MANILA — In 2007, Melissa Roxas moved to the Philippines to pursue what a colleague of hers described as “human-rights advocacy full-time.”
Prior to Roxas’s move, she had been active as a founding member of the cultural organization Habi-Arts in Los Angeles. She was also a founding representative in Southern California for Bayan-USA.
Two years earlier, Roxas participated in an international fact-finding mission that investigated human-rights violations across the Philippines. That experience, in which she was confronted with the horrors of human-rights abuses committed by state security forces against hapless and poor Filipinos, may have strengthened her resolve to do something about it by moving to the Philippines.
Her move, said Bernadette Ellorin, chairperson of Bayan-USA, “was set amidst an acute human-rights crisis in the Philippines that includes reports of rampant extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, illegal arrest, torture, and summary executions.”
Since then, Roxas participated in medical missions and was a volunteer health worker when, on May 19, eight armed and hooded men abducted her and two others at gunpoint and shoved into a Besta van without license plates.
On Monday morning, colleagues said Roxas had been freed, but not her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc.
“We are happy to hear about Melissa’s surfacing, but we are still concerned about the whereabouts of her two companions,” Ellorin said in a statement released on Monday, hours after Roxas was freed five days after her abduction in Tarlac province.
“We fully intend to pursue the demand for the surfacing of Carabeo and Handoc, as well as justice for Melissa. This abduction should never have taken place,” Ellorin said.
Ellorin said that “because more than five days had passed since their abduction, we believe Melissa’s surfacing is a direct result of rapid community response and international pressure exerted from the Philippines and the United States first and foremost.”
Ellorin also announced that her group will hold protest actions across the United States on May 27, the 10th anniversary of the Visiting Forces Agreement. Roxas’s case, specifically the call for justice, will be among the highlights of the protests.
“Bayan-USA firmly believes the continuing, unabated human-rights violations committed by the Philippine military and death squads are generously funded by US military aid to the Arroyo government,” Ellorin said. Bayan-USA, she added, “ultimately holds the Arroyo government accountable for the pattern of killings and abductions against civilians critical of the regime since 2001.”
“As we continue to campaign for justice for Melissa, Juanito, and John Edward, we are consciously raising awareness of the role of US tax dollars in funding these abductions and other human rights violations,” Ellorin pointed out. (Bulatlat.com)