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.