“There is a lack of due process for the CHR to come up with this conclusion. By doing this, the CHR Resolution makes it obvious that it wants to distract the investigation away from the AFP as being the real perpetrators.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas decried that the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) resolution on her case is a “far cry from the justice” that she is seeking.
Roxas, a member of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan-USA chapter, and her two companions Juanito Carrabeo and John Edward Jandoc were forcibly taken by armed men on May 19, 2009 in La Paz, Tarlac.
In a resolution released recently, the CHR said there is insufficient evidence to support Roxas’s allegations that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) took her and subjected her to physical and mental maltreatment.
In a statement posted at Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) website, Roxas said: “The CHR has certainly not fulfilled its duty to protect my human rights. This resolution only serves to maintain and perpetuate impunity for the Philippine government and military who commit these heinous crimes,” Roxas said.
“Not only is it a far cry from the justice that I am seeking, but by practically absolving the Armed Forces of the Philippines of accountability, and instead give the unsubstantiated claim that the New People’s Army (NPA) was responsible, the CHR is in effect complicit with the effort of the military to cover up my abduction and torture,” Roxas said.
Roxas found reprehensible that the CHR refused to call her sufferings as torture.
In a statement sent through email April 26, CHR Chair Loretta Ann Rosales said that since the CHR found insufficient evidence that state agents perpetrated the acts of maltreatment or that the same were committed in government facilities, the acts cannot qualify as torture.
Citing the International Convention Against Torture (CAT) and the Anti-Torture Law, Rosales defines torture as “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
“Melissa Roxas’ testimony did not establish with certainty the identity and authority of her captors. On the other hand, there are other credible evidence that point at other non-state actors. Hence, even as torture was not established because the material element of public officials is absent, the CHR still concluded that Melissa Roxas was held and maltreated in violation of her human rights,” Rosales said.
Roxas said: “If the CHR purports to exist in order to protect and to investigate human rights violations, using narrow definitions and making distinctions between what is ‘cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ and what is ‘torture’ is disturbing. It does no good in obtaining real justice for victims of human rights violations. ‘Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment’ is torture. By any definition, what I went through at the hands of the AFP was torture.”
Roxas deemed that the CHR resolution issued nearly two years after the incident is “filled with misleading and inconsistent conclusions,” adding that these are inconsistent with her testimony and presented evidence that point to the AFP as the perpetrators of her abduction and torture.
“It also deviates from the original leads and investigations the former CHR Chair Leila De Lima initiated,” she said.
Roxas said the CHR did not present any evidence or detail to support the claim that the NPA is responsible for my abduction and torture. “The CHR did not give details as to what standard was used to verify the credibility of the informant who claims this was done by the NPA. Neither does the CHR offer any rigorous review of evidence and process of investigation to substantiate this claim,” she said.
“There is a lack of due process for the CHR to come up with this conclusion. By doing this, the CHR Resolution makes it obvious that it wants to distract the investigation away from the AFP as being the real perpetrators,” Roxas further said.
Reacting to the CHR recommendation calling on the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to further investigate her case, Roxas said: “This is nothing else but cruel for the CHR to expect that I would obtain justice by putting in charge these state agents—the PNP being one of the respondents to my case in the courts. I suffered trauma and injuries from the abduction and torture by State agents. What kind of justice do I expect to get if the very institutions that are responsible for my abduction and torture are left to investigate my case?”