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Fil-Am activist bares ordeal
In The Press Posted on July 28th, 2009.
The alleged abduction and torture of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas by the military calls for the immediate passage of the anti-torture bill pending in both chambers of Congress, House legislators said Wednesday.
They came out with the proposal after they heard the testimony of Roxas before the House Committee on Human Rights, chaired by Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tañada III. During the hearing, Roxas broke into tears several times while reading her statement in which she narrated her ordeal in the hands of her abductors.
Roxas, who was forcibly taken by armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19 and surfaced six days later, said that she was subjected to physical and mental torture during her captivity.
She came back to the Philippines last July 20, to attend the hearings on her writ of amparo and writ of habeas data petitions before the Court of Appeals and before the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).
“For six days in captivity, my captors tried to force me to admit that I’m a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), accused me of being a member of the NPA and told me that it was ‘people like me’ who are the ones who are making it difficult for the government,” Roxas said.
Roxas, who is in the custody of the CHR, maintained that members of the Philippine military were the ones who abducted and tortured her and that she is in pursuit of justice not only for herself but also for all others who are still missing and who been tortured by state security forces.
“There are still families looking for their loved ones, and many more still missing. I hope that this august body will also look into the cases of those others still missing and those who have been killed,” she said.
Tañada praised Roxas for showing “amazing strength” and for being able to appear before his committee to answer questions from lawmakers.
“Melissa Roxas is a very brave lady. I had reservations before if we should continue with this hearing because I know that she has been asked repeatedly to narrate about her case during the CHR and CA hearings,” Tañada said.
“Her abduction highlighted the need for an anti-torture law to be passed immediately in the country,” he said.
Besides Tañada, also present during the hearing were Reps. Edcel Lagman (Albay), Satur Ocampo (Bayan Muna), Liza Maza (Gabriela), Roman Romulo (Pasig City), Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa City), Neri Javier Colmenares (Bayan Muna), Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis), Raymond Palatino (Kabataan) and Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan).
The lawmakers expressed hopes that after the hearing, the anti-torture bill, which is being scheduled for a bicameral conference, will be signed into law immediately by the President once it reaches Malacañang.
“This will be the greatest proof that the government is sincere in protecting and upholding Human Rights in the country,” said Tañada
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that it is building a case against Fil-American activist Melissa Roxas for being an alleged member of the NPA.
Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., AFP Public Information Office chief and spokesman, said in a press conference that witnesses are ready to come out in the open to prove the claim that Roxas is an NPA member.
He added that Roxas has participated in some of the communist guerrillas operations in the past.
“After party-list Representatives Jovito Palparan and Pastor Alcover presented pictures and a video CD showing Roxas training in an NPA camp in Aurora province, may mga lumabas na mga tao na pwede magpatunay na talagang member siya ng CPP-NPA. According also to the evidence, 2006 pa nagsimulang sumama siya sa mga training ng CPP-NPA. With the evidence at hand and the testimonies of the witnesses, we are now building our case against her,” Brawner told reporters at the Fernandina Forum at the Club Filipino in San Juan City.
When asked if Roxas has denied the claim, Brawner said, “She (Roxas) has not yet come out in the open. She has not yet refuted these claims. Only her lawyer has so far stated that her client is not a member of the CPP-NPA.”
Palparan of the Bantay partylist and Alcover of the Alliance for Nationalism and Democracy partylist claimed in a recent press conference that they received a letter in the first week of July, allegedly from a female NPA guerrilla who wanted out of the organization, that said Roxas was a communist guerrilla.
The letter alleged that Roxas, also known as “Ka Aya” was training as an NPA member in Aurora province but wanted to quit because she was reportedly not accustomed to hardships in the mountains.
Alcover said that aside from a letter, a photo showing Roxas holding firearms at an NPA training camp and a video CD of the training exercises, were also sent to them.
Brawner, during the press conference, also said that Roxas’ earlier claim that she was abducted and tortured while held for six days in an alleged military camp is not true.
“That’s not true. That claim is baseless,” he said.
Roxas, who is a United States citizen and human rights advocate of Filipino descent, earlier alleged that she was abducted and tortured in the Philippines from May 19-25 in a military camp.
In a sworn affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, Roxas described being abducted at gunpoint by several heavily armed men, brought to what she believed is a military camp, held against her will, questioned without the presence of an attorney, beaten repeatedly, and asphyxiated using plastic bags before being released.