February 3, 2010
Reference: Yoko Liriano, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines
(NYCHRP), email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In NYC, Roxas & Enriquez Address Worsening Human Rights Crisis in the
NEW YORK-- Approximately 100 concerned New Yorkers gathered at the Martin
King Jr. Labor Center this past Saturday to listen to Melissa Roxas, the
US citizen under the Obama administration to be subjected to a gross human
rights violation in the Philippines, and veteran Philippine human rights
activist Marie Hilao-Enriquez, speak about the worsening human rights
in the Philippines under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
Both Roxas and Enriquez were guest speakers at the second annual
(Tribute), an event honoring anti-martial law activists and human rights
defenders sponsored by the New York Committee for Human Rights in the
Philippines (NYCHRP). This year's event was also co-sponsored by SEIU/Local
United Healthworkers East.
Still fighting back tears, Roxas shared her story of abduction at gunpoint
followed by six days of torture before surfacing in Quezon City last May
while conducting community surveys in preparation for a volunteer medical
mission in a rural town in La Paz, Tarlac.
Roxas, who is based in Los Angeles, is a founding member of the national
Filipino-American alliance known as BAYAN USA.
"It is very hard for survivors to speak out in the Philippines because
still harassed and threatened by the Philippine military and police and
threatened with death and harm to themselves and their families," Roxas
explained. "Torture survivors, like myself, also find it very hard because
time I talk about the experience its like re-living it again. But because
more have been silenced and because one the main objectives of torture is
silence and create fear, and to debilitate people, it is important to
Roxas pointed directly to the culpability of the 7th Infantry Division of
Armed Forces of the Philippines in perpetrating the abduction and torture.
year, the Philippine Supreme Court granted a writ of amparo (protection)
Roxas and validated her claim of abduction and torture, despite attacks
former military generals that Roxas' ordeal was "stage-managed". However,
same high court ruling denied the request for an investigation of Fort
Magsaysay, the alleged military camp where Roxas was detained.
International human rights lawyer Leonard Weinglass, a member of Roxas'
team, presented on Roxas' pursuit of justice in the international courts,
complaints with the US State Department and United Nations last year.
Enriquez, Chairperson of the Philippine national human rights organization
Karapatan, presented Karapatan's most current human rights report which
identifies the Arroyo government's national counter-insurgency program,
Bantay Laya (OBL), as the framework for a "reign of terror" in the
"Oplan Bantay Laya is by far the bloodiest and most brutal
campaign unleashed on the Filipino people by any Philippine president,"
According to Karapatan, OBL's objective of annihilating the ongoing armed
insurgency in the Philippine countryside is being pursued by targeting
aboveground civilians critical of the policies of the Arroyo government.
has resulted in the politically-motivated killings of over 1000 government
critics since Arroyo assumed power in 2001.
"The three tiers of opposition to the Philippine government-- the armed
rebellion in the countryside, the unarmed civil society groups, and the
progressive block in the Philippine Congress-- are all lumped into one
for Philippine state security forces to go after," Enriquez explained.
Enriquez also reported that extrajudicial killings in 2009 surpassed the
previous annual totals since the Arroyo government assumed power in 2001
especially to the shocking, "unparalleled" massacre in Ampatuan,
which claimed 58 lives last November 23rd.
Funding State Terrorism in the Philippines
Both Roxas and Enriquez addressed the role of US military aid to the
in funding Philippine counter-insurgency operations, such as Oplan Bantay
"It is disturbing to me that the White House has been quiet about the
rights situation in the Philippines," Roxas stated. "And Mrs. Clinton's
visit to the Philippines did not really address the current human rights
violation and instead she expressed her solid support for the Philippine
government and the military."
Both made strong statements for the cutting of further US military aid to
Arroyo government for its ties to the Philippine military's perpetration
gross human rights violations, as examined in a 2007 US Senate hearing on
"For us who live here in the United States, the issue of torture and our
government's involvement in torture, whether directly in places like
or indirectly through the funding and training of the military in
are guilty of human rights violations, like the Philippines, is a reality
no longer continue to deny, be ignorant, and choose to be indifferent,"
While in New York City, NYCHRP arranged for Roxas and Enriquez to meet
several human rights lawyers as well as a courtesy visit to the office of
Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, who
on the Philippine military's involvement in human rights violations when
visited the country back in 2007.
The local human rights advocacy organization also promoted an
election-monitoring mission to the Philippines this May 2010 known as the
People's International Observers Mission. For more information, email