NEW YORK (July 6) — Filipino Americans met with the staff of US Congresswoman Nita Lowey at the lawmaker’s district office in White Plains, NY to discuss the case of human rights victim Melissa Roxas, a US citizen of Filipino descent, and US military aid to the Philippines.
Organized by the NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), the delegation included Fr. Ben Alforque, president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), members of Sandiwa national Filipino-American Youth Alliance, and writer/professor Luis Francia. They met with Repreentative Lowey’s district staff Stephen Papas and Virginia Noriega.
One of the main points discussed during the meeting was the need to retain the restrictive language of the 2008 US Appropriations bill. The language tied a portion of that year’s US military aid package to the Philippines to the following conditions: (1) implementation of recommendations on human rights put forth by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston; (2) arrest and prosecution of all military personnel responsible for perpetrating human rights violations; and (3) that the Philippine government ceases its rampant vilification of leftist organizations, churches, and other civil society groups, particularly accusing them as communist fronts.
Representative Lowey was one of the supporters of the language’s inclusion in the 2008 bill.
“We need to be assured that key supporters like Lowey will stand their ground when any pushback comes from the Senate on this language to be included in 2009-2010 bill,” states NYCHRP member Ramon Mappala.
The delegation also called for the support of a fourth condition drafted by the office of Senator Patrick Leahy, which suggests a cut of military aid to the Philippines contingent upon the Philippine government’s compliance with investigations and legal procedures on cases of human rights violations, particularly the case of Melissa Roxas. Roxas was allegedly abducted and tortured by elements of the Philippine military in La Paz, Tarlac on May 19, 2009.
The delegation also provided Representative Lowey’s staff with updates about Roxas case and the campaign to pursue justice and accountability including cutting US military aid to the Philippines.
“As much as possible, we believe we have a moral basis to demand that aid to the Philippine military be cut because of the Philippine military’s culpability in committing heinous crimes of murder, abduction, and torture with our hard-earned tax dollars,” Mappala added.
Representative Lowey chairs the House Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs. It is expected that the Senate and House Appropriations Committees will go into conference in early July to reconcile their bill versions and come out with a final Appropriations Bill by mid-July.