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!

The Filipina Women’s Network selected Melissa Roxas as one of the “100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the United States” under the category of Policymakers and Visionaries.

100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S. group photo.

Melissa Roxas with the Honorable Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, Chief Justice of California.

Melissa Roxas with Marily Mondejar, President of Filipina Women's Network.

Melissa Roxas with Pearl Parmelee of Mama Sita's Mixes and Sauces holding their FWN awards.

Melissa Roxas with Janelle So, television host/producer of KSCI TV's LA18.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 13, 2011

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

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA — The Filipina Women’s Network has selected Melissa Roxas as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the United States. While doing community health work in the Philippines, Ms. Roxas was abducted, tortured and disappeared from May 19-25, 2009 at the hands of the Philippine military. Since she was surfaced after the ordeal, Ms. Roxas has advocated relentlessly for justice for all victims of human rights abuses and for an end to U.S. military aid and political support for the culture of impunity which allows human rights violators in the Philippines to escape prosecution. For her courage, the Filipina Women’s Network is honoring Ms. Roxas with the Policymakers and Visionaries award, which recognizes Filipina women leaders who have made or are making a difference in U.S. government policies or laws that impact business, industry, and society and who enrich the lives and careers of others by sharing the benefits of their wealth, experience, and knowledge.

The 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the United States Award™ is a celebration of leadership, inspiration and achievement. It honors Filipina women who are changing the face of power in American communities, organizations and the workplace.

“These influential Filipina American women are dynamic entrepreneurs, rising stars under 40, emerging builders and executives who have moved through the ranks in large organizations, nonprofits and government agencies. They are powerful examples of women doing extraordinary work who will motivate our youth and future leaders,” said Gloria T. Caoile, political director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) and co-chair of the FWN 100 Nationwide Search and Selection Committee. “They were selected from nominations submitted from 19 states.”

“I am thankful to FWN for this honor,” said Melissa Roxas. “The human rights situation in the Philippines and around the world continues to worsen especially in the current economic and political crisis. I am humbled to be recognized for speaking out about human rights, but recognize that there are many more women out there that are the unsung heroes, some of whom dedicated their lives to the cause of human rights and have paid the ultimate price with their lives. The fearless women in the Philippines who dared to speak out have become the victims of political killings and disappearances. It is my hope that by attending events such as FWN, I can keep alive the voices of these women by continuing to speak out and call for justice and accountability.”

The 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S. Award™ is a working recognition award, a dream with a meaningful purpose: double the number of Filipina women leaders by 2012.

“Pinay Power 2012 began in 2006 with a dream to inspire, inform, and advance Filipina women leaders who would influence the Filipino American community’s future. It provides a critical pathway for successful women who care about advancement, achievement, and significance,” said Elena Mangahas, board chair of Filipina Women’s Network. “These women are not only talking about change, but plan to be part of making it happen.”

“FWN will honor these amazing women at a gala dinner awards celebration on Friday, October 14, 2011 at the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco,” said Marily Mondejar, president of the Filipina Women’s Network. “The awards gala is the highlight of the 8th Filipina Leadership Summit from October 13 through October 15. Awardees often share this inspiring evening with their daughters, sons, mothers, grandmothers, young women and men from their organizations.”

For additional details concerning Pinay Power 2012 and to attend the Filipina Leadership Summit, call 415.935.4396 or go to www.FilipinaWomensNetwork.org. For additional details concerning Melissa Roxas or the Justice for Melissa Campaign, please email info@justiceformelissa.org.

###

About the Justice for Melissa Campaign
The Justice for Melissa Roxas (J4MR) campaign is a broadly-carried initiative of organizations, churches, and individuals who support Melissa Roxas, a Filipina American poet, human rights activist and community health worker, who was abducted and tortured by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on May 19, 2009 while conducting community health work in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines. She was held incommunicado and tortured for six days in a military camp, the first American victim of state-sponsored abduction and torture in the Philippines during the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The J4MR campaign supports Melissa Roxas’ pursuit of justice and accountability and justice for all victims of state-sponsored human rights violations in the Philippines. Community members can take action to support the J4MR campaign by signing the online pledge at http://www.justiceformelissa.org.

About Filipina Women’s Network (FWN)
FWN is a national nonprofit professional association founded to raise awareness of the activities, careers and status of women of Philippine ancestry based in the United States. FWN’s mission is to advance Filipina women in the U.S. workplace through programs and activities that enhance public perceptions of Filipina women’s capacities to lead, change biases against Filipina women’s leadership abilities, and build the Filipina community’s pipeline of qualified leaders, to increase the odds that some will rise to the president position in all sectors. More info: Call 415.935.4396 or email filipina@ffwn.org. http://www.filipinawomensnetwork.org

About the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the U.S. Awards™
The Filipina Women’s Network’s FWN 100 awards program is part of a larger game plan called “Pinay Power 2012″ – a dream with a meaningful purpose – to double the number of Filipina women leaders by 2012. The prestigious recognition is a working award – the winners are asked to femtor a protégée. Both leaders are invited to return to the Filipina Leadership Summit in 2012.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2011

Reference: Justice for Melissa Campaign
Email: info@justiceformelissa.org
Website: www.justiceformelissa.org

Online whistleblower Wikileaks released three classified cables earlier this month which included then-US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney’s comments on the abduction and torture of Melissa Roxas from May 19-25, 2009 at the hands of the Philippine military. The cables largely confirm what the Justice for Melissa Campaign already suspected: that the US Embassy was more concerned with how Roxas’ ordeal could further expose the relationship between US military aid to the Philippines and the rampant human rights abuses being conducted by the Philippine military, than with investigating the crime and obtaining justice for Roxas. However, the Wikileaks cables also uncovered disturbing inaccuracies in the Embassy’s portrayal of its correspondence with Roxas after she was surfaced, calling into question the sincerity of the Embassy’s even minimal offerings of support.

In a cable dated June 29, 2009 Kenney stated that the Chief of the American Citizens Service of the Embassy who spoke to Roxas on May 27, 2009 reported that Roxas “was in good physical condition and that she felt safe at a relative’s home.” In reaction to this statement, Roxas said, “I can not comprehend how they could come to the illogical conclusion that I was in ‘good physical condition’ and ‘felt safe’ when I explained that I had been tortured and was traumatized by what had happened.”

According to Roxas, the Embassy official initially offered three options for her to provide more information about her case: Roxas could go to the Embassy, an Embassy representative could go to the home where Roxas was staying, or they could meet at a mutually convenient location. When Roxas said that she did not feel safe leaving the home and requested the Embassy representative to come to her, the Embassy official withdrew that option and told Roxas that she would have to rely on her own family’s resources to ensure her safety. “Essentially, they told me I was on my own,” said Roxas.

In addition, the Embassy cables depict Kenney’s concern with the public relations ramifications of Roxas’ abduction and torture, rather than concern over the ordeal itself. Kenney refers to “the press” seven times in the cables: in her description of press statements by Roxas’ legal counsel, Roxas’ first public press conference and press reports about Roxas case. Kenney commented repeatedly that supporters of Roxas would use or appeared to be using the incident “in an attempt to draw connections between U.S. military aid and human rights abuses by Philippine forces, with the apparent goal of ending U.S. financial support for the Philippine military altogether.” Kenney raised no opposition to the Philippine government’s quickly-discredited line that the abduction was conducted and “stage managed” by organizations critical of the government to make the military look bad.

The Justice for Melissa Campaign criticizes the US Embassy for abandoning its responsibility to Roxas, an American citizen, and for its lack of any meaningful assistance in pursuing justice for Roxas. The Campaign also denounces the role the US Embassy plays in ensuring the status quo in US-Philippine relations; the Embassy’s handling of Roxas’ case emboldens the culture of impunity which pervades the Philippine military as it shows that the US government will even allow human rights abuses committed against US citizens to go unpunished.

Today, on the 39th anniversary of the declaration of martial law in the Philippines, the Justice for Melissa Campaign draws inspiration from the mass movement of the 1970s and ’80s to end martial law, as we continue our campaign for justice for Melissa, justice for all victims of human rights violations and an end to the impunity which reigns in the Philippines. To take action today, please sign the Pledge of Support for Melissa Roxas and All Victims of Human Rights Violations at www.justiceformelissa.org/pledge.

Related Wikileaks cables:
June 29, 2009
July 24, 2009
August 13, 2009

PRESS STATEMENT
August 26, 2011

Remembering the Disappeared: Survivor of Abduction and Torture Appeals to the UN, International Human Rights Defenders Join the Growing Efforts to Seek Justice for Melissa Roxas



Los Angeles, CA – Commemorating the International Day of the Disappeared, over 50 human rights activists, lawyers, law students, church, women and youth activists gathered for an internationally-sponsored press conference for the Justice for Melissa Campaign. Melissa Roxas, a torture survivor who was disappeared for six days at the hands of the Philippine military, filed an official appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Juan Mendez, to help remove roadblocks to her pursuit of justice.  Roxas filed the appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture with the support of world-renowned international human rights lawyers from the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic and the law firm Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris Hoffman & Harrison, LLP.

An influential panel of human rights defenders spoke out with Roxas to shed light on the continuing impunity in the Philippines and call for justice for all victims of torture and disappearance worldwide. Victoria Don, Esq., Schonbrun DeSimone Seplow Harris Hoffman & Harrison, LLP; Julie Gutman, Executive Director of Program for Torture Victims; Marvyn Perez, survivor of torture from Guatemala; and Rev. David Farley, Echo Park United Methodist Church, with the Justice for Melissa campaign, gave powerful messages of solidarity for the campaign to seek justice.

Many in the audience were moved to tears as they listened to Melissa share her experience as a survivor of government-sponsored abduction and torture in the Philippines. Roxas concluded her statement with a reflection on the experiences of other survivors and an invitation to help seek justice for all victims of human rights violations:

Jean Améry, an Austrian philosopher, who was detained and tortured in concentration camps, had said ‘Anyone who has suffered torture will never again be at ease with the world.’  Parts of me died when I was in that secret prison.  It has been a long road of recovery for me.  Even after two years since I was surfaced, I still have the scars and physical injuries from the torture.  And there are the invisible scars that you don’t see, memories that I have to live with forever.  But what gives me the strength to speak to you today is thinking about the many more people that remain disappeared, that continue to be tortured, and that continue to be killed.  They cannot be here with us today, and their absence fills this room and the world with a longing for justice.

While the victims and their families continue to suffer, the torturers walk free.  So how can I be at ease in the world when human rights violations and torture exist?  I hope that you will join us in the campaign to end human rights violations.  I hope you will help us in our efforts to bring the violators and torturers to justice.

Atty. Victoria Don, a member of the legal team assisting Roxas, explained the significance of Melissa’s pursuit of justice. “Ms. Roxas has actually pursued domestic remedies within the Philippines but to no avail. At this point, there is little recourse for her but to turn to international mechanisms for justice,” stated Atty. Don. “The current UN Special Rapporteur is Prof. Juan Mendez. As Special Rapporteur on Torture, he bears a specific mandate from the Human Rights Council. This mandate is to examine, monitor, advise and publicly report on human rights problems through activities including responding to individual complaints like the one Ms. Roxas has submitted.” Atty. Don and the legal team working with Melissa have called upon the Philippine government to:

1. Provide your office with copies of all records and other information pertaining to the investigation conducted by all government entities, including the AFP, CHR, the Philippine National Police and Bureau of Investigation, of Ms. Roxas’s abduction, detention, and torture;

2. Fully cooperate and ensure the full cooperation of the AFP in an investigation to determine the identity of Ms. Roxas’s torturers, including by allowing full access to Fort Magsaysay and providing copies of all relevant documents, including but not limited to entry and exit records and rosters of all AFP personnel and other persons and vehicles who entered, exited, or were present at the fort during Ms. Roxas’s abduction and in the seven days immediately preceding and following her captivity;

3. Investigate and prosecute all those responsible for Ms. Roxas’s ordeal, including any members of paramilitary groups, soldiers, military officers, and elected officials all the way up the chain of command; and,

4. Provide you an invitation to undertake a country visit to assist the government in identifying the causes of torture in cases such as Ms. Roxas’s, and to offer practical solutions to end the use of torture and other human rights abuses and ensure that the behavior of the AFP and other forces comply with international standards.

The Executive Director of the Program for Torture Victims, Julie Gutman, Esq., gave a moving message of solidarity on behalf of their organization. “I am honored to be here today to lend the full support of our human rights organization, Program for Torture Victims, to Melissa’s noble cause. She has channeled her own healing into becoming a strong spokesperson to end torture in the Philippines and throughout the world. She has also helped others who have been victims of torture to have hope to heal,” shared Gutman. Roxas sought the help of PTV two years ago when she returned home from the Philippines after being abducted and tortured. “For over 30 years, PTV has worked to rebuild the lives of torture survivors from over 65 different countries, people who have stood up for freedom, democracy and human dignity and paid a very heavy price.  We have seen firsthand the devastating consequences of state-sponsored torture in thousands of men, women and children. We are part of a critical growing global movement that seeks to banish the use of torture and today we add our voice loudly and clearly to support Melissa Roxas and all those speaking out about her shocking persecution at the hands of the Philippine military,” declared Gutman.

“Tragically, Melissa’s story is not unique. It is often those individuals like Melissa, who have the courage to stand up for the poor, to stand up for those who have no voice, that become themselves victims of torture. We must stand with Melissa and all victims of torture as we confront those who violate the most fundamental laws of human decency, we must hold them accountable. Only by doing so can we truly work without torture,” concluded Gutman.

Torture survivor, Marvyn Perez, shared his experience of abduction and torture at the hands of the government when he was just 14 years old in Guatemala. “It has been 29 years of sharing my testimony, hoping to educate others about the evil practice of disappearance and torture, which usually come together. It is sad to find out that governments around the world still practice these crimes, these crimes which are usually denied or justified in the name of national security. Hundreds, if not thousands, around the world undergo torture. Unfortunately, most of them do not survive. Melissa and I are lucky to have survived. We have a moral responsibility to speak out and to seek justice. We share with all of you our stories but our testimonies could be meaningless if we don’t seek justice. To denounce a crime is not enough. We must do everything possible to bring to justice those responsible for the crimes. That is why I am here this afternoon, to show my support for the cause of Melissa Roxas and to all the torture survivors and victims of the Philippines. I join all the efforts to seek Justice for Melissa. I hope that in the near future we can see her perpetrators facing a trial and later sent to prison because even they have a right to a fair trial. Melissa, you must know that you are not alone, that many people are willing to walk along with you,” affirmed Perez.

Pastor David Farley, of Echo Park United Methodist Church, closed the panel with a song dedicated to the disappeared and the all those seeking justice. “I think that those of us who proclaim that persons are created in the image of God and that Creator loves them and values them, have a tremendous obligation to live out that belief in solidarity with those who are having that image that they bear abused and disrespected and damaged. Those of us within the faith communities have a particular opportunity to help because we are both part of an institution that has access to levers of power that can have some kind of influence and we are present in struggling communities here and all over the world. Our presence, both in solidarity with struggling peoples and in access to those who have power over them, gives us a particular responsibility to act and to speak and to serve. And so many are. The United Methodist Church, has been strongly supportive of human rights, particularly in the Philippines and in support of Melissa and for many who have suffered torture.”

The program was concluded with a call to support Melissa Roxas and all victims of human rights violations. The Justice for Melissa Campaign has launched an on-line pledge for supporters to take and pass on to their friends and colleagues.

A copy of the Submission to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture can be found at the International Human Rights Clinic of Harvard Law School.

Co-sponsors for the Justice for Melissa Press Conference and Melissa’s Appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture include: BAYAN USA, Program for Torture Victims (PTV), Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC), KARAPATAN (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights), Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), GABRIELA USA, Habi Arts, Sisters of Gabriela Awaken, Filipino Migrant Center, San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Babae San Francisco, Anakbayan San Diego, Anakbayan Los Angeles, Anakbayan East Bay,Pinay sa Seattle, Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines, San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines, Anakbayan Silicon Valley, MAIZ Movimiento de Accion, Inspirando Servicio, Dr. Lucy Burns, UCLA; Rev. Sandie Richards, United Methodist Minister.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »