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.
Melissa Roxas, Survivor of Abduction and Torture in the Philippines, Honored Nationally as a Filipina of Distinction
Oct 13th, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
October 13, 2011
Contact: Rhonda Ramiro or Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Campaign
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
Wikileaks Cables Reveal Contradictions and Lack of Compassion in US Embassy’s Response to Abduction, Torture of Melissa Roxas
Sep 21st, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 21, 2011
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.
Aug 26th, 2011
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.
Remembering the Disappeared: Survivor of Torture and Abduction in the Philippines Appeals to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for Justice (UPDATED)
Aug 22nd, 2011
August 22, 2011
Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign
What: Justice for Melissa Press Conference; Appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture.
Where: Immanuel Presbyterian Church
3300 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010
When: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 6 PM – 7 PM
*** PHOTO OPPORTUNITY ***
Los Angeles, CA. In commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared, Melissa Roxas, a torture survivor who was disappeared for six days at the hands of the Philippine military, will file an official appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Juan Mendez to help remove roadblocks to her pursuit of justice. Working with a team of world-renowned international human rights lawyers who have joined the Justice for Melissa Roxas campaign, Roxas will ask the Rapporteur to call on the Philippine government to fully disclose all information regarding Roxas’ case, cooperate with investigations, pursue charges against those responsible for her abduction and torture, and extend an invitation to the Rapporteur to conduct a visit to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation.
On Thursday evening, human rights defenders and survivors of human rights violations from different countries will join Roxas for a special press conference to shed light on the continuing impunity in the Philippines and hope 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, United Methodist Church, with the Justice for Melissa campaign, will be featured speakers for this press conference.
In May 2009, while doing community health work in the Philippines, Roxas became the first American citizen under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration to be abducted and tortured by members of the Philippine military. When she surfaced six days later, Roxas became one of only a handful of survivors who lived to recount her ordeal.
BAYAN USA, GABRIELA USA, Program for Torture Victims (PTV), Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC), 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 and other organizations are co-sponsoring this Justice for Melissa Press Conference.
Remembering the Disappeared: Survivor of Torture and Abduction in the Philippines Appeals to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture for Justice
Aug 16th, 2011
Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign
What: Justice for Melissa Press Conference; Appeal to UN Special Rapporteur on Torture
Where: Immanuel Presbyterian Church
3300 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010
When: Thursday, August 25, 2011, 6 PM – 7 PM
Los Angeles, CA. In commemoration of the International Day of the Disappeared, Melissa Roxas, a torture survivor who was disappeared for six days at the hands of the Philippine military, will file an official appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Juan Mendez to help remove roadblocks to her pursuit of justice.
Working with a team of world-renowned international human rights lawyers who have joined the Justice for Melissa Roxas campaign, Roxas will ask the Rapporteur to call on the Philippine government to fully disclose all information regarding Roxas’ case, cooperate with investigations, pursue charges against those responsible for her abduction and torture, and extend an invitation to the Rapporteur to conduct a visit to the Philippines to investigate the human rights situation.
In May 2009, while doing community health work in the Philippines, Roxas became the first American citizen under the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration to be abducted and tortured by members of the Philippine military. When she surfaced six days later, Roxas became one of only a handful of survivors who lived to recount her ordeal. Human rights defenders and survivors of human rights violations from different countries will join Roxas for a special press conference to shed light on the continuing impunity in the Philippines and hope for justice for all victims of torture and disappearance worldwide.
Today, Melissa will be speaking at a Congressional Briefing on torture in Washington, D.C entitled, “Developing U.S. Responses to Countries that Torture: Survivor Witnesses from Four Continents.” This briefing is one of the activities of a week-long conference of the Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition (TASSC).
Hundreds of Supporters Worldwide Offer Open Letter to Demand Justice for Melissa Roxas, Marking May 25th a Day of Survival
May 25th, 2011
Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign
To mark the 2nd year anniversary of Melissa Roxas’s survival of enforced disappearance and torture and the international campaign to surface Melissa, hundreds of supporters have signed on to an open letter addressing Philippine President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines.
Two years ago, an international campaign was launched to demand the immediate release of American citizen Melissa Roxas and her two colleagues, who were abducted by the military while doing community health work in Tarlac, Philippines. Because of this worldwide outcry, Roxas was returned to her family that same day. Upon Roxas’ release, it was confirmed that she was a survivor of both abduction and torture.
To this day, Roxas and her two colleagues are just a handful of living witnesses to the government-sponsored enforced disappearances and torture that continues with impunity today in the Philippines. To this day, the perpetrators responsible for this ordeal remain at large, abetted by government cover-ups by officials such as Etta Rosales of the Commission on Human Rights. More importantly, two years later, international protests, petitions and prayers continue for Melissa Roxas and all those who have suffered human rights violations at the hands of the Philippine government. “We will never forget that day in late May, two years ago, when we launched the campaign to surface Melissa Roxas and her two companions. We needed an international campaign to search for Melissa and her colleagues then, and we know we need to continue our international campaign today to seek justice for what was done to Melissa and the thousands of other victims of human rights abuses by the Philippine military,” said Rhonda Ramiro of the Justice for Melissa Campaign.
Since May 19, 2011, supporters of the Justice for Melissa Campaign have been holding solidarity gatherings and protests commemorating the 6 days Melissa Roxas was held incommunicado by the Philippine military. Nationwide, BAYAN USA, a convener of the Justice for Melissa Campaign, led community gatherings and protests to demand justice for Melissa Roxas. Youth, artists, friends of Roxas and community leaders created a special two-year anniversary video in Los Angeles which debuted during an intimate gathering on May 19, 2011 at Rosewood United Methodist Church to break bread and provide bolstering support for Melissa on a day now marked as a day of survival.
May 20th, 2011
May 19th, 2011