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**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

For Immediate Release

June 8, 2009

Reference: Katrina Abarcar, Coordinator, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, email: katarungan@comcast.net

DC Summit Unites Human Rights Advocates for Greater Cooperation for the Philippines

Washington DC—Representatives from key institutions, networks, and organizations spanning the country convened at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill last Saturday for an Emergency Human Rights Summit on the Philippines. Sponsored by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice, and Human Rights in the Philippines, the successful summit brought together advocates from California, Illinois, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York and Washington, DC for a one-day meeting on the human rights situation in the Philippines and ended with a high unity amongst the participants to share resources and collaborate on initiatives. (A full list of co-sponsors can be found below.)

“This is not a summit in the traditional sense, meaning a meeting of government heads,” stated Katarungan Coordinator Katrina Abarcar at the opening of the summit. “This is a summoning of the people to come up with solutions to a problem that government heads have refused to address in a meaningful way.”

Human Rights Crisis in the Philippines and Tactics for US-based Advocacy

The day started with presentations offered by Dulphing Ogan, Secretary-General of Kalumaran, an alliance of indigenous peoples in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines, who spoke of the reality of killings, abductions, and militarization in resource-rich Mindanao, where multi-national corporations engage in mining for natural resources such as gold and oil and other forms of “development aggression” that lead to the massive displacement of hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who live there.

“The War in Mindanao is not about religion, it’s about Mindanao’s rich resources. Only the big corporations have benefited,” Ogan explained. “Filipinos who choose to resist the multinational monopolization of resources are the ones that are killed.”

Another presentation by Dr. Kenneth Bauzon, a professor from St. Joseph’s College, linked the current Arroyo counter-insurgency operation known as Oplan Bantay Laya to the historical role of the US government and the CIA to crafting covert low-intensity conflicts in Southeast Asia, beginning with a presentation of CIA memos from the 1960s-70s on Operation Phoenix in Vietnam. In his presentation, Bauzon exposed the CIA’s rationale in crafting of operations to train Vietnamese nationals to assassinate other Vietnamese rather than US operatives conducting the killings themselves. This same pattern is applied to the situation in the Philippines today.

Reverend Goel Bagundol of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), Northwest Mindanao Jurisdiction spoke of his experience working with members of the church victimized by political repression in the Philippines. Lastly, lawyer Brian Campbell of the International Labor Rights Forum spoke of ways US-based advocates could engage all three branches of the US government in effecting the human rights situation in the Philippines.

Summit participants included Tim and Linda McGloin of the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines (EANP), who shared their experiences pressuring for the 2007 US Senate hearing on the Philippines that led to human rights conditions tied to a portion of the subsequent US military aid package to the Arroyo government by the US Appropriations Committee. Representatives from the New York and San Francisco Committees for Human Rights in the Philippines (CHRP) and National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON) spoke of working amongst the overseas Filipino community in the US, whose dollar remittances keep the Philippine economy afloat, to educate and mobilize them for the cause of human rights in their home country. While Derek Duncan of the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ spoke of collaborations between US and Philippine Churches to respond to the killings of pastors and other clergy in the Philippines.

A Call to Unite for the Philippines

DC participant Elizabeth Palmberg, Ph.D, who shared tips for media strategies during the summit, stated, “I’m appalled by the torture and killings of pastors and other nonviolent people – and, as a U.S. taxpayer, I’m deeply angry to see U.S. government aid go to the very Philippine armed forces which have innocent blood on their hands. I’m glad to see so many groups starting to network and come together in the U.S. to help make a difference.”

A presentation by Reverend Marma Urbano, a minister of the UCCP currently helping in the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists’ (NAFAUM) Paglago program, proposed a national US framework for greater cooperation between US-based advocates working for the Philippines. The framework was unanimously approved and areas of collaboration were identified by the summit participants. One proposed collaboration was the formation of a US delegation that would participate in the 2010 Philippine elections’ International Observers’ Mission. An ad-hoc committee was also formed at the end of the summit to propose the mechanics of coordinating future efforts of the participants and co-sponsoring organizations.

Bagundol shared his thoughts on diversity of the summit’s participants, “We are different springs who came together to become one stream! We are now one big stream that can be seen, can be heard, and can make a change!”

The summit comes at a critical time with the recent release of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston’s follow-up report on the Philippines in Geneva which confirms the failure of the Arroyo government to decisively stop the killings and abductions in the Philippines, the release of the UN Committee Against Torture’s report on the Philippines confirming the military’s usage of torture, and the May 19th abduction and subsequent torture of Filipino-American human rights advocate Melissa Roxas in the Philippines.

Meetings of the US Appropriations Committee deciding on next military aid package to the Philippines are also nearing their close. In response, the participants vowed to coordinate actions to educate and mobilize constituents to tighten human rights conditions and reduce aid amounts for foreign military assistance to the Philippines.

The full of list of co-sponsors for the Summit includes: the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, the Ecumenical Advocacy Network-Philippines, the Episcopal Church, the Fellowship of Filipino Migrants of Chicago, the Filipino Ministry-Diocese of San Bernadino, the Friends of the Filipino People, the Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ, the Holy Child and St. Martin Episcopal Church in Daly City, the International Labor Rights Forum, the Migrant Heritage Commission, the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns, the National Association of Filipino-American United Methodists, the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the Philippine Independent Church-Diocese of USA and Canada, the Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, the San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Share Foundation: Building a New El Salvador Today, the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministreis, USAPAN: USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network, the US Committee for the Protection of Workers’ Rights, and the Philippine Partnership Committee-Presbyterian Church USA.

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Another violation of human rights in our backyard . . .

On February 5th, 2007, Marlo Custodio, his brother, Romel Custodio,
and his mother, Marilou Custodio, became victims of police brutality
and racial profiling. More than two years later, the violence
continues as their case has been drawn out and delayed through the
courts’ system in order to discourage the family’s quest for
JUSTICE!!!

In the Spring of 2008, the Custodio family was told by their judge
that their trial would begin in the summer. Accordingly, they were
advised to hold off on any family vacation plans and make special
arrangements with their employment, and they did. When summer arrived
however, the eight police officers expected to be at court failed to
appear—prolonging the case further than necessary. On February 20th,
2009, friends, family, and members of the San Jose and larger San
Francisco Bay area community came out in support of the Custodio
family: THE COMMUNITY WAS PRESENT in Department 52’s courtroom,
filling it to capacity. No more than 20 minutes after being seated
however, the Custodio family found themselves leaving the court room
to meet their supporters outside. Apparently, one of the main
arresting officers was on a pre-paid vacation!!! Despite advance
notice of the trial, despite the Custodios having to appear time after
time at the court, there was nothing that the judge could do or was
willing to do to hold the DA accountable for this travesty of Justice.

After having their trial pushed back yet again (more than 30 total
consecutive times!) the Custodio family now awaits a new judge. The
Custodio family has been placed back onto the master calendar of the
courts (since one of the officers failed to show for an important
motion) and on June 6th, 2009, will find out who their new judge is.
The COMMUNITY HOPES that the family will be able to proceed with their
motion to dismiss, and finally have the bogus charges filed against
them by the SJPD dropped.

The COMMUNITY’s support of the Custodios is Strong. Recently, FOCUS
– SV in collaboration with Silicon Valley Debug and many other
organizations raised approximately $1000 for the legal fees of Marilou
Custodio. On March 6th, 2009, in celebration of International Women’s
Day, entitled, “Two Year Wait – A Woman’s Pursuit of Justice,” spoken
word artists, DJ’s, cultural performers, friends, family and community
members joined the Custodio family as they shared heartfelt words
about their mother’s strength and courage, not only throughout this
trial, but throughout their lives. Words were also spoken that linked
Marilou’s struggle with the larger struggle of Filipinas in the U.S.
and Globally. The brutality imposed on Marilou Custodio reminds us of
the brutality imposed on Filipina migrant workers in the Middle East
by their employers. Marilou’s story reminds us of the brutality
imposed on Filipinas by the U.S. military as in the case of Nicole.
Marilou’s story reminds us of the brutality against Filipinas imposed
by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s Regime in the Philippines as in the
recent abduction of Melissa Roxas, a U.S. Citizen doing Human Rights
work in the Philippines .

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

Justice for the Custodio family!

Drop the charges against the family now!

Prosecute the offending officers!

Demand SJPD accountability and ban tasers!

Justice for all victims and families affected by police brutality!

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 interest 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

Its has been 10 yrs since the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) has been active, allowing the U.S. to send troops to the Philippines. Its like the they never left…

The VFA allows U.S. troops into the Philippines without having to go through customs, where they are screened for things like the swine flu. Any soldier that may have the swine flu may walk in as they please where anyone else that may have at least one of the symptoms will be detained for a days. Furthermore, a Philippine citizen that may have caught the virus will have a hard time getting over the flu because health care is not affordable  which makes it lethal.

The VFA allows the U.S. troops full access anywhere in the Philippines. That means land, sea and air. They could even occupy a house that a family owns.

Collateral damage has increased due to weapons testing and exercises. Family have lost their houses, mothers, fathers, children due to these exercises. Bullets have entered houses while people were sleeping, killing innocent civilians.

U.S. troops  are above any laws in the Philippines. An example is the ‘Nicole’ case where a college student is raped by a U.S. soldier Daniel Smith. Smith was sentenced to jail in the Philippines, however, on his first night in jail he was taken to the U.S. Embassy. If a person was convicted for rape in the U.S. they would have to be in custody until the trial is over. 

Nicole and Vanessa, another Filipina that was raped, we can see that number of cases went up; belittling the rights of Filipinas; and that the Philippines judicial system is a joke because of how Smith was treated with a pardon. 

The VFA is funded by U.S. Taxdollars, therefore we as Americans have blood and injustice on our hands. The money that is funding the killing and injustice of the Filipinos can be used to bail out the struggling Americans in an economic crisis. 

We say no more blood on our hands and not in our name!

JUNK THE VFA!!!!