Contact: Yoko Liriano
NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP)
Email: nychrp@gmail.com

NEW YORK–The first US citizen under the Obama administration to be subjected to abduction and torture in the Philippines will be speaking in Manhattan this weekend to tell her story and help raise funds for and awareness on the plight of victims of gross human rights abuses under the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Melissa Roxas, 32, of Los Angeles, is headlining Pagpupugay 2, the second annual tribute to anti-martial law activists and human rights defenders sponsored by the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP) this Saturday, January 30th, 1 PM at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Labor Center, located at 310 West 43rd Street between 8th and 9th Avenues in midtown Manhattan.

The location also serves as the headquarters of SEIU/Local 1199 United Healthworkers East, the largest local union in the United States and official co-sponsor of the event.

“Melissa is a hero. We draw inspiration from her strength and courage to speak the truth about what is happening in the Philippines, even if it entails relentless McCarthyist red-baiting attacks against her character launched by those seeking to cover it up,” states NYCHRP member Gary Labao.

Roxas, who has filed official complaints with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and US State Department, will join Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Chairperson of Karapatan, the largest human rights organization in the Philippines at this year’s Pagpupugay. After surfacing in Quezon City following six days of forced captivity and subjugation to physical and psychological torture by her captors last May, Roxas, who still suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, was able to receive the physical and psychological help she needed with Karapatan’s assistance.

“I am grateful to Karapatan for not only helping me, but for helping thousands of others in the Philippines who have suffered the brunt of the Arroyo government’s military counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya 2 (OBL2).” Roxas, a founding member of the national Filipino-American alliance, BAYAN USA, shared. “My story is not mine alone, it is shared by countless others and with loved ones of those who have been killed or have never been found.”

Various international bodies, including the United Nations, have denounced OBL2 and supported Karapatan’s demand for its withdrawal on the basis that it has led to the perpetration of an acute human rights crisis in the Philippines that in many ways has surpassed the atrocities committed under the Marcos dictatorship.

In his 2007 report on the Philippines, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston pointed to the culpability of the Philippine military in committing a range of human rights abuses against unarmed civilians, including politically-motivated killings, abductions, torture, and forced displacement.

Shortly after his celebrated inauguration last year, President Barack Obama publicly pledged continued support to the Arroyo government and its military, including financial support and the deployment of more US troops to train Philippine military in counter-insurgency operations.

This year’s Pagpupugay 2 will also be a benefit fundraiser for Karapatan. For more information or to RSVP to this event, email nychrp@gmail.com.