For Immediate Release
May 19, 2014
-New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), firstname.lastname@example.org
-Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (PCHRP), email@example.com
-San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SFCHRP), firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 19, 2014, human rights organizations and their supporters will embark on a Week of Action to reignite the mission to bring justice to the case of Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American activist and health worker who was abducted and tortured for six days by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in 2009. The Week of Action is led by BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino organizations. Human rights groups all over the U.S. who are participating include the New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Portland Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (PCHRP), and San Francisco Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (SFCHRP).
Roxas, a founding member of BAYAN-USA, was abducted and tortured for six days by elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. After vehement activism by fellow members of BAYAN-USA and their international allies to bring attention to her disappearance, she was resurfaced. Since her resurfacing, Roxas has engaged in a relentless campaign to hold her abductors accountable.
“There is a bigger systematic picture that caused Melissa’s abduction and torture,” says Rachel-Lynne Canero of SFCHRP. “On this fifth anniversary of Melissa’s abduction, we want to call attention to the connection between U.S. militarism and human rights violations in the Philippines.”
According to the War Resisters League, 45% of the U.S. Federal Budget for the 2015 Fiscal Year is set aside for military spending. At the same time, the U.S. military is gearing up to “pivot” 60% of its forces to the Asia Pacific region by 2020. The U.S. government is also leading a large-scale free-trade agreement, called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, that many human rights, environmental justice, and fair-trade activists have nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids” and which they anticipate will cause violations of developing countries’ sovereignty at the expense of corporate interests.
In the Philippines this year alone, 21 cases of extrajudicial killings have occurred under the B.S. Aquino regime with the total rising now to 192 “unsolved” cases. Recent agreements between the US and Philippine governments has increasedUS military aid and military presence through the signing ofEnhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. Increases in military presence have a direct correlation to increases inhuman rights violations across the board.
During the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regime, the most extra-judicial killings had occurred with a total of 220 victims along within 2006 alone. In 2007, with international outcry supported by aUN report on extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, the U.S. restricted $2 million of the $33 million dollars in U.S. military aid to the Philippines to apply pressure on the government to actively investigate and prosecute these cases; it was raised to a$3 million restriction in 2010 due to the lack of response from the government.
“We must continue to apply pressure on both the U.S. and Philippine governments to uphold these stipulations. The Philippine government has yet to prosecute the perpetrators of thousands of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances and the U.S. contributes a hefty amount of military aid to the Philippines despite this,” says Justin Katigbak of PCHRP. “Currently, the U.S. contributes $50 million to the Philippines in military aid each year. Aquino and Obama’s recent signing of the EDCA is a hypocritical stance given their public posturing that they would defend genuine freedom, democracy, and human rights in the Philippines and around the world.”
Jackelyn Mariano of NYCHRP was critical of U.S. involvement in human rights violations overseas. “It is important that human rights defenders stand up to support Melissa’s case because our U.S. tax dollars and military positioning under the pretext of mutual defense and humanitarian support directly enable the AFP to carry out brutal attacks on people fighting to change their communities for the better. These funds should instead be channelled towards social services such as education, healthcare and welfare benefits for the working people of the U.S. and be used for relief and rehabilitation for communities destroyed by Super Typhoon Haiyan.”
“We as human rights defenders have stood in solidarity with Melissa as she continues to speak about her case because it reflects the suffering of countless other victims of enforced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and other human rights atrocities,” says Jenab-i Pareja of NYCHRP. “As U.S.-based human rights activists, we see a clear connection between the irresponsible spending of U.S. tax dollars on militarization in the Philippines at the expense of the rights and welfare of marginalized communities there and at home.”
Melissa has testified in front of Philippine courts and filed complaints with both the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, but to no avail. To commemorate the fifth anniversary of her abduction, Melissa has published a public letter to U.S. President Barack Obama in which she pressures the president to prioritize the prosecution of human rights violators and calls for the total pull out of U.S. troops from the Philippines. Human rights groups will hold various actions and events during the Week of Action, including:
May 20th teach-in @ 5:30pm
Portland State University
Multicultural Center SMSU 228
Los Angeles, CA
May 23rd Event @ 7pm
Justice for Melissa Cultural Solidarity Night
Echo Park United Methodist Church
1226 N. Alvarado Street, Los Angeles, CA 90026
New York, NY
May 26th Action @ 2pm
Protest Action in Union Square
14th Street and Broadway