Filipino-American Activist, 2 Others Abducted at Gunpoint in Tarlac

At least eight fully armed and hooded men believed to be members of the military abducted the three health workers at gunpoint and herded them into a van that had no license plates. This is the first time that a Filipino-American has fallen victim to what looks like another case of enforced disappearance.

UPDATE: Melissa Roxas “was surfaced” at 6:30 a.m. Monday, according to Bayan’s Renato Reyes Jr. She has been reunited with her family after five days in the hands of her captors, believed to be soldiers. Her two companions remain missing, however.

MANILA – A Filipino-American and two of her companions were abducted by eight armed and hooded men in a village in Tarlac province on May 19, the latest in a string of so-called enforced disappearances in the Philippines targeting mainly activists.

The Bayan Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) launched on Sunday a campaign to surface Melissa Roxas, an American citizen of Filipino descent, and two fellow volunteer health workers Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc.

Melissa Roxas (Photo courtesy of Bayan)

Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc were allegedly abducted in the afternoon of May 19 in sitio Bagong Sikat, barangay Kapanikian, La Paz town, in Tarlac, a province just north of Mnaila.

Bayan, in a press statement, said Karapatan, the human-rights group, had reported that the three were taken at gunpoint by eight men wearing bonnets over their heads. The men used two motorcycles and a Besta van without license plates – a common modus operandi in several other similar abductions in the Philippines.

“Since the abduction, there has been no word on the whereabouts and condition of Roxas and her companions,” Bayan said in its statement.

Renato Reyes Jr., Bayan’s secretary-general said it is “urgent that Melissa and her companions be surfaced. No harm must come to them. Their rights must be respected.”

Reyes said his group is “outraged that these abductions continue despite repeated condemnation here and abroad.”

He said Karapatan will be spearheading the search for Roxas and company. “The burden of surfacing Melissa, as in similar cases of abductions, now lies with the Arroyo administration. We also call on the international community to exert pressure on the Arroyo government for it to act swiftly to surface Melissa,” Reyes said.

This is the first time that a Filipino-American activist has fallen victim to what looks like another case of enforced disappearance, one of the forms of human-rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas is a member of Bayan-USA and the cultural group Habi Arts based in Los Angeles, California.

According to human-rights groups, more than 200 Filipinos have been victims of enforced disappearance since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power. Aside from these abductions, the Arroyo regime and the military have been accused of murdering more than a thousand activists, peasants, workers, human-rights advocates and journalists in a campaign believed to be part of a dirty war against the communist insurgency.

Several investigations, most notably by the United Nations Human Rights Council, have pointed to the military as the main culprit in these atrocities. (

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