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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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05/26/2009 | 03:25 PM
MANILA, Philippines – One of two companions of abducted Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas has been freed and is reunited with his family, militant umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said Tuesday.

Bayan cited initial reports from relatives and Karapatan Central Luzon that Juanito Carabeo had surfaced and is now with his family.

“We’re still checking on the status of John Edward Handoc,” it said on its Web site (www.bayan.ph), adding there are no details of Carabeo’s release.

At least eight armed men abducted Carabeo, Handoc and Roxas last May 19 in La Paz town in Tarlac province. Roxas surfaced Monday, six days after the abduction but the circumstances regarding her release are still unknown, Bayan said.

Meanwhile, Bayan’s chapter in the US has undertaken a campaign to release Handoc. – GMANews.TV

http://www.gmanews.tv/story/162911/Abducted-Fil-Am-activists-companion-freed#

Basic CMYK

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, 415-377-2599,

secgen@bayanusa.org, www.bayanusa.org

10 Years Too Long, 200 People Too Many: Filipinos Across the U.S. Call for the Termination of the Visiting Forces Agreement and Justice for the Disappeared

In the wake of the abduction of Filipino American human rights advocate and health worker Melissa Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc one week ago in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA launches actions against the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) today, the 10th anniversary of the VFA’s ratification. BAYAN-USA demands the termination of the VFA and justice for victims of abduction and all human rights violations, which have climbed to record levels in the Philippines since the VFA was ratified on May 27, 1999.

“Human rights violations have escalated to unprecedented heights since 2001, when Gloria Macapagal Arroyo became president and the U.S. launched its ‘war on terror.’ It is no coincidence that the Visiting Forces Agreement was ratified just two years earlier in 1999,” stated BAYAN-USA Secretary General Rhonda Ramiro. “The VFA paved the way for U.S. military advisers, troops and equipment to flood the Philippines and to train and equip the Philippine military which has been implicated in 1,017 extra-judicial killings and 1,010 cases of torture. Melissa’s abduction adds an American citizen to the list of over 200 victims of enforced disappearance under Arroyo.”

Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc, all members of a volunteer health worker team preparing for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines, were reportedly abducted at gunpoint on May 19 by at least eight heavily-armed masked men riding motorcycles and in a van without license plates. The circumstances of their abduction typify the pattern of dozens of politically-motivated abductions of activists critical of the Arroyo administration, and evidence points to the military as responsible for these acts. Roxas and Carabeo were officially surfaced on May 24 and 25, respectively; unconfirmed reports of Handoc’s surfacing were received as of the writing of this statement. Because the vast majority of abductions and enforced disappearances remain unresolved, BAYAN-USA believes their surfacing was a direct result of rapid community response and an international campaign by BAYAN Philippines, BAYAN-USA, and the human rights organization Karapatan.

“While we are elated that Melissa and Juanito have surfaced and that John Edward might also have been found, we are outraged that they were even abducted in the first place,” said Ramiro. “We call for justice for all three, including a full investigation and prosecution of the abductors.”

“The abduction of Melissa, Juanito and John Edward is directly linked to the VFA and U.S. military aid to the Philippines,” continued Ramiro. “The U.S. government cannot claim ignorance or wash its hands of responsibility, when it is U.S. advisors who are training the Philippine military, U.S. aid that is funding the military training, and U.S. guns and bullets that are being used to threaten and kill innocent civilians.”

BAYAN-USA claims that despite its rhetoric of “change,” the administration of President Barack Obama has clung to Bush’s foreign policy when it comes to the Philippines.  Earlier this year, President Obama phoned Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to express support for the VFA and continuing the annual joint military exercises known as “Balikatan” (“Shoulder-to-Shoulder”).   The estimated total expense borne by U.S. taxpayers for U.S. militarization in the Philippines since the VFA was enacted in 1999 is a lofty $1 billion.  An additional $660 million—up from a reported $400 million just one month ago—is reportedly set to be granted to the Philippines in the coming year.

The VFA also provides justification for the basing of U.S. troops throughout the country, in what is widely perceived as an affront to national sovereignty. Moreover, witnesses have observed U.S. troops participating in combat operations, which is in violation of the VFA itself. In the months of February-May this year alone, the “Balikatan” exercises also led directly to the killing of a young girl and wounding of four more children, the rape of 22 year old Filipina “Vanessa,” and the forced displacement of tens of thousands of residents in Bicol where the exercises were held. No one was held responsible for the killing of the child, and although there was clear evidence that “Vanessa” was raped by a U.S. marine, she refrained from pressing charges because she did not believe she could obtain justice. “Vanessa’s” rape was committed just weeks after the acquittal of U.S. Marine Daniel Smith, who was the only American ever convicted of raping a Filipina despite reports of thousands of rapes committed by U.S. military personnel.

“The VFA fosters a culture of militarization and violence, and both the U.S. and Philippine military are guilty of committing human rights violations with impunity,” stated Ramiro. “Melissa’s abduction should give Congress and the Obama administration even more impetus to terminate the VFA and stop pouring billions of dollars into a regime that abducts and kills innocent people. In the face of a budget deficit in the trillions, it is unconscionable to continue providing aid to the Arroyo government and to perpetuate the costly VFA.  Congress should cut both during the budget appropriations process this spring and summer.”

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.  BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow/. The online petition to demand justice for Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.

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Actions being held in the U.S.

Los Angeles

Vigil in front of the PhilippineConsulate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 7:30pm
3600 Wilshire Blvd (between S Harvard Blvd and S Kingsley Dr)
Los Angeles, CA 90010

New York

Rally at the Philippine Consulate and March to Military Recruitment Center

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 5:30 PM

556 Fifth Ave., New York

San Francisco

Action and Meeting with the Philippine Consulate

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 4:00 PM

447 Sutter Street, San Francisco

Teach-In on the VFA

Wednesday, May 27, 2009, 6:00-8:00 PM

At South of Market Community Action Center

1070 Howard Street, San Francisco

Seattle

Visiting Forces Agreement Teach-In

Thursday, March 28, 6:30-8:30 PM

Filipino Community Center, 5740 Martin Luther King Jr. Way

San Diego

“As If They Never Left” Teach-In on the VFA

Thursday, May 28, 7:00-9:00 PM

At Filipino American Veterans Association Hall

2926 Market Street, San Diego