Monday, July 27, 2009

Philippine government soldiers ‘abducted, tortured’ Filipino-American activist

MANILA — Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas and her two companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Jandoc were abducted and tortured by state security agents.

The three were forcibly taken by armed men wearing bonnets on May 19 while conducting an initial survey for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac. Roxas was surfaced six days later; Carabeo has also been released. But Jandoc (not Handoc as earlier reported) remains missing to this day, human-rights group Karapatan said in a press conference this morning.

Fearing for her own safety and those of her relatives here in the Philippines, Roxas, through Karapatan legal counsel Rex Fernandez, filed a petition for writ of amparo [1] before the Supreme Court yesterday. Roxas went back to the United States Sunday evening.

In her affidavit, Roxas recounts in detail the six days that she was in captivity. The interrogation and torture that she was subjected to point to the military as the perpetrators.

“It is beyond doubt that it is the military who took us,” Marie Hilao Enriquez, Karapatan secretary-general, quoted Roxas as saying. Roxas has given Enriquez a special power of attorney to act and speak on her behalf.
The Abduction

Roxas, an American citizen, applied for an exposure program in the Philippines as part of her involvement with Habi Arts, a cultural group in Los Angeles where she was also a member of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan)-USA. In April, she was endorsed to Bayan’s chapter in Tarlac, a province north of Manila.

Karapatan’ Marie Hilao-Enriquez (left) and Aya Santos, deputy secretary-general of Desaparecidos: Military must be held accountable. (Photo by Ronalyn Olea /

At around 1:30 p.m. of May 19, Roxas and her two companions were resting inside a house in Kapanikian, watching television, when they heard a banging on the door and a voice asking the door to be opened.

“I immediately went to see what was going on and found about 15 men in civilian clothes armed with high-powered rifles and wearing ski masks or bonnets surrounding the house and, in a little while, the door was forcibly opened and armed men swarmed into the house… and ordered us to drop face flat on the ground,” Roxas says in an affidavit distributed during the press conference Tuesday.

Roxas did not obey the order and one of the men held her head and pushed her on the ground. She started to shout her name repeatedly. She was punched repeatedly on her rib cage. She and her two companions were forced inside a blue van parked 15 meters from the house.

They left and traveled for more than an hour.
Fort Magsaysay

Enriquez said that based on Roxas’s descriptions of the place of their detention, the three were taken to Fort Ramon Magsaysay, an army camp in Laur, Nueva Ecija.

La Paz is about 144.6 kilometers from Manila, bounded on the east by the province of Nueva Ecija. Fort Magsaysay is the largest military camp of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and is about 150 kilometers from Manila. It is home to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division,

“Her descriptions of the place were similar to Raymond Manalo’s,” said Enriquez.

Raymond and his brother Reynaldo Manalo were farmers who were abducted by elements of the 7th ID on Feb. 14, 2006. In his affidavit, Raymond said they were taken to Fort Magsaysay, among other military camps and safe houses during their 18 months of captivity. After their escape, Raymond also filed a petition for writ of amparo, which the Supreme Court granted in October 2007.

“I heard construction activities… and I also heard gunfire as though in a firing range and planes taking off and landing and it was loud and I could also hear goats bleating,” Roxas states in her affidavit. Fort Magsaysay has an airstrip.
Interrogation and Torture

Blindfolded and handcuffed, Roxas was interrogated for five days.

Roxas was told by her captors that she was abducted because she was a member of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA), which has been fighting a Maoist war for more than three decades now. She was repeatedly asked about her involvement with Bayan and about the people she was working with.

“I was having a streaming thought that I was going to die there and then, then, they held my feet and my hands down and doubled-up plastic bags were pulled down on my head and face and closed on my neck and I started to suffocate and I could not breathe anymore and I was seeing white and thinking I was going to die and then he released the hold and I could breathe but I was faint and weak…” Melissa recounts.

Dr. Reginaldo Pamugas, a physician and secretary-general of the Health Action for Human Rights, examined Roxas on May 26. He described this form of torture as “dry submarino.”

This form of torture was also used against Berlin Guerrero [3], a pastor of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines who was abducted and tortured in 2007 and was freed more than a year later. Guerrero maintained that military agents were behind his abduction.

On May 25, Roxas was dropped off near the house of her uncle in Quezon City. Her captors left her with a SIM card and a cellphone as well as the handcuffs they had used on her. Roxas was also warned against talking to Karapatan.

One of her captors who introduced himself as RC also told her that they would be monitoring all her activities and something bad would happen if she would not cooperate. From the day of her release, RC was calling Roxas through the phone, warning her against taking any actions.

Pamugas, the physician, said Roxas sustained abrasions on wrists due to handcuffs. The medical certificate prepared by Pamugas also indicates abrasions on Roxas’s knees.

But more than the physical torture, Pamugas said Roxas would have to deal longer with the psychological toll of her ordeal. “She is suffering from acute stress disorder caused by the trauma,” Pamugas said during the press conference.

“She had difficulty falling into and maintaining sleep; was afraid to go out of her room and would not want to be alone. She had intrusive thoughts and was re-experiencing her trauma,” Pamugas said. The doctor also noted the victim’s “hyper-vigilance.” “She gets startled even by the slightest sound.”
Justice, Not Cover-Up

“The Arroyo government must answer for the abduction and torture of Melissa and her companions by punishing security forces who have perpetrated this dastardly act,” said Lorena Santos, deputy secretary-general of Desaparecidos, an organization of families of victims of so-called enforced disappearances.

Desaparecidos said there have been 201 victims of enforced disappearances since 2001 up to the first quarter of this yea. Abductions, torture and extrajudicial killings have been attributed to the counter-insurgency program of the government Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL-Operation Freedom Watch) of the military.

Respondents to the writ of amparo filed by Roxas include President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, AFP Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police Director Gen. Jesus Versoza and Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, commanding general of the Philippine Army.

Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes Jr. criticized the Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC), which is chaired by executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, for claiming that Karapatan and Bayan fabricated the abduction of Roxas, Carabeo and Jandoc.

In its statement last week, the PHRC said there were no reports to the local authorities about the abduction of the three. But Karapatan’s Enriquez furnished the media a copy of the La Paz police report on the incident. The police report was also attached to Roxas’s petition for writ of amparo.

Reyes slammed the apparent attempts of the Arroyo government to cover up the case of Roxas, Carabeo and Jandoc. “We will not allow this case to be just a part of the statistics of abduction and torture.
Continuing Campaign

Reyes said Roxas also reported the incident to the US Embassy in Manila. “The US government must seriously reconsider providing military aid to the Philippine government especially in the light of the abduction of an American citizen by state security agents here in the Philippines,” Reyes said.

Enriquez also said they will continue to search for Jandoc and press charges against their abductors. ( [4]

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URLs in this post:

[1] writ of amparo:

[2] Read Melissa Roxas’s affidavit, her petition for writ of amparo and other related documents:

[3] Berlin Guerrero:

[4] (

Article From: International League of People's Struggles

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