Sign the petition calling on President Aquino to compel Philippine authorities to investigate Melissa’s case: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-aquino-investigate-the-abduction-and-torture-of-melissa-roxas

May 19, 2013 marks the fourth anniversary of the abduction and disappearance of Melissa Roxas, who was abducted on May 19 and surfaced on May 25, 2009 after an international outcry.  Melissa’s case made headlines as the first case of such a human rights violation committed against a US citizen in the Philippines under President Obama’s term.  As one of the few survivors of abduction by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Melissa courageously went public with her story, seeking justice not only for herself, but for all victims of human rights violations.  Melissa filed her case in the Philippine courts, testified in various venues, and fully cooperated with the investigation undertaken by the Commission on Human Rights.  Four years after her abduction, we are still fighting for justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations in the Philippines.

Just last month on April 16, 2013, the Supreme Court of the Philippines issued a resolution on Melissa’s case, which orders the Philippine authorities to “continue and undertake a deeper probe and investigation of the incidents with the end in view of identifying the perpetrators of the complained abduction and abuses and of the eventual filing of cases for said resultant crimes.” In the preceding month, the Philippines Court of Appeals declared that activist-agriculturalist Jonas Burgos was abducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  However, despite overwhelming evidence that Melissa, Jonas and so many others have been abducted and tortured by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, to this day none of the perpetrators have been apprehended or prosecuted. This typifies the so-called justice system in the Philippines, where notorious human rights butchers like Army Major General Jovito Palparan—described by the National Council of Churches of the Philippines as “[personifying] the brutality and notoriety of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration for its gross, systematic and brazen violation of human rights”—can remain at-large even in the face of a warrant for his arrest for the kidnapping and illegal detention of two university students, due to the lack of political will by the Aquino regime to capture him.  As always, the only hope lies in the perseverance of the mass movement to continue demanding justice and organizing for change.

Since 2009, BAYAN-USA has held demonstrations the week of Melissa’s abduction and release, and made the “Justice for Melissa” demand a standard call at all BAYAN-USA’s actions dealing with human rights, the Visiting Forces Agreement, war and militarization.  In light of the ongoing impunity in the Philippines, we can not take for granted that the Philippine Supreme Court’s resolution will be acted on by government authorities unless the people demand it!

Please take action now to demand justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations. Join us in the following actions, as we count down each day that Melissa was disappeared, culminating in a Day of Action on May 24th, 2013.

Day 1—May 19:

Day 2—May 20:

Day 3—May 21:

  • Post a song/music video, poem or visual art in honor of people who have been tortured.
  • Continue forwarding the petition and gather signatures on petition demanding that Philippine authorities comply with the Supreme Court resolution to continue investigating Melissa’s case: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-aquino-investigate-the-abduction-and-torture-of-melissa-roxas
  • Make Justice for Melissa graphic your Facebook profile photo and update your status with: “Melissa was disappeared against her will and tortured today—May 21, 2009”

Day 4—May 22:

  • Post of photo or video montage of yourself and members of your organization or friends holding a sign “Justice for Melissa Roxas.”
  • Continue forwarding the petition and gather signatures on petition demanding that Philippine authorities comply with the Supreme Court resolution to continue investigating Melissa’s case: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-aquino-investigate-the-abduction-and-torture-of-melissa-roxas
  • Make Justice for Melissa graphic your Facebook profile photo and update your status with “Melissa was disappeared against her will and tortured today—May 22, 2009”

Day 5—May 23:

  • Record and post a video message of solidarity to Melissa and all victims of human rights violations.
  • Continue forwarding the petition and gather signatures on petition demanding that Philippine authorities comply with the Supreme Court resolution to continue investigating Melissa’s case: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-aquino-investigate-the-abduction-and-torture-of-melissa-roxas
  • Make Justice for Melissa graphic your Facebook profile photo and update your status with: “Melissa was disappeared against her will and tortured today—May 23, 2009”

Day 6—May 24:

Day 7—May 25:

  • Record and post a video message calling on President Aquino to ensure that Philippine authorities comply with the Supreme Court resolution ordering them to pursue the investigation of Melissa’s case.
  • Continue forwarding the petition and gather signatures on petition demanding that Philippine authorities comply with the Supreme Court resolution to continue investigating Melissa’s case: http://www.change.org/petitions/president-aquino-investigate-the-abduction-and-torture-of-melissa-roxas
  • Make Justice for Melissa graphic your Facebook profile photo and update your status with “Melissa was surfaced today but justice is still missing—May 25, 2009”
  • Make a donation to BAYAN-USA, so we can continue the campaign for Justice for Melissa and all victims of human rights violations: http://www.bayanusa.org/donate

JUSTICE FOR MELISSA!
JUSTICE FOR ALL VICTIMS OF STATE-SPONSORED DISAPPEARANCES AND TORTURE!
STOP MILITARY AID TO THE PHILIPPINES!
END OPERATION PLAN BAYANIHAN!  END COUNTER-INSURGENCY PROGRAMS!

Jonas Burgos

A recently released photo of Jonas Burgos taken shortly after he was abducted by the Philippine military in April 2007.

As a survivor of abduction by the Philippine military in 2009, my heart went out to the Burgos family after I heard the favorable news of the Philippine Court of Appeals ruling last week on the case of Jonas Burgos.  After years of presenting the case before the Philippine Courts, the Court of Appeals has finally recognized that the Armed Forces of the Philippines was responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos.

Jonas Burgos was an activist-agriculturalist who was abducted in broad daylight by the Philippine military on April 28, 2007 while he was having lunch in the Ever Gotesco Mall on Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City.

The recently released photo of Jonas in detention brought tears to my eyes—to see him in that condition looking very tired and disoriented.  I saw the pain in his expression.  The stark white concrete wall behind him framed his melancholy face.

I understand what he has been through and can only imagine what he endured all these years.   Mrs. Edita Burgos—mother of Jonas—and her family’s agony over the years is a form of continuing torture.   When a loved one remains missing, it is torture for the families who continue looking for them and hoping they will be surfaced.

With perseverance and courage, Mrs. Edita Burgos and her family relentlessly pursued the case before the Philippine Courts and other human rights investigative bodies.  They enlisted the help of various human rights organizations like Karapatan, Desaparecidos, and other grassroots people’s organizations in the Philippines.  After many years of appeal to the Supreme Court, many rallies and protests that called for Jonas Burgos to be surfaced, the Philippine Court finally declared what the victims and families have known all along—that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is guilty of committing enforced disappearances.

I question the will of President Benigno Aquino III, as Commander in Chief, to push the Armed Forces to comply with the Court’s orders to surface Jonas and reveal all evidence related to his abduction.  Mrs. Burgos has made numerous direct appeals to President Aquino III with no result.

The Burgos family filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus after Jonas disappeared in 2007.  The license plate number of the vehicle used during the abduction of Jonas was traced to an impounded vehicle inside the camp of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army in Bulacan, a province north of Metro Manila.

The Court of Appeals initially rejected the appeal in 2008.  It was only in 2011, four years since Jonas disappeared that the Supreme Court directed the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to investigate the case.  The CHR then presented its findings to the Supreme Court, finding that the Philippine military—including Army Major Harry Baliaga Jr.—was responsible for the abduction of Jonas Burgos.  A witness positively identified Maj. Baliaga over the abduction of Jonas Burgos at a restaurant in the Ever Gotesco Mall.  The recent Court of Appeals Special 7th Division ruling also declared Army Maj. Harry Baliaga one of those responsible for the crime.

New pieces of evidence have also recently surfaced that Mrs. Edita Burgos and her family presented to the Supreme Court.  These include a picture of Jonas Burgos days after he was abducted and documentary evidence that would further prove that he was being held by an intelligence unit of the 7th Infantry Division of the Philippine Army and the 56th Infantry Battalion.

In the freejonasburgosmovement.blogspot.com website, it shows the photo that surfaced after five years and 338 days since the family has been searching for Jonas Burgos.

If only the Courts and the investigative bodies would have acted more swiftly maybe there would have been a chance that Jonas would have been found.  Any time someone is enforcedly disappeared, time is of utmost importance.  The more time passes, the obstacles to finding them become harder to overcome.

The Courts did not help because justice delayed is justice denied.  It took nearly six years before the Courts made their ruling and ordered the AFP to release Jonas Burgos.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) and the AFP colluded to delay, obstruct and mislead the investigations.  Despite the evidence, the AFP continues to deny responsibility for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos and other desaparecidos (the disappeared).  The PNP, ordered by the Courts to investigate the Jonas Burgos case, continues to drag its feet and fails to conduct an exhaustive and meaningful investigation. Just recently the PNP Chief, Director General Alan Purisima, summarily dismissed both the decision of the appellate court and the new evidence filed by the Burgos family.

Despite promises to improve the human rights situation in the country, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III also has failed to genuinely investigate the disappearance of Jonas Burgos and other desaparecidos.   In December 2012, he even appointed Brig. Gen. Eduardo Año as the new chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).  Año is a military officer that is implicated in gross human rights violations, including involvement in the abduction of Jonas Burgos.

Under the Aquino III administration, Army Maj. General Jovito Palparan has not been arrested and is still a free man in hiding.  Palparan has been on the run since the Philippine Department of Justice issued a resolution implicating him and three of his men in the abduction of two University students, Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, in 2006.

Is this the way that President Aquino responds to the appeals of victims and family members of human rights violations?  Is this the “righteous road” that he was talking about when he first came into the presidency?

President Aquino III should prosecute those responsible for the abduction of Jonas Burgos all the way up the chain of command, instead of promoting them to higher office.  President Aquino III should demand the Armed Forces of the Philippines to surface Jonas.

For those of us living in the United States, it is also worth noting that the United States government continues to provide military aid and support to the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

According to a Reuters article dated May 3, 2012, the United States tripled military aid to the Philippines in 2012.  According to the same source, information from the U.S. Embassy in Manila showed that since 2002, the Philippines received nearly $500 million in military aid from the U.S.  This does not include other U.S. foreign military funding and military equipment provided by the U.S. to the Philippines.  This includes the transfer of 20 reconditioned helicopters, a Cyclone-class ship, and a Hamilton-class cutter.

In 2008, through the people’s lobbying efforts in Congress, Senator Barbara Boxer successfully pushed for the restriction of $3 million of military aid to the Philippines because of the political killings and human rights violations.  However, the Philippine government continues to petition for the removal of these conditions because it says that the Aquino government has shown that it has made efforts to improve the human rights situation in the Philippines.

The truth is that the Armed Forces of the Philippines under the government of President Benigno Aquino III continues to commit human rights violations.  President Aquino III’s administration has implemented Oplan Bayanihan, a counter-insurgency program modeled after the U.S.’s own counter-insurgency guide of 2009, that continues the same policy of human rights violations as its predecessor, Oplan Bantay-Laya.  Different name, but same deadly policy targeting communities, progressive organizations, and political activists.

U.S. military aid, training, and support to the Philippines must end.  If the U.S. government continues to fund a Philippine military that continues to commit grave human rights abuses, then it is in fact supporting this policy of political killings, enforced disappearances, and torture.

Many victims, their families, and witnesses have testified at the risk of their lives to shed light on the heinous human rights violations committed by the Philippine military with the knowledge of the Philippine government.  The victims and families of the disappeared have fought for their voices to be heard.

There is still much more that needs to be done.  The fact remains that Jonas Burgos and many other desaparecidos remain missing.

I thank Mrs. Burgos, her family, and the families of the desaparecidos for their courage and perseverance.  Mrs. Burgos I have not forgotten that you, along with the other nanays (mothers) of Desaparecidos were the ones to give me your loving support and protection when I had to testify about my ordeal.   You taught me a lot with your courage, strength, and faith.  I will continue to fight for Jonas until he is found and until the perpetrators are brought to justice.  I stand with you in the pursuit of truth and justice for all desaparecidos.

It makes my heart heavy and my eyes sore to think about how many desaparecidos still suffer under the darkness of captivity.  I hope that others will join in the campaign to continue to fight for justice.  Please don’t let Mrs. Burgos pleas for justice be in vain.  Public pressure and opinion is very important in the campaign for justice.  How many more testimonies of victims do we have to hear before we take action?  It is my hope that there will not be more news of political killings, abductions, or torture.  We can each do our part to spread the word, take action, and demand an end to human rights violations.

- Melissa Roxas

Surface Jonas Burgos and all desaparecidos!
Justice for Jonas Burgos and all victims of human rights violations!
Prosecute those responsible for the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos!
Stop U.S. Military Aid to the Philippines!

Do You Know How Freedom Sounds?

Find out by getting the latest album from San Francisco band Diskarte Namin. The album “Kultural Guerrillas” is a mix of reggae, rock, folk and soul accented with Philippine indigenous instruments and driven by lyrics about love and liberation.


By downloading the online album, you’ll be donating $10 to BAYAN USA’s human rights work:

  • The Justice for Melissa Roxas campaign to obtain justice and accountability for the abduction and torture of Melissa Roxas and all victims of human rights violations perpetrated by state forces of the Philippines.
  • The International Conference on Human Rights in the Philippines, to be held in July 2013.  This conference will bring together more Filipino survivors of human rights abuses, families of victims, and human rights advocates from around the globe to develop a shared analysis of the causes of the human rights crisis and to develop action plans to address the problem.
  • Manilakbayan - Bringing Mindanao Peoples’ Voices from the Margins to the Center, a week-long mobilization convened by Mindanao’s “Anawim” or “the unprotected” indigenous Lumads, Moro, small farmers and workers.  The mobilization will include actions to defend land, environment and human rights in the face of destructive large-scale mining and mining-related killings by state forces.

Buy your album today!
Be part of the movement for international human rights!
Spread the word to fellow music lovers and justice seekers!

Melissa Roxas was selected as an awardee for the upcoming Tenth Biennial Phenomenal Woman Awards on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012.

The Phenomenal Woman Awards event celebrates women who have made outstanding contributions to our community. It also allows the Gender & Women’s Studies Department to raise funds to sponsor special programming, support student and faculty research, and finance scholarships for Gender and Women’s Studies students. In addition, these contributions support the CSUN Women’s Resource and Research Center, the oldest continuing Women’s Center within the California State University system.

The event begins with a Reception and Silent Auction from 4-5 PM. This is a wonderful time to meet and converse with the awardees for this year and past awardees. The Silent Auction offers a wide array of items ranging from spa and restaurant coupons and weekend getaways to sculptures and other art works. All proceeds go to supporting the students and faculty in GWS.

The presentation of the awards will begin at approximately 5 PM.

More information at http://www.csun.edu/ws/PW/phenomenalwoman2012.html.

PRESS RELEASE
May 31, 2012

GENEVA – Filipino activists, Geneva-based migrants, and representatives from international NGOs conducted a picket-protest in front of the United Nations headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland to express their criticism of the Philippine government report immediately after the Universal Periodic Review on the Philippines at the UN Human Rights Council last Tuesday, tagging the report as ‘selective,’ with the PH government drowning their dismal compliance to international human rights instruments with their so-called achievements.”

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation in Geneva said “the GPH report failed to mention that state authorities have yet to arrest several notorious human rights violators such as Maj. General Jovito Palparan, while there is much gloating on the enactment of few local legislation and ratifications of some international instruments.”

“Palparan’s continued evasion of arrest and mockery of justice exemplifies the prevalent climate of impunity. This is probably the reason why the GPH failed to mention this important fact — to gloss over the non-existence of justice for victims of human rights violations in the country and the continuing spate of rights abuses,” stated Cristina Palabay, spokesperson of Karapatan and member of the Philippine UPR watch delegation in Geneva.

Present during the picket were Fiipino-American activist and torture and disappearance survivor Melissa Roxas and Aklan municipal councilor Ernan Baldomero, son of slain councilor Fernando Baldomero, the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino administration.

Leaders from Karapatan, NCCP, Tanggol Bayi, NUPL, Bayan, KAMP, MCPA-Kawagib, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Defend Job Philippines, Cordillera People’s Alliance, Promotion of Church People’s Response, IFI-Ramento Project for Rights Defenders, Migrante International, Peace for Life, International Coordinating Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICCHRP) and Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-United Kingdom and CHRP-Switzerland also attended the picket in full view of diplomats, pedestrians and tourists.

In a post-UPR forum at the World Council of Churches today, Atty. Edre Olalia, Secretary General of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and member of the Philippine UPR watch delegation, said that “it is totally unacceptable that with all the powers, resources and machinery of the government, Gen. Palparan, remains out there. If President Aquino has thrown all his weight, power and supposed popularity to make dead sure that Chief Justice Corona is convicted at all costs, why can’t he do the same thing to bring behind bars the poster boy of the most horrendous kinds of human rights violations?”

Olalia pointed out that “more than the rightful conviction of the Chief Justice for valid charges, the immediate arrest, speedy prosecution and certain punishment of remorseless and incorrigible human rights violators would inspire greater interest and create lasting impact to the international community more than the hullabaloo and inordinate fixation on the impeachment trial.”

The Philippine UPR Watch delegation noted that the “breaking-news” glowing announcement by the Philippine government that the Chief Justice was convicted ostensibly for corruption was met with muted disinterest and lethargic reaction at the UN Human Rights Council floor.

Reference:
Marie Hilao-Enriquez and Fr. Jonash Joyohoy
Co-Heads, Philippine UPR Watch
Phone: +41 76 792 4973
Email: peoples.upr@gmail.com

At the entrance: UPR delegates, human rights violation victims, and support groups cue early in the morning to attend the Philippines' Universal Periodic Review. (L-R) Jacquiline Ruiz (Children's Rehabilitation Center), Melissa Roxas (torture survivor), Bai Ali Indayla (KAWAGIB and Moro-Christian Peoples' Alliance), Ric Gacayan, Jr. (Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-United Kingdom), Jamima Fagta (CHRP-UK), Atty. Edre Olalia (National Union of Peoples' Lawyers), and Garry Martinez (Migrante International).

Delegates: Inside the session hall, delegates listen intently to the report and interactive dialogues between the Philippine mission and other state representatives.

Protest using tablets: "End Extrajudicial Killings in the Philippines!," "End Impunity!," and "Free all Political Prisoners!"--the Filipino people speak out.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 29, 2012

GENEVA–As the Chief Justice of the Philippines was being handed down a verdict in the impeachment trial, the Philippine government was also undergoing a similar process of accountability, this time before the United Nations.

Around 69 countries quizzed the Philippine government on its human rights record, Tuesday May 29 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Philippines participated in the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council. One after the other, at least 22 countries expressed concerns on the continuing spate of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture in particular, and impunity in general, according to the Philippine UPR Watch. Several countries also called on the Philippine government to dismantle all paramilitary groups and militias.

The Australian mission urged the Philippine government to arrest fugitive Gen. Jovito Palparan, who is wanted for the abduction of two UP activists. The UK, Spain and the Holy See called on the Philippine government to “completely eradicate extrajudicial killings”.

The United States said that “impunity in human rights violations” continued. It cited institutional barriers to the attainment of justice for victims of rights abuse. Ireland called for “decisive measures” to address the problems. Germany urged the strengthening of accountability mechanisms and the conduct of impartial investigations in cases involving state forces, reminding the PH government of the recommendations of Prof. Philip Alston, former Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitary Executions. The Netherlands asked that the issue of impunity be addressed and called for the prosecution, trial and conviction of perpetrators. Denmark called for the full implementation of the anti-torture law, saying that state forces are still involved in abuses.

Spain and Canada called for the dismantling of all paramilitary groups and militias, a position that has gained support after the Maguindanao massacre in 2009, with the latter mincing no words, saying that despite training programs on human rights for security forces, human rights violations are “still serious and all too widespread.” Belgium asked the PH government on measures to record cases of EJKs and urged the Philippines to ratify the convention against enforced disappearances. Austria expressed concerns over attacks on journalists and cases of torture.

France said it was “alarmed by extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances and continuing violations against journalists and human rights defenders”. Japan echoed this, saying “extrajudicial killings continue as a significant political issue.”

The questions and comments from the foreign missions were directed to the GPH delegation headed by Philippine Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

At least six countries meanwhile asked the Philippines to act on requests of UN special rapporteurs who want to visit the Philippines to examine the rights situation in the country. To this, de Lima remarked that they are still studying the requests and said the PH government cannot act on all requests because of alleged shortage in resources.

“We view the questions and statements of continuing concern by the different foreign missions as very telling. It shows even greater interest by the international community on the human rights situation. They know that the Philippine government has not lived up to its commitment to completely eliminate extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances and torture. The language used may have been diplomatic, but clearly the international community wants the Philippine government to do more,” said Fr. Jonash Joyohoy of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and co-head of delegation of the Philippine UPR Watch.

Present during the session were two Filipino human rights victims, Fil-Am activist and torture and disappearance survivor Melissa Roxas and Aklan municipal councilor Ernan Baldomero, son of slain councilor Fernando Baldomero, the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino administration.

Leaders from Karapatan, NCCP, Tanggol Bayi, NUPL, Bayan, KAMP, MCPA-Kawagib, Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Defend Job Philippines, Migrante, Cordillera People’s Alliance, Promotion of Church People’s Response, IFI-Ramento Project for Rights Defenders, Migrante International, International Coordinating Committee on Human Rights in the Philippines (ICCHRP) and Campaign for Human Rights in the Philippines-United Kingdom and CHRP-Switzerland also attended the session. Prior to the start of the session, the UPR Watch delegates flashed their I-Pads bearing calls to end extrajudicial killings and impunity in the Philippines.

“The questions raised by the foreign missions were nearly identical to the questions we have submitted to them prior to the UN session. Human rights defenders, the victims and their families have submitted reports that belie the overstated achievements of the Philippine government. We count 76 victims of extradjudicial killings since Aquino took office. While the PH government now claims a dramatic decline in the killings, – no thanks to its supposed efforts – our data shows that the PH government has not lived up to its commitment to eliminate these violations altogether,” said Karapatan chair Marie Enriquez.

Selective presentation of data

Atty. Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers and also a UPR Watch delegate commented that the Philippine report was very selective in its presentation of data. “The report tends to highlight lesser achievements by gloating over showcase steps it has belatedly done while conveniently drowning the more essential issues such as the almost nil conviction rate of perpetrators of rights abuses, the failure of the Aquino government to press charges and arrest suspects, and the continuing effects of the government’s counter-insurgency program on the people. There is basically deafening silence from the GPH on all these issues,” he said.

Even on the issue of social and economic rights, the GPH report was very selective in its presentation, says Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes, Jr. “They highlighted so-called achievements in the conditional cash transfer program while glossing over rising poverty, unemployment and hunger,” Reyes said.

“While Aquino and his allies whoop it up in their victory in the Corona impeachment, human rights victims are still fighting for the longest time for accountability from a state that continues to commit and condone abuses with shameless impunity,” Reyes added.

At the end of the review, the whole Philippine UPR Watch, who were all seated in one long row inside the session hall of the Palais des Nations and wearing different pins with various calls for justice and accountability, simultaneously gave a thumbs-down sign of the Philippine report.

Reference:
Marie Hilao Enriquez and Fr. Jonash Joyohoy
Co-Heads, Philippine UPR Watch
Phone: +41 76 792 4973
Email: peoples.upr@gmail.com

Melissa Roxas (left) addresses a crowd of international human rights organizations and representatives of foreign missions in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ernan Baldomero (right) recounts his last days with his father, Fernando Baldomero, the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino regime in 2010.

PRESS RELEASE
May 26, 2012

GENEVA–They could not hold back tears as they recounted their experiences before a crowd of international human rights organizations and representatives of foreign missions.

Ernan Baldomero, a municipal councilor in Aklan and son of Fernando Baldomero, the first victim of extrajudicial killing under the Aquino regime in 2010, recounted his last days with his father. He spoke of how his father was repeatedly tagged by the military as a communist rebel before he was gunned down by two men riding on a motorcycle. He broke down as he recounted how the military had even insisted that his father was killed by the New People’s Army in an alleged “purge”. He laments to this day that justice has not been fully served.

For Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, her abduction and torture was also painful to recall. She spoke of being abducted in La Paz, Tarlac along with two others, then being subjected to torture and other forms of indignities while in detention. Throughout her detention in what she believed to be was a military facility, she was blindfolded and handcuffed and forced by her captors to “return to the fold of the government”. She laments how none of the perpetrators of her abduction and torture have been held to account.

Baldomero and Roxas spoke at a side-event at the United Nations in Geneva that was organized by the Philippine UPR Watch and CIVICUS World Alliance for Citizen Participation, World Organization Against Torture (OMCT), Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD), the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The forum comes just days before the UN’s review of the Philippines’ human rights record on May 29. The Philippine UPR Watch is composed of Filipino human rights defenders who traveled to Geneva for the universal periodic review and session on the Philippines. The Philippine UPR Watch has submitted alternative reports to the UN to dispute the Philippine government claims of an improving human rights climate in the Philippines.

For the second time, the Philippines will undergo a process whereby member countries of the UN Human Rights Council will examine the Philippines’ compliance with its human rights treaty obligations. During the first review cycle in 2008, the Philippines came under serious scrutiny for the spate of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances under the Arroyo regime.

Now it’s the Aquino government’s turn to face the UN. The Philippine UPR Watch reports that some 76 cases of extrajudicial killings and 9 cases of enforced disappearances have taken place under the Aquino government. Meanwhile, no convictions of perpetrators have taken place under the Aquino administration, the group said.

Baldomero and Roxas both assert that rights violations continue under the Aquino government.

“The most painful thing right now is not recounting our experiences but knowing that there is still no justice after all this time. Victims live with the pain of injustice every day,” Roxas said.

“We came here to Geneva to tell the international community that impunity and injustice are continuing in the Philippines. We have spoken to different country missions here in the UN and hopefully they would ask the tough questions to the Philippine government,” Baldomero said.

Reference:
Marie Hilao-Enriquez and Fr. Jonash Joyohoy
Co-Heads, Philippine UPR Watch
Phone: +41 76 792 4973, +63917 561 6800
Email: peoples.upr@gmail.com

“I know there are still so many political prisoners languishing in jail especially women political detainees. I hope they too would soon be freed. There is no sense and no humanity in keeping them to rot in jail when their productive and reproductive capacities could be tapped and maximized and be of great service to our people as molders of our youth and society.”

“Garden Behind Bars”
by Angie Ipong, former political prisoner

Women, Sow the Seeds of Resistance!: International Women’s Day and Human Rights Updates in the Philippines

Speakers include Filipina survivors of human rights violations Dr. Merry Mia- Clamor, Angelina Bisuna Vda. de Ipong and Melissa Roxas

 

Thursday, March 8, 2012, 11 :30 AM – 1 PM
Commemorating International Women’s Day
Claremont School of Theology
Haddon Conference Center in the Butler building
1325 North College Avenue
Claremont, CA 91711

 

Thursday, March 8, 2012, 6:30 PM – 9 PM
Celebrating International Women’s Day
Rosewood United Methodist Church
4101 Rosewood Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90004

 

Friday, March 9, 2012, 6:30 PM – 9 PM
Community Reception
spaceLUNA
2404 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 1 B
Los Angeles, CA 90057

 

Sponsors (partial list)

GABRIELA USA, SiGAw, Claremont School of Theology, Rosewood UMC, BAYAN, NAFCON, Habi Arts, AnakBayan LA, Filipino Migrant Center, Jersey Mike’s Subs – Orange and Laguna Woods (owned and operated by Ed Castaneda and Naida Castro), Filipino Ministry of the Diocese of San Bernardino. Karapatan, National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

Description

This March 2012, the United Methodist Church, the Philippine Working Group of the Asia Pacific Forum, BAYAN-USA, Karapatan and the National Council Churches in the Philippines are coordinating a national tour. Dr. Merry Mia Clamor and Ms. Angie Ipong will be traveling from the Philippines to speak across the United States to raise awareness and seek justice for flagrant human rights violations in the Philippines.

In Southern California, Dr. Clamor and Ms. Ipong will join with Melissa Roxas to launch the national tour. Dr. Merry Mia Clamor, Angelina “Angie” Ipong and Melissa Roxas are all Filipina survivors of human rights violations targeted because of their work advocating with the poor and the marginalized. On March 8th, these three courageous women will share their ongoing struggles for justice and human rights in the Philippines. Ms. Roxas, Dr. Clamor and Ms. Ipong need our support as they continue to appeal for justice at the US Congress and the United Nations.

March 8th marks the anniversary day of when Ms. Ipong was abducted and tortured 7 years ago, because of her work with the most oppressed. As the Philippines oldest female political prisoner, Ms. Ipong was finally released in 2011. For Southern California peace advocates supporting human rights in the Philippines, the opportunity to host Dr. Clamor is an honor because the Southern California community was actively engaged in the campaign to free Dr. Clamor and 42 other health workers from illegal detention in 2010.

After their speaking engagements in Los Angeles, Dr. Clamor and Ms. Ipong will tell their stories to many more audiences, including the United Nations Human Rights Council in New York and the US Congress during the annual Ecumenical Advocacy Days. We hope these opportunities to speak to the US Congress and UN will make an impact but we know that these survivors need more support from people living in the United States.  We hope that you will help welcome these women during their time in Southern California so that we can ensure the local advocacy for human rights in the Philippines will continue after International Women’s Day.

Short Biographies

Dr. Merry Mia-Clamor is the Director of the Health Education, Training and Services Department of Council for Health and Development. As the national secretariat of the Community-Based Health Programs in the Philippines, it is one of the tasks of the Council for Health and Development to conduct free community clinics all over the country in partnership with its member programs.

On February 6, 2010, Dr. Clamor and 42 other health workers were illegally arrested, detained and tortured and held political prisoners for over ten months. The Free the 43 Healthworkers campaign became an international campaign that drew support from all around the world. Today, the 43 are still demanding justice for the injustices they suffered and for those political prisoners who are still languishing in prison across the country.

More information: http://freethehealthworkers.blogspot.com

Angelina Bisuna Vda. de Ipong, or Angie to her friends, is a long time human rights and peace advocate who has devoted her life to the cause of peace with justice. She has dedicated more than three decades of her life to the struggles for the rights of peasants and indigenous people. On March 8, 2005, Angie was illegally arrested, detained and tortured while doing human rights work in Misamis Oriental. After six years as a political prisoner at the age of 66, Angie was finally released after a long campaign to demand her freedom. Angie has penned her experience in prison with her book, “Garden Behind Bars.”

Angie graduated from Ateneo de Naga University in Naga City with a Bachelor of Arts, Major in History. Afterwards, she taught at Maryknoll College in Lucena City. In 1965, Angie became a member of the Mission Society of the Philippines (MSP) in Dumaguete City where the MSP was based under the auspices of the late Bishop Surban. She was one of the pioneers of the women’s lay missionary division under the MSP Secular Institute from 1966 to 1976. In 1968-1970, Angie was sent to study theology in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA. While abroad, she passed through Europe and parts of Asia and she was exposed to different mission groups, lay institutes and the like. After two years, she was back in the Philippines and went straight to Cebu where the new base of the MSP was located and taught for a year at San Carlos University and St. Theresa’s College.

More information: http://hustisya.org

Melissa Roxas is a poet, community health worker, and human rights activist.  While conducting community health work on May 19, 2009 in the province of Tarlac, Philippines, she was abducted and enforcedly disappeared by agents of the Philippine military and was held in secret detention and tortured for six days.  She continues to write and speak out for truth and justice.

More information: http://justiceformelissa.org

Melissa Roxas along with Josh Fattal, Shane Bauer, and Sarah Shourd who were illegally detained in Iran (http://freethehikers.org).

Melissa Roxas speaking beside Palden Gyatso, a Tibetan monk who was tortured and imprisoned for 33 years.

Closing pleanary speakers along with the staff and volunteers of Amnesty International West.

 

PRESS STATEMENT
October 24, 2011

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Justice for Melissa Campaign
Email: info@justiceformelissa.org

The Justice for Melissa campaign expresses its deepest condolences to the families of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and Ramon Batoy.  The Justice for Melissa campaign condemns the brutal extra-judicial killings of Italian missionary Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio and farmer activist Ramon Batoy, two individuals that were defenders of the Arakan valley, the land and its people.

Fr. Tentorio, an Italian missionary of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), was shot dead within the compound of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish on October 17, 2011.  Fr. Pops, an anti-mining activist, was also a Board Member of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines Southern Mindanao and the Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Inc.  Fr. Tentorio answered the humble calling to live a simple life among the people, to serve the people, especially those in most need, the most oppressed. For more than 30 years, Fr. Pops devoted his life to the service of the indigenous “lumads” and peasants of the Southern Philippines.

Within the week of Fr. Pops’ slaying, farmer Ramon Batoy was extra-judicially killed inside his own home in Arakan.  According to the latest reports from the human rights organization, Karapatan, members of Batoy’s family and neighbors were illegally detained, tortured and harassed by the military. The government cover-up of the extra-judicial killing uses the storyline that Batoy and his neighbor were members of the New People’s Army.

“The brutal culture of impunity that reigns in the Philippines does not discriminate.  As an American that has survived enforced disappearance and torture in the Philippines, my heart goes out to the Tentorio and Batoy families and the communities they served.  The civilian death toll under the on-going counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bayanihan, continues to rise, and it is not just Filipino blood that has been shed.  The international community must respond to these latest human rights atrocities that have claimed the life of another Filipino citizen and an Italian priest,” said Melissa Roxas.  “The government’s on-going criminalization and extra-judicial killings of activists and advocates like Ramon Batoy and Fr. Pops must end.  We must continue to advocate internationally, from Geneva to the Vatican, so that peace with justice will one day prevail.”

The Justice for Melissa campaign joins the growing international clamor for justice.  We call for an immediate, comprehensive and fair investigation of these human rights violations.  We call on President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to address the following:

  1. The immediate formation of an independent fact-finding and investigation team composed of representatives from human rights groups, the Church, local government, and the Commission on Human Rights that will look into the incident in Sitio Upper Lumbo, Kabalantian village, Municipality of Arakan, North Cotabato, which led to the killing of Ramon Batoy, the arrest of Noli Badol and Celso Batoy, and the forcible evacuation of 48 households from their homes.
  2. The immediate release of Noli Badol and Celso Batoy from unjust detention.
  3. The military to stop the labeling and targeting of human rights defenders and innocent civilians as “members of front organizations of the communists” and “enemies of the state.”
  4. The Philippine Government to withdraw its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which victimizes innnocent and unarmed civilians.
  5. The Philippine Government to be reminded that it is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that it is also a party to all the major Human Rights instruments, thus it is bound to observe all of these instruments’ provisions.

End Impunity In the Philippines!

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