Fil Am rights victim files complaint against RP in US

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (July 6) – Filipino American Melissa Roxas has filed a complaint/protest against the Philippine government before the United States Department of State for her abduction and torture by suspected military agents in the Philippines last May.

A 21-page complaint, obtained by this reporter, was filed July 1 before U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton asking to conduct an “impartial and vigorous investigation of the Philippine government’s culpability and that appropriate sanctions are meted for the intentional abduction, kidnapping and torture of Ms. Melissa Roxas.”

Roxas’ counsel Arnedo S. Valera filed the complaint thru the legal services program of the Migrant Heritage Commission, a non-profit service-oriented Fairfax, Virginia-based national organization, as a pro-bono legal assistance to Roxas, an American citizen residing in Los Angeles, California and a native of Manila.

The complaint said that Roxas was in the Philippines to volunteer as a health care worker. Roxas, 31, is also a poet and a writer, studying the conditions of the country and gathering materials for her writing project.

Roxas and two others were forcibly abducted by about 15 armed men in La Paz, Tarlac in the Philippines last May 19 while resting to conduct an initial survey of the place for a future medical mission.

She was released six days later after being subjected to physical and mental torture during her captivity in a suspected military camp. She returned to her Los Angeles home on June 1st after filing Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data before the Philippine Supreme Court, seeking protection from further harm for herself and her family.

The complaint said it is being submitted as a formal protest and complaint against the Philippine government by Roxas, the first known American citizen under the new administration of President Barack Obama subjected to torture and degrading treatment in the Philippines, a close ally of and receiving military aid from the U.S. government.

It also cited the historic commemoration of the United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims, where President Obama said, “Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country and the fundamental values of our people. The U.S. must stand against torture wherever it takes place.”

It also attached “sworn affidavits and information packet” from various advocacy groups.

The complaint said Roxas’ “experience typifies the pattern of abduction, forced disappearance, torture, extra-judicial killings and other human rights violations committed under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.”

Since 2001, the number of victims of human rights violations has reached record levels in the Philippines, alarming the United Nations and human rights organizations around the world, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

It said the human rights organization Karapatan documented 1,017 extra-judicial executions; 201 enforced, involuntary disappearances; 203 abductions, 1010 tortures from January 2001 to March 2009.

It quoted reports issued by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial Killings Philip Alston, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Karapatan that concluded that the Philippine military has systematically carried out politically-motivated executions, abductions, torture and arrests of unarmed civilians like Roxas as part of their counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya.

They have concluded that the vast majority of the victims of the killings and abductions were community organizers, labor leaders, church workers, human rights attorneys, farmer advocates, journalists and others, who were addressing the needs and advocating on behalf of the oppressed and impoverished majority. The Philippine military have also employed tactic of red-baiting and vilification of the victims, like Roxas.

The complaint hopes to “obtain justice for Melissa Roxas and to put an end to the human rights violations in the Philippines.”

One of the letters in the packet came from Amy Woolam Echeverria, director of the Silver Spring, Maryland-based Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, addressed to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (Dem.-Cal.), who is seeking to cut “US military aid to the Philippines and for encouraging the Senate to urge the Philippine government to cooperate with the writ of amparo proceedings and investigations related to the recent abduction and torture of Melissa Roxas, a citizen of the United States.”

The Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach is an international Catholic mission society of priests and lay missionaries, who work with and serve the poor in 15 countries, including the United States.

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