June 26,2006, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines(SCMP), University Student Council UP Diliman(USC-UPD), Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP(STAND-UP), and Kabataan Partylist, will be conducting week long activities to commemorate their bravery and steadfastness. The schedule of activities are as follows:

From June 23-26, there will be a photo exhibit featuring updates,photo and video documentary of Karen and She at the Gallery I, Faculty Center, UP Diliman.

On June 23, an ecumenical mass will be held at the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in UP Diliman from 6:00-7:00PM

On June 24, there will be a forum, in coordination with the UP Faculty, on the current human rights situation in the Philippines at CM Recto Hall, Faculty Center, UP Diliman, fron 1:00-3:00PM

On June 26, there will be a free concert for peace and freedom entitled: HULING BALITA 2 from 4pm-12am. This will be held at the UP Sunken Garden and will feature popular acts and homegrown UP bands such as Brownman Revival, Giniling Festival, Datu’s Tribe, The Wuds, The Jerks, and the UP Repertory Company.

ANNA TEJERO
Student Christian Movement of the Philippines-UP Diliman Chapter
09156885716

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

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

Click here to see article:

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.