Obama Asked To Take Up Torture of Fil Am With GMA

by Joseph G. Lariosa

CHICAGO (July 16) — Instead of taking with her the 100 Filipino congressmen in her audience with President Barack Obama on July 30 in Washington, D.C., President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo might be better off taking with her her Defense Secretary.

The lawyer of abducted Filipino American Melissa Roxas wrote on July 15 President Obama to bring “to the attention of the Philippines President, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in your meeting with her on July 30” the case of Ms. Roxas, “a U.S. citizen residing in Los Angeles, California, who was abducted and tortured by suspected military agents in the Philippines.”

In a three-page letter obtained by this reporter, Ms. Roxas’s pro bono lawyer, Arnedo S. Valera, reminded President Obama’s statement on June 26, 2009 on the occasion of the United Nations International Day in Support of Torture Victims when Mr. Obama said:

“Twenty-five years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention Against Torture, and twenty-two years ago this very day, the Convention entered into force. The United States’ leading role in the negotiation of the Convention and its subsequent ratification and implementation enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Today, we join the international community in reaffirming unequivocally the principles behind that Convention, including the core principle that torture is never justified.
“Torture violates United States and international law as well as human dignity. Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country, and the fundamental values of our people. It diminishes the security of those who carry it out, and surrenders the moral authority that must form the basis for just leadership. That is why the United States must never engage in torture, and must stand against torture wherever it takes place […].”

Valera filed a complaint on July 1 against the Philippine government on the abduction and torture of Roxas before U.S. Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton. But he wants to take advantage of the Arroyo’s visit with Obama so that the matter can be brought to the attention of both Presidents Obama and Arroyo.

The letter was also copy-furnished to Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary Clinton.
In his letter to the U.S. president, Obama, Arnedo reiterated the content of his letter to Secretary Clinton that “Ms. Roxas is the first known American citizen under the new administration of your presidency who has been subject to torture and degrading treatment in the Philippines, a close ally of and receiving military aid from the U.S. government.”

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

She was in the midst of conducting an initial survey of the place when she was suddenly attacked and forcibly abducted by 15 armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19, 2009. She was released six days later after being subjected to both physical and mental torture during her captivity in a suspected military camp.

Roxas returned to her Los Angeles home June 1 after filing a Writ of Amparo and Habeas Data before the Philippine Supreme Court.

Valera is writing the letter “as a formal Protest and Complaint against the Philippine Government.”

He said he is writing Mr. Obama this letter, “(i)n response to your speech during the historical commemoration of the U.N. International Day in Support of Torture Victims, (where) your Excellency emphasized  that, “Torture is contrary to the founding documents our country and the fundamental values of our people. The U.S. must stand against torture wherever it takes place.”

He hopes as president, Obama can “order an end to these abusive practices” and work with U.S. “Congress to prevent future abusive practices at the hands of government officials.”

Valera, a fellow alumnus of President Obama at Columbia University, urged him to urge the U.S. State Department 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 Melissa Roxas.

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