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http://www.gmanews.tv/story/166280/US-Embassy-gathers-more-info-on-Fil-Am-torture-victim

US Embassy gathers more info on Fil-Am ‘torture’ victim

06/30/2009 | 08:26 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The US Embassy in Manila is gathering more information on the case of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas who was allegedly abducted and tortured by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last month.

US Embassy spokesperson Rebecca Thompson told GMANews.TV that they were aware of the allegations hurled against the military by Roxas at a Los Angeles press conference last Sunday.

“We take seriously the safety and security of American citizens and are seeking further information about this case,” Thompson said.

Roxas can still seek the full protection of the US as she has not applied yet for dual citizenship despite having both Filipino parents.

Thompson, however, was mum whether the action they took was calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to step into the case as Roxas’ legal counsel Arnedo Valera claimed.

Valera reported that the FBI had already informed them that they would begin the investigation on Roxas’ allegations of abuse in the hands of Philippine soldiers. US officials in Manila have not confirmed this as of posting time.

In a sworn affidavit, Roxas claimed that she was abducted on the afternoon of May 19 by 15 armed men believed to be members of the military, while on a medical mission in La Paz town in Tarlac. Her two other companions, John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo, were also allegedly kidnapped.

She said they were taken to a van, blindfolded, and handcuffed on the way to what she presumed was Fort Magsaysay, a military camp in Nueva Ecija province.

Roxas related that she was “interrogated” and “beaten up” several times. She repeatedly demanded to see her lawyer and stressed that she had rights, too, but her captors only told her that the concept of “rights” was nonexistent.

She said she was held captive for six days and upon her release on May 25, she was given a subscriber’s identification module (SIM) card through which her abductors would communicate with her and monitor her actions.

Valera said Roxas would seek legal action in federal courts for damages for the Intentional Tort of an Unlawful Kidnapping, where the alleged victim could seek punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or initiate the case and litigation against the Philippine government.

AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. already expressed reservations in dragging the entire government in the case as this would further complicate the matter.

Brawner stressed that an internal inquiry found that military personnel were not responsible for Roxas’ alleged abduction and torture and that such an incident might have been “fabricated.”

Although Press Secretary Cerge Remonde already stated that the Palace is ready to face any probe on the alleged kidnapping, Valera urged the government to owe responsibility over the incident.

“The Philippine government must not shy away from the responsibility. They must pursue investigating the AFP,” Valera said.

Data culled by GMANews.TV from the human rights group Karapatan showed that from January 2001 to March 2009, it documented 1,017 cases of extrajudicial killings; 1, 010 victims of torture, 201 cases of forced disappearances; and 203 victims of abduction.

In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston reported that the Arroyo administration, through the military, had been carrying out a national policy of killing leftist activists. [See: Palace ready to face probe on ‘torture’ of Fil-Am activist] – Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV

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http://www.gmanews.tv/story/166164/Palace-ready-to-face-probe-on-torture-of-Fil-Am-activist

Palace ready to face probe on ‘torture’ of Fil-Am activist

SOPHIA DEDACE, GMANews.TV

06/29/2009 | 11:10 AM

DARK PLACE. In between sobs, Melissa Roxas on Sunday relates her experience in the hands of her captors. BAYAN Photos

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government is prepared to face a possible probe after Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas accused the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) abducting and torturing her in May, Malacañang said Monday.

“The government is prepared to act accordingly. We just hope that this is not used for propaganda,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said in a phone interview with GMANews.TV.

Last Sunday (Manila time), Roxas spoke at a press conference in Los Angeles, California to recount her ordeal. She maintained that military operatives abducted and tortured her last May in Tarlac province.

Roxas’s lawyer said he and his client would raise the matter before the US State Department and the United Nations.

Lawyer Arnedo Valera said that since his client is an American citizen, she could seek legal action in federal courts for damages for the Intentional Tort of an Unlawful Kidnapping.

Under the Intentional Tort case, Roxas could seek punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or initiate the case and litigation against the Philippine government, Valera said.

“Deliberate torture was perpetrated against a US citizen, under the color of official authority. It violates universally accepted norms of international human rights law, and such a violation of international law constitutes a violation of the domestic law of the US,” Valera said in a phone patch statement during the press briefing.

AFP unmoved

The Philippine military, for its part, welcomed the looming inquiry sought by Roxas before the US State Department and the UN.

“We welcome that, because this is an opportunity for us to clarify that the AFP has nothing to do with her alleged torture and abduction,” AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. told GMANews.TV in a phone interview.

Brawner, however, said that the process would be complicated because the matter would constitute “government to government negotiations already.”

The military official reiterated that when the AFP leadership learned of Roxas’ allegations, it conducted an internal inquiry and found that military personnel were not responsible for Roxas’ alleged abduction and torture and that such an incident might have been “fabricated.”

“We initiated a probe upon learning of the issue last month, and our investigation showed that the 7th Infantry Division in Tarlac was not responsible for anything that happened to Ms. Roxas,” Brawner said.

’Dark place’

In her sworn affidavit, Roxas said that on the afternoon of May 19, 2009, she was on a medical mission in La Paz town in Tarlac when 15 armed men believed to be members of the military abducted her and two of her companions (John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo).

She said they were taken to a van, blindfolded, and handcuffed on the way to what she presumed was Fort Magsaysay, a military camp in Nueva Ecija province.

Roxas related that she was “interrogated” and “beaten up” several times. She repeatedly demanded to see her lawyer and stressed that she had rights, too, but her captors only told her that the concept of “rights” was nonexistent.

She said she was held captive for six days and upon her release on May 25, she was given a subscriber’s identification module (SIM) card through which her abductors would communicate with her and monitor her actions.

Roxas added that her abductors also warned her not to tell anyone about the incident, especially the human rights group Karapatan.

On May 28, two days after she surfaced, Roxas sought court protection by filing a petition for the issuance of the writ of amparo at the Supreme Court. The high tribunal granted her plea and ordered the Court of Appeals to conduct proceedings on the case.

Roxas then returned to the US in the first week of June. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Sunday that Roxas’ life was in danger here in the Philippines.

In the Los Angeles press conference, Roxas said she still carried the trauma of her ordeal, and that relating the experience was like returning to “that dark place.”

Still, she said that she needed to speak the truth to bring to light supposed human rights violations in the Philippines.

“I want the world to know what happened because the Philippine government and military should not get away with what they did to me… and they cannot get away with what they did to many other people,” she said.

Roxas, a founding member of the cultural organization Habi-Arts in Los Angeles and Southern California representative for Bayan-USA, went to the Philippines in 2007 to pursue human rights advocacy.

She arrived amid an acute human rights crisis in the Philippines that includes reports of rampant extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrest, torture, and summary executions, Bayan said.

In 2005, Roxas participated in an international fact-finding mission investigating human rights violations throughout the Philippines under the Arroyo administration.

Culture of impunity

If proven that Roxas indeed suffered at the hands of the military, she is lucky to have survived to tell her story.

Data culled by GMANews.TV from the human rights group Karapatan showed that from January 2001 to March 2009, it documented 1,017 cases of extrajudicial killings; 1, 010 victims of torture, 201 cases of forced disappearances; and 203 victims of abduction.

In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston reported that the Arroyo administration, through the military, had been carrying out a national policy of killing leftist activists.

Alston doubted the military’s claim that the killings were a result of the purge within the ranks of the New People’s Army to neutralize spies and undermine the government.

“The military is in a state of denial concerning the numerous extrajudicial executions in which its soldiers are implicated… The evidence that the (NPA) is engaged in a large-scale purge is strikingly unconvincing,” the report read.

Alston called the state of denial of the military on the scope of the killings as “a cynical attempt to displace responsibility.”

Early 2009, Alston came out with a follow-up report and said that the government had failed to make “substantial progress” in curbing human rights abuses in the Philippines.

Malacañang and the AFP had both bristled at Alston’s reports, saying these were “half-baked” and were “unfair.”

In Monday’s phone interview with GMANews.TV, Brawner stressed that torture and extralegal killings are not part of the military’s policies. – GMANews.TV

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.
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(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

Dearest Friends,

The recent birth of my niece reminds me that life is something more than just presence, it is the earth rising inside of you, the earth that has been there since the beginning, but taking a different form.

I started to think about all the other babies I had seen as a community health worker in the Philippines before my niece was born. The marking of before and after, beginnings and endings. I remember their mothers taking them in for health screenings and basic check ups. Infants who went untreated for days with a fever, the softness in their eyes gives way to a hardness, their skin was tight from dehydration, they were so tiny, their hand in mine was as little as my thumbnail. I remember how much I wanted them to get better and be alive. With so many babies, children and families that I’ve met, I realized that the disease they had was more than an epidemic of typhoid fever, cholera, or malaria, it was the disease of poverty and oppression.

When I started to work more with particular issues of human rights violations I also met different babies, babies and children who had lost their mothers and fathers to a different death. A horrible and preventable death that takes the life not only of its victim, but robs the whole family and the world of their presence, all because they advocated and fought for a better world where their children have genuine freedom, a just peace, and true democracy.

Each day I was with the community, I learned how precious a birth can be, how to appreciate life, and I slowly began to understand what they meant when they whispered me their names and told their stories. There are no deaths that are forgotten, no fathers, no mothers, no sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, or cousins that are forgotten. They live in the births of new babies each day.

When my own experience of abduction and torture ended and I was reunited with my family it was not a second birth for me, I realized that it is a continuing journey for the search for truth and justice. Repressive governments and military use torture as a form of control, to instill fear in people in debilitating ways, so they stay quiet and lose their light inside. But I realized no amount of pain or suffering or fear can stop that earth in me to keep rising. Instead it gave birth to new births. My experience has convinced me even more of the value of freedom and justice and the importance of fighting for and upholding the principles of human rights and human dignity.

Me being able to write this right now is testimony of how your collective love, support, prayers, and action is helping me and others like me through this experience. I know that your support is also part of a larger movement to create change towards a world free of poverty and oppression. Thank you to friends and family, family and friends of other desaparecidos, progressive people’s organizations, human rights groups, lawyers, civil rights advocates, church people’s organizations, concerned individuals, fellow poets and artists, and all believers in human rights and justice.

There are many more desaparecidos, more abductions, torture and extra-judicial killings going on in the Philippines and around the world. Let the new birth come where there is an end to all of the killings, abductions, and torture. Let the noise come from all directions—they are no longer whispers but shouts for justice.

Love,
Melissa Roxas

***

poster2b

RELATED LINKS

Affidavit
http://media.inquirer.net/inquirer/media/mraffidavit.pdf

Supreme Court petition for the Writ of Amparo
http://media.inquirer.net/inquirer/media/Petition-woa.pdf

American Woman Is Freed After Philippines Abduction – 05/25/2009
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/26/world/asia/26phils.html

Soldiers ‘Abducted, Tortured’ Fil-Am Activist – 06/02/2009
http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2009/06/02/soldiers-tortured-filipino-american-activist/

US-trained and funded Philippine military implicated in abduction and torture of American citizen: Alliance of Filipino American organizations vows to hold US and Philippine governments accountable and demands end to US taxpayer support for Philippine military – 06/02/2009
http://bayanusa.org/?p=234

Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights)
http://karapatan.org

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.

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.

###

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/news/view/20090609-209590/SC_grants_writ_of_amparo_to_Fil-Am_activist

By Tetch Torres

INQUIRER.net

Posted date: June 09, 2009

MANILA, Philippines—Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, who was abducted for six days, is a step closer to getting court protection after the Supreme Court on Tuesday granted her appeal for a writ of amparo.

Finding basis for her appeal, the high tribunal also ordered the Armed Forces of the Philippines to respond to Roxas’s petition, Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said.

The high court likewise ordered the Court of Appeals to immediately conduct a hearing on the case.

Roxas, who is back in the States but who is planning to come back and whose relatives remain in the country, is a member of Bayan-USA, the overseas chapter of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.Abducted by armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19, she surfaced six days later.

While in captivity, she said she was blindfolded and handcuffed in what she suspects was a military camp in Nueva Ecija, possibly Fort Magsaysay, headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division, which is a short distance from where she was abducted.

She concluded that it was a military camp due to the sounds of gun-firing, hammering, and planes taking off and landing.

She said her abductors told her that she was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army.

Upon her release, she was given a SIM card through which her abductors said they would communicate with her. Her abductors also warned her to be wary of Karapatan because the group will tell her to go against them. Her abductors dropped her off a few feet from her relatives’ house in Quezon City.

She said her abductors warned her that they will monitor her movements.

In her petition, she said the police and military authorities as well as the Office of the President have not conducted any investigation on her abduction.

Petitioner added that her right has been violated when she was abducted and interrogated as being a suspected member of the CPP-NPA without the presence of a counsel.

Also, her abductors took from her a memory card, an Ipod, a laptop, a journal, a sphygmomanometer, a stethoscope, and P15,000 in cash.

©Copyright 2001-2009 INQUIRER.net, An Inquirer Company

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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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