BAYAN Philippines

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today slammed the Commission on Human Rights resolution on the case of the abduction and torture of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas. The group said that the report “practically clears the AFP of any wrongdoing”.

“We are very disappointed with the report. This seems to be a departure from the investigation initiated by the former CHR chair. The resolution says that there is insufficient evidence to lay responsibility for Melissa’s abduction and torture on the AFP. This is despite Melissa’s credible and detailed testimony,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The resolution is an embarrassment for the CHR. It’s also a great injustice after Melissa fully cooperated with the probe of the Commission. This tends to discourage victims seeking the CHR’s help,” he added.

Roxas, a member of BAYAN’s United States chapter, was abducted in La Paz, Tarlac on May 19, 2009 along with John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo. She was held for several days and subjected to various forms of torture on allegations that she’s a member of the New People’s Army.

In its findings, the CHR said that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim of torture because there was not enough evidence to determine the identities of the abductors. The CHR says torture includes the elements of State party and agents.

“In the light of the lack of evidence against the persons who inflicted the physical and psychological maltreatment on the complainant, it is not possible for the Commission to reach any findings on torture, the definition of which includes elements of State party or agent and certain intentions, purposes and motivations,” the CHR resolution said.

“There is, however enough evidence to find that complainant has suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment by persons unknown,” the CHR added.

Insufficient evidence against AFP

“As regards the complainant’s belief and allegations that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines forcibly took Melissa Roxas and companions from Mr. Paulo’s house in Tarlac on May 19, held her in captivity and subjected her to physical and mental maltreatment: there is insufficient evidence to support this conclusion, and insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probable perpetrators,”

“The CHR has received information that indicates the possibility that members of the NPA committed the kidnapping and other human rights violations on Roxas et al. These sources have been found to be credible. However, no specific names of individuals have been provided to the CHR, thus the Commission, with its limited resources, is unable to further follow up and identify specific persons as the possible perpetrators,” the report said.

The report also said that “given the findings that present strong indication of involvement of the members of the New People’s Army as the perpetrators of the human rights violations against the complainant, there is a need to remind the parties of …the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” which was signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Bayan decried as “gratuitous, illogical and unsubstantiated” the CHR’s statement that sources pointing the NPA’s involvement were “credible”. The group questioned the basis of how the CHR came to the conclusion that the “findings present strong indication of the involvement of the NPA.”

“The CHR practically clears the AFP and misleads the public to believe the NPA abducted Melissa, without even presenting a shred of evidence and with total disregard for the detailed testimony of the victim. Nowhere in the report does it offer any detail, let alone motive, for the NPA to abduct Melissa,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that the line of questioning by Melissa’s captors during her detention and torture make it “illogical” to pin the blame on the NPA. The umbrella group said that the line of questioning, as detailed in Roxas affidavit, was consistent with how the military interogates activists suspected of being NPA members.

“During detention, accordng to her testimony, Melissa was forced to sign a document saying she’s NPA and was repeatedly asked to return to the fold of the law. She was asked how she got involved in Bayan USA and was lectured on anti-communism and religion. She was told she was in the “order of battle”. She was only released when she played along with her captors’ demand that she will reform. Is this the work of the NPA? It simply defies logic. What is the motive of the NPA for abducting her? Why does the CHR give this theory any credibility?” Reyes asked.

In her testimony, Roxas said she got a glimpse of men wearing fatigue uniform, heard gunfire as if in a firing range, and heard the sound of aircraft as if near an airport or landing strip. She also said she was confined in a facility that appeared to be a barracks that had iron bars.

“Isn’t it the AFP who has the motive for abducting Melissa, because of her leftist involvement? Why was Melissa’s detailed account of her interogation simply disregarded? Why not pursue the investigation as to theinvolvement of the AFP instead of clearing them,” Reyes said.

“The CHR makes a big deal about so-called non-state actors involved in Melissa’s abduction yet offers not a shred of evidence. After practically clearing the AFP, the CHR then says it cannot determine the identities of the abductors because it has neither manpower nor resources,” he added.

Bayan said that the AFP alibi that human rights violations against leftists were the handiwork of the NPA has already been discredited years ago.

“The line that the NPA did the human rights violations against leftist activists has long been discredited. It was rejected by the Melo Commission and by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston. It is a surprise then that the CHR again resurrects this worn out and discredited line. It’s an injustice to Melissa and other victims of torture who are unable to identify their torturers hidden in the shadows,” Reyes said.