People's SONA 2009 in New York:

Real-life "Sister Stella L" joins Filipino-Americans in NYC for the real-life SONA


July 28, 2009


Fil-AM torture victim Melissa Roxas testifies in Congress hearing, July 29  



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Photos courtesy of BAYAN - USA


News Release
July 28, 2009
Reference: Yves Nibungco, BAYAN USA, Northeast Regional Co-Coordinator, email:


New York, NY-- Nearly a day after watching Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's deliverance of the State of the Nation Address (SONA) in Manila, Filipinos in New York, unconvinced by Arroyo's speech, gathered for a in-door forum to discuss "the REAL State of the Nation Address" (SONA) at the BAYANIHAN Filipino Community Center followed by an outdoor march along Roosevelt Avenue in Woodside, Queens. Amongst the special guest speakers at the forum was none other than the real-life inspiration for the 1984 Filipino film "Sister Stella L" featuring actress Vilma Santos-- Mother Mary John Mananzan.


Aside from serving as the Chairperson for the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP), Mananzan has the distinguished title of Chairperson Emeritus of GABRIELA Philippines, the largest federation of women's organizations in the country working for fundamental economic and social reforms.

While in New York, Mananzan was happy to be joined by fellow members of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE), one of only a handful of Filipino women's organizations in the US that are also members of GABRIELA-USA.


At the forefront of the topics discussed was the case of Melissa Roxas, an US citizen abducted and tortured in the Philippines last May, and its implications of the overall human rights situation in the country. A presentation on the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign was delivered.

"If you say the Philippines is a country full of poverty, hunger, joblessness, and landlessness, then you already know more about the real state of the Philippines than Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," stated Bernadette Ellorin, Chair of BAYAN USA.

Also discussed were the concrete dangers to the Arroyo government's proposed changes to provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, more popularly referred to as Charter Change, or Cha-Cha, delivered by Rico Foz, Executive Vice President of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns or NAFCON.

The final presentation came from Mananzan, who spoke candidly of the actual social and political climate in the Philippines under Arroyo, with emphasis on gross cases of the Arroyo administration's corruption. She spoke of the billions of dollars being pocketed by a few rich, powerful families in the Philippines that could literally resolve the poverty epidemic in the country.

"I've never cursed in my life. Gloria is the first president to make me curse on stage," Mananzan quipped.
"And to think she is a woman! We should expel her from the womankind."

After a Q & A session with Mananzan, participants walked outside for a march with banners and signs reading "Justice for Melissa Roxas" and "No to Con-Ass/No to Cha-Cha" around the Filipino business district along Roosevelt Avenue.


Not too far away, a street theater play with "DeceptiCON-ASS" and "Filipinus Prime", a creative take on the popular Transformers movies, was taking place at nearby Krystal's Cafe.

After a scene in which Filipino Prime successfully beats DeceptiCON-ASS with the help of the marchers chanting "Cha-Cha na Gloria, Ibasura!" (Junk Gloria's Cha-Cha!) and "Justice for Melissa Roxas!", representatives from the Filipino community, including FiRE, GABRIELA USA, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), Anakbayan NY/NJ, SANDIWA National Filipino-American Youth Alliance, League of Filipino Students, NAFCON, and BAYAN USA, each spoke about why the Arroyo version of SONA is full of dishonesty and what the real situation in the Philippines is.


Ending the rally was a call to go to Washington DC for the upcoming meeting between President Barack Obama and Arroyo this Thursday. Several from the contingent agreed to travel to Washington DC to join in the activities scheduled there, including a prayer vigil in front of the White House.

It is expected that Arroyo making the trip to Washington DC with intentions to win Obama's support for Cha-Cha, as well as request for more economic aid for the Philippine government and military, including the long-term stationing of US troops throughout the Philippines and the re-establishment of permanent US military bases in the country.

Community members called on Obama to be remember his words spoken in his inaugural speech-- particularly about "those who cling to power through corruption and deceit, and the silencing of dissent..."-- by raising the issue of Melissa Roxas, the gross human rights track record of the Arroyo government, and the culpability of the Philippine military, with Arroyo herself. ###

New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines



Filipino Americans to President Obama: Ask Arroyo about Melissa Roxas and the thousands of victims of state-sponsored torture, abductions, and killings in the Philippines
July 25th, 2009

Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN-USA

Nationwide Actions Demand a Reversal of the Failed Bush-Arroyo Doctrine and Call for REAL Change in US Policy Toward the Philippines

During nationwide actions this week marking the annual “State of the Nation Address” in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA declared that it would demand accountability from the Philippine government for the illegal abduction and torture of American citizen Melissa Roxas and call on President Barack Obama to discuss the human rights crisis in the Philippines in his meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on July 30. Roxas, who is the first US citizen known to be tortured in the Philippines during the Obama administration, was abducted, held in captivity and tortured by alleged military agents in the Philippines from May 19-25, 2009.

The Arroyo-Obama meeting also coincides with a hearing of the Court of Appeals in the Philippines on Roxas’ case, at which Roxas will testify about the violent abduction and torture including repeated beatings and asphyxiation with plastic bags that she endured during her six days in captivity in what she believes was a military camp. The meeting of President Arroyo and President Obama also occurs as the US Senate and House deliberate over next year’s military aid package to the Philippines; the current year’s military aid package is $32 million. US military aid to the Philippine grew a staggering 1,500% during the Bush administration and is widely believed to have funded the Philippine military personnel that committed the human rights atrocities, which includes a body count of at least 1,013 people killed and 1,036 people tortured.

“Neglecting to question Arroyo about Melissa Roxas and the thousands of human rights violations being committed by the Philippine military makes the Obama administration complicit in the perpetration of these heinous crimes,” stated Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary General of BAYAN-USA. “Granting tens of millions of US tax dollars to the murderous Philippine military would make President Obama just as guilty as Bush in the continuing torture and murder of innocent people.”

BAYAN-USA and representatives of churches, community organizations, labor unions, and other concerned groups are appealing to President Obama to live up to his declarations of “change,” by asking President Arroyo what action she intends to take about the rampant human rights violations that continue to plague the Philippines. They are also calling on President Obama to specifically ask President Arroyo, as Commander in Chief, to ensure that the Philippine military cooperates with the investigation into Roxas’ case.

“On the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims, President Obama declared, ‘Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country and the fundamental values of our people. The US must stand against torture wherever it takes place.’ We are asking President Obama to live up to his words by taking a stand against the state-sanctioned torture used by the Philippine military against government critics,” said Ramiro.

During her meeting with President Obama, President Arroyo is expected to make a pitch for support of her proposed changes to the Philippine Constitution, known in the Philippines as “Charter Change.” Despite widespread popular opposition, President Arroyo has relentlessly campaigned for Charter Change for over two years, including during today’s State of the Nation Address. Charter Change would wipe out constitutional protections that protect Philippine sovereignty by allowing 100% foreign ownership of Philippine land and key industries, as well as open the door to a power extension for President Arroyo beyond the end of her term in 2010.

Recent polls show extremely low approval ratings of President Arroyo. Since Arroyo became president in 2001, the Philippines has experienced the longest period of sustained high unemployment in its history, at 11.2% or 10.8 million people unemployed and underemployed; a cumulative national government deficit of P1.29 trillion, which is triple the deficits of the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations combined; more human rights violations against innocent civilians than under any previous president including Ferdinand Marcos; and at least 16 documented government corruption scandals amounting to $430 million in kick-backs and pay-offs to government officials and relatives.

“If President Obama is serious about promoting peace and supporting lasting change in the Philippines, he should oppose Arroyo’s Charter Change,” stated Ramiro. “Charter Change would result in less security for Filipinos and Americans alike, because it would worsen poverty and pave the way for an Arroyo dictatorship.”

We want REAL CHANGE NOT Charter Change
We want HUMAN RIGHTS NOT Torture
We want DEMOCRACY NOT Dictatorship
We want SOVEREIGNTY NOT Foreign Rule
We want REAL SECURITY NOT State Terrorism
No US Military Aid for Torture, Abductions and Killings in the Philippines
Investigate the Abduction and Torture of Melissa Roxas

BAYAN-USA Actions being held in the U.S

New York
The Real State of the Nation: Community Forum, Play, and Action
Monday, July 27, 2009, 6:00 PM
Bayanihan Community Center
40-21 69th St.
New York, NY

San Francisco
Cha-Cha-Cha Change We Can Believe In: Action to Demand REAL Change and Justice for Melissa Roxas
Monday, July 27, 2009, 4:00 PM
Federal Building
Corner of Mission Street and 7th Street
San Francisco, CA

Los Angeles
Justice for Melissa Roxas and State of the Nation Action
Coincides with Melissa Roxas’ Writ of Amparo Hearing in the Philippines
Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 7:00 PM
In front of the Philippine Consulate
3600 Wilshire Blvd (between S Harvard Blvd and S Kingsley Dr)
Los Angeles, CA

Additional Actions being held in the US

San Francisco
Vigil for Human Rights in the Philippines
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 6:00 PM
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church
756 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
Sponsored by the USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network

Washington DC
Justice for Melissa Roxas Action and Prayer Vigil
Coincides with Meeting of President Barack Obama and President Gloria Arroyo
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 11:00 AM
Sponsored by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines
In front of the White House

Melissa Roxas testifies in Congress hearing, July 29, 2009

Committee on Human Rights, House of Representatives
July 29, 2009

Good morning, honorable members of the House of Representatives, friends and human rights advocates.

I am Melissa Roxas. Thank you for allowing me to come here today to tell you of my ordeal, which is also a story of many other Filipinos who were abducted and tortured by the military.

I am a member of Habi Arts, a Filipino cultural organization based in Los Angeles. I am also a member of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan - USA.

I came to the Philippines to learn more about my roots and heritage, to know more about the plight of the impoverished Filipino people and to conduct research for my writing projects. I volunteered with Bayan in the Philippines because I feel that I can achieve my objectives more meaningfully through Bayan’s work with the communities both in the urban and rural areas. To this end, I thought I can put to better use my background on community health.

I am a writer and a poet. I am also an activist.

I have reason to believe that the Philippine military were the ones who took me and my companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc, against our will on May 19. I have reason to believe that the military were the ones who handcuffed, blindfolded, beat me up, suffocated me and denied me of my rights. I have reason to believe that I was brought to a military camp for interrogation.

For six days in captivity, my captors tried to force me to admit that I'm a member of the New People's Army, 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.

Although I repeatedly invoked my right to see a lawyer, my abductors told me that I will not be able to see a lawyer and instead threatened that they can do all they wanted to do with me because they “got me clean.” They threatened me with death and accused me of so many things, especially that of being a member of the NPA. Because of the fear of more pain and I thought that dying came so slow, I told myself to just play along with whatever they tell me I am guilty of and to be back to the fold of the law, as what Dex told me their mission was.

Surprisingly, on May 25, I was released by my captors near my family’s house and instructed me to keep in touch with them; that they hope I do not harbor any ill-feelings against them because the ones who tortured me are from the “special operations group” and not from their group. I was so terrified and traumatized by this harrowing experience that as soon as I can get a flight to the US, I had to leave to reunite with my family. Although still very much afraid for my life and safety, I had to come back to testify before the Court of Appeals and other investigative bodies to obtain justice and tell the public what happened to me so that people would know and they will not allow this to happen to anyone again.

Now, other people are accusing me of being an NPA, forcing me to admit that I'm an NPA and insisting that I was abducted and tortured by the NPA.

I reiterate, I am an activist. I am not a member of the NPA.

And I have reason to believe that the Philippine military were the ones who abducted and tortured me, and held me captive for 6 days. I do not like to dignify the allegations being hurled at me now as they only echo what my abductors have been forcing me to admit during my interrogation and illegal, incommunicado detention. I have filed a petition for the writ of habeas data. I am asking the Supreme Court that all records pertaining to me including videos and photos, false and true, should be expunged and destroyed as they violate my right to privacy. I insist on that.

I can no longer count how many times I have narrated the incident and my ordeal. But I will not tire to tell the truth about what happened for I seek justice, not only for myself, but for others who have gone through the same. I seek justice, not only for what they did to me, but for other victims of human rights violations.

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. Thank you very much. #


Congresspersons in attendance:
Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III, Chairperson
Rep. Satur Ocampo, Deputy Minority Leader
Rep. Liza Maza, Assistant Minority Leader
Rep. Edcel Lagman (Albay)
Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares (Bayan Muna)
Rep. Roman Romulo (Pasig)
Rep. Ruffy Biazon (Muntinlupa)
Rep. Luz Ilagan,(Gabriela Womens Party)
Rep. Rafael Mariano (Anakpawis)
Rep.Raymond Palatino (Kabataan)
Rep. Risa Hontiveros (Akbayan)

Resource Persons

Ms. Melissa Roxas, BAYAN-USA, victim of abduction and torture
Atty. Rex J.M.A. Fernandez, Counsel for Melissa Roxas
Dr. Beng Reyes, attending doctor of Ms. Roxas
Dr. Reggie Pamugas, attending doctor of Ms. Roxas
Comm. Leila de Lima (Commission on Human Rights, Chair)
Comm. Coco Quisumbing (Commission on Human Rights)
Comm. Jose Mamauag (Commission on Human Rights)
Comm. Norberto dela Cruz (Commission on Human Rights)
Comm. Victoria Cardona (Commission on Human Rights)

Melissa, read the full statement above, breaking into tears many times. Ms. Roxas is in pursuit of justice not only for herself, but for all others who are still missing and who have been tortured by state security forces. She is in the custody of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

She was questioned by Reps. Lagman, Ocampo, Ilagan, Hontiveros as of this writing.

The House Committee on Human Rights held the motu propio hearing today in light of its work on the passage of the anti-torture bill and the ongoing hearings of the said Committee on the human rights violations across the country.

Roxas also said that cartographic sketches of some of her abductors and torturers have already been done and are in the custody of the CHR.

Melissa will appear before the Court of Appeals tomorrow for the hearing on her petition for a writ of amparo.

For photos, please credit to Vincent Borneo.
For your information and use.
Thank you.

Vincent Michael L. Borneo
Political Affairs Officer
(Media and Public Relations)
Office of Deputy Minority Leader
and BAYAN MUNA Rep. Satur C. Ocampo
Rm. 416, RVMitra Bldg.,
House of Representatives, Quezon City
Telefax no: 951-1057
Mobile: 09277968198



Photos courtesy of Vincent Borneo

Video  clips:







Press Release – 29 July 2009
Reference: Evangeline Hernandez, Hustisya! spokesperson
Mobile no. 09158562151

Relatives of rights violations condemn Palparan,
call for justice for Melissa

Relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance led by Hustisya! (Victims of Arroyo Regime United for Justice) and Desaparecidos, and human rights advocates of Karapatan, held a protest today at the Congress gates to condemn the machinations of Gen. Jovito Palparan, Jr. to discredit the trestimony of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas. The groups also call for justice for Melissa Roxas and show her their support at the hearing of the Congress Committee on Human Rights on Roxas' abduction and torture case.

Hustisya! convener and spokesperson Evangeline Hernandez said that Gen. Palparan and his minions in the Armed Forces should be held accountable for the numerous political killings and disappearances of activists and unarmed civilians in Southern and Central Luzon and Eastern Visayas while he was in command in these regions.

"The Butcher Palparan should be jailed for his hand in the killings and disappearance of scores of activists," Hernandez said.

The Supreme Court ruling dated December 26, 2007 has affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals on the participation of Gen. Palparan on the abduction and torture of brothers Raymond and Reynaldo Manalo. The Supreme Court declared, “Gen. Palparan’s participation in the abduction was also established. At the very least, he was aware of the petitioners’ captivity at the hands of men in uniform assigned to his command.” (G.R. No. 180906)


Hernandez also said that Palparan's and ANAD Partylist representative Pastor Alcover's allegations that abducted Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas is a member of the New People's Army, is nothing but a campaign to divert the media attention from Roxas' abduction and torture. This is also the same line that the military has been using to vilify their victims before they were killed or disappeared.

"Melissa Roxas was abducted and tortured. We believe that the military is behind this because her testimony is similar to the narration of other victim-survivors of abduction and torture by the military," Hernandez explained.

Hernandez also added that relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances shall help fight for justice for Melissa Roxas, and continue to fight for justice for their loved ones. "We shall troop inside the congress hearing and show our support to Melissa."

"We laud Ms. Roxas' strength and courage to recount her ordeal and for telling the world her story in spite of her fears and danger that she has to face," Hernandez said.##


Melissa Roxas Testifies in Congress: ‘I Will Not Tire to Tell the Truth’

“I have reason to believe that the Philippine military were the ones who abducted and tortured me, and held me captive for six days. I do not like to dignify the allegations being hurled at me now as they only echo what my abductors have been forcing me to admit during my interrogation and illegal, incommunicado detention.”



Video: CHR Hearing on Melissa Roxas Torture Turns Into a Witchhunt

In this video, former general Jovito Palparan and ANAD party list Rep. Pastor Alcover question the credibility and integrity of Commission on Human Rights chairman Leila de Lima, insinuating that de Lima is partisan because of her relationship with the wife of communist leader Jose Maria Sison. But de Lima refused to be cowed, asking Alcover if this is part his “psy-war.” Watch the video


In Outburst Vs Palparan, Torture Victim Vents Frustration Over Continuing Injustice

When Raymond Manalo suddenly stood up and shouted invectives at former general and now congressman Jovito Palparan during a hearing yesterday at the Commission on Human Rights, he was only venting his frustration that the man he had accused of abducting him and torturing him for 18 long months has not been punished.