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News Statement
August 8, 2009

“Justice for Custodio Family Trial Update: Judge Grants Motion to
Dismiss Marilou Custodio’s Case while Jury Denies Justice to Romel and
Marlo Custodio”

Reference: Rowena Tomaneng
Filipino Community Support,SV
focus.balita@gmail.com

San Jose—Friday, August 7, 2009 marked the close of the Custodio Family
Trial, which began after the prosecution finished its closing arguments
mid-morning and the Jury was instructed to deliberate on the evidence
presented to them for two weeks. This evidence included a grouping of
graphic photos of Romel Custodio the day after he was tased repeatedly
and beat by several members of the San Jose Police Department. By 2:30
p.m., the Jury was back in Department 37 amidst the overwhelming
presence of community supporters. The Jury found Marlo Custodio guilty
of the two charges against him: 1. resisting, delaying, and
obstructing a police officer from duty; 2. possession of marijuana.
Romel Custodio was also found guilty of resisting, delaying, and
obstructing a police officer from duty. The Jury, however, was in a
6-6 deadlock on Marilou Custodio’s case, resulting in a mistrial.
Marilou’s attorney, Mike Armstrong, motioned for Judge Arthur Bocanegra
to dismiss Marilou’s case in the interest of justice. Despite the
prosecuting attorney’s objection, Judge Bocanegra granted the motion to
dismiss Marilou’s cas
e.

The San Jose Filipino community and our allies—National Alliance for
Filipino Concerns, Coalition for Justice and Accountability, Silicon
Valley
Debug, Asian Pacific American Justice Coalition, Students for
Justice, Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute–are disheartened
and outraged by the Jury’s decision to penalize the Custodio brothers,
especially since they–like many other young men of color in San
Jose—ARE victims of police brutality and racial profiling. We are also
appalled by this outcome because for more than two years the violence
imposed on the Custodio family since February 5, 2007 continued as
their case was drawn out and delayed through the judicial system in
order to discourage the family’s quest for justice. Their trial was
pushed back more than 30 consecutive times, and the family had to make
special arrangements with their employment and other family
obligations.

While the denial of justice to Romel and Marlo Custodio is a
disappointing set back for the broader San Jose community’s ongoing
struggle to end use of torture weapons such as tasers and police
brutality,we have increased the community’s strength, unity, and
capacity to mobilize and demand that “real change” happens within SJPD
and our judicial institutions that systematically sanction
discriminatory practices. We can claim victory in the dismissal of
Marilou Custodio’s case as Judge Bocanegra
’s decision validates
Marilou’s unjust arrest. We can claim victory in the fact that for over
two-years the ongoing community support for the Custodio family has
been consistent and strong. From the first press in conference in
Spring 2007, to the first and second year anniversaries on February
2008 and 2009, and throughout the two-week trial, there has been a
steady presence of community members supporting the Custodios—family,
pastors, student organizations, non profits, grassroots organizations,
working professionals, appointed officials, community leaders, and
other victims of racial profiling and police brutality.

The struggle for justice within the court system continues and the
morale and determination of the San Jose Filipino community and
Custodio family remains strong.

Justice for the Custodio Family!
Justice for All Victims and Families Affected by Racial Profiling and
Police Brutality!
Demand SJPD Accountability!
Ban Tasers and Other Weapons of Torture!
Immigrant Rights are Human Rights!

FOCUS MISSION
As a broad grassroots community organization, Filipino Community
Support of Silicon Valley (FOCUS-SV) defends the rights and interests
of Filipinos in Santa Clara County against social and economic
injustices.

FOCUS VISION
We, the concerned Filipinos residing and working in Silicon Valley with
our families and friends, realize the need to protect, assist, and
advocate for our mutual and collective inte
rest against exploitation,
oppression, violence, and injustice. We come together to build a broad
comprehensive grassroots organization that defends the rights gained by
previous struggles and upholds the welfare of Filipinos. With
nationalist and democratic values, we envision greater social,
cultural, and political resources for the Filipino community in Santa
Clara County
that would benefit everyone and promote greater equity and
justice.

For more info contact: email focus.balita@gmail.com

Reply
Forward
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.

###

Top Stories / Top Stories

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/topstories/topstories/view/20090602-208434/FilAm-activist-accuses-military-of-torture

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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