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CPP denounces cover-up of Melissa Roxas torture by Philippine military

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) denounced the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) for covering up the Armed Forces of the Philippines' (AFP) responsibility for the abduction and torture in 2009 of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas and her two companions, and implying that the crime was carried out by the New People's Army (NPA). The CPP flatly dismissed claims by the military and the CHR that the NPA is responsible for their illegal arrest and torture.
The CHR has done "a big favor to Gen. Jovito Palparan, who commanded the 7th ID from 2005 to 2008 and led it on a rampage of human rights abuses in the provinces of Nueva Ecija, Bulacan, Pampanga, Bataan and Zambales," said the CPP. "Ms. Roxas was arrested and subjected to torture by the very people who carried out the arrest and torture of scores of other victims."

Although no longer in command of the 7th ID at that time, Palparan had left behind a legacy of extrajudicial killings, involuntary disappearance, torture and other forms of terror that his successors have zealously continued. Palparan who became a partylist representative in Congress along with his fellow rabid anti-communist Pastor "Jun" Alcover ironically sought to undermine Roxas' credibility by accusing her of being an NPA member herself during a congressional hearing on Roxas' abduction and torture.

Melissa Roxas was illegally arrested together with John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo in La Paz, Tarlac on 19 May 2009, and subjected to physical torture for six days in a military camp.

Among the other victims of the 7th ID are brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo, UP students Karen Empeņo and Sherlynn Cadapan, peasant organizer Jonas Burgos, and union leader Rogelio Concepcion. With the exception of the Manalo brothers who were able to escape after undergoing
unimaginable torture, the rest remain missing to this day.

The CPP said "the CHR completely ignored the glaring fact that Ms. Roxas and her companions were subjected to the type of torture routine that was being perpetrated by the forces of the 7th ID against people it accused of being members or supporters of the New People's Army (NPA)."

"The 7th ID built a dungeon within Fort Magsaysay that served as a torture chamber where they carried out water boarding, electrocution and other forms of physical abuse against its detainees. Detainees were denied sleep and subjected to various forms of mental torture. Many were eventually executed and their remains thereafter burned."

"The CHR has done Melissa Roxas and her companions a grave injustice," said the CPP. "Showing very little sympathy for her plight, it proceeded to insult the Filipino people by supporting the military's claim that the detention and torture of Roxas was 'possibly' carried out by the NPA, even if this was based on unnamed sources deemed 'credible' by the CHR."


BAYAN-USA: CHR Resolution Protects Torturers, Torments Victims

"This is a cover-up," stated BAYAN-USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin in response to the release of a Resolution by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines (CHR) on the case of the abduction and torture of Filipino American Melissa Roxas on May 19, 2009. The result of an investigation begun on the 25th of May 2009, the CHR's report cites copious evidence gathered through public inquiries, expert witnesses, inspections of the abduction site and military facilities where Roxas was possibly held, and sworn statements by Roxas herself, yet concludes that "In 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" in Roxas' case.

"With this single report, the CHR has virtually erased any progress made in its 1-1/2 year investigation into this case by the previous CHR chair. It appears that now the CHR is more concerned with covering up the crimes of the Philippine military than with uncovering the truth about human rights violations in the country," said Ellorin.

The first American citizen to be abducted and tortured under the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Roxas is a well-known Filipino American human rights advocate and was BAYAN-USA's first Regional Coordinator in Los Angeles, CA and a founding member of the Los Angeles-based cultural organization Habi Arts. In her sworn affidavit and testimony provided in several court appearances and CHR Public Inquiries in 2009, Roxas described in detail the ordeal she experienced at the hands of the Philippine military: being abducted by approximately 15 armed men, handcuffed and blindfolded for six days, held in a jail cell, subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings to the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators, who tried to force her to admit that she was a member of the New People's Army and advised her abandon communism and to "return to the fold." Roxas said that one interrogator stated those who tortured her were from the Special Operations Group (SOG), and she heard one of her interrogators addressed as "Sir." She also heard gunfire from what she believed to be a firing range as well as the sounds of aircraft, pointing to the high probability that she was held in a military camp.

By its own admission, the CHR report states that Roxas provided exceptionally consistent and detailed descriptions of the torture she underwent, the place she was held, and the physical appearance of five people involved in her abduction and detention, indicating that Roxas' testimony is extremely credible. However, the CHR report still concludes that it has "insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probably perpetrators."

Moreover, the CHR report dares to shift the blame from the Philippine military to the New People's Army (NPA). "The CHR has received information that indicate the possibility that members of the NPA committed the kidnapping, and other human rights violations on Roxas," states the resolution on page 20. In response, Ellorin said, "By making such blanket accusations without providing a speck of evidence, the CHR under President Aquino is showing that it is no different from the Philippine Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) under Arroyo, which tried to dismiss Melissa's traumatic ordeal by saying that it was fabricated. Falling for information like this is laughable, especially considering that Melissa's captors tried to force her to admit she was an NPA member. Even worse, the CHR resolution opportunistically supports the Aquino government's counter-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, which is attempting to demonize the NPA while duping the public into believing that the AFP is a peace-making force."

International human rights advocates such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings have repeatedly criticized the Philippine government's cover-up of state-sponsored torture. "This CHR resolution perpetuates the culture of impunity that reigns in the Philippines. There is still no justice for the innocent women and journalists slaughtered in the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009, not one perpetrator has been apprehended in the cases of thousands of cases of extra-judicial killings, nor the abduction and torture of people like Melissa Roxas and the Morong 43 health workers," said Ellorin.

"The CHR resolution will just add fuel to the fire of the Justice for Melissa campaign," continued Ellorin. "While the CHR under Aquino lacks the political will to uphold human rights, BAYAN-USA and Melissa's supporters will persist in pursuing justice for Melissa through all vehicles available to us in the U.S."

The timing of the release of the CHR Resolution comes as the U.S. Congress enters the final weeks of a contentious budget battle, expected by both Democrats and Republicans to result in hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to essential public services. BAYAN-USA calls on the U.S. Congress and Obama administration to stop pouring millions of American taxpayer dollars into the Philippine military, which tortures and kills innocent people under the tacit protection of the so-called Commission on Human Rights.

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of 14 progressive Filipino American organizations in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.