November 11, 2009
Dear U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,
I am writing to you because you are going to visit the Philippines to meet with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. I would like to appeal for you to discuss the gross human rights violations happening under the Arroyo administration. I am a United States citizen, a human rights advocate, and also a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines.
I was abducted and tortured in May 2009 as I was conducting medical surveys in preparation for a medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac, Philippines. Based on the evidence, my own experience, and the pattern in which the incident occurred, it strongly points to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as the perpetrators.
As a writer, a poet and a human rights activist, I feel really committed to the cause of human rights and the plight of the poor and under-privileged. I went to the Philippines to learn more about my roots and heritage and to do volunteer work in various poor and under-privileged communities with the organization Bayan Philippines.
I never imagined that my efforts to help these poor and under-served communities and to advocate for a more humane society would result in me being targeted for abduction and torture. As an American citizen, I have learned to value and cherish my inalienable rights—something that has made me fight harder for those rights for myself and also for others.
I endured six days of physical and mental torture at the hands of my captors. I am still suffering from the trauma. I never want anyone else to experience what I have and I now know first hand what other victims of human rights abuses in the Philippines have been through. There is no room in a civilized society and a civilized world for torture and no room for the suppression of human rights to life, freedom, and genuine democracy. For those of us that are in a position to fight for those freedoms in the world, it is our duty to uphold those principles and to strongly condemn human rights violations.
There is a culture of impunity in the Philippines. The Philippine government has made no serious effort to investigate what happened to me despite the Philippine Court of Appeals ruling that my abduction and torture occurred and granting me a Writ of Amparo. There continues to be a lack of government attention to address my case and the countless victims of human rights violations even though international human rights groups including the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Philip Alston, have pointed to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as culpable.
I urge you to discuss the issue of human rights violations in your talk with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and hold her administration accountable for those abuses. Moreover, I would strongly urge you to support restrictions on U.S. military funding for the Philippines until the Arroyo administration can adhere to international laws, upholding human rights both in good faith and in practice.
*Melissa Roxas is a Filipino-American activist abducted and tortured by Filipino soldiers in May for being suspected as a member of the New People’s Army, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.