February 3, 2010
Reference: Yoko Liriano, NY Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines (NYCHRP), email: email@example.com
To view pictures from this event, click: here
NEW YORK– Nearly 100 concerned New Yorkers gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Labor Center this past Saturday to listen to Melissa Roxas, the first US citizen under the Obama administration to be subjected to a gross human rights violation in the Philippines, and veteran Philippine human rights activist Marie Hilao-Enriquez, speak about the worsening human rights situation in the Philippines under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration.
Re-living Torture Still fighting back tears, Roxas shared her story of abduction at gunpoint followed by six days of torture before surfacing in Quezon City last May 25th, while conducting community surveys in preparation for a volunteer medical mission in a rural town in La Paz, Tarlac.
Roxas, who is based in Los Angeles, is a founding member of the national Filipino-American alliance known as BAYAN USA.
Roxas pointed directly to the culpability of the 7th Infantry Division of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in perpetrating her abduction and torture. Last year, the Philippine Supreme Court granted a writ of amparo (protection) to Roxas and validated her claim of abduction and torture, despite attacks from former military generals that Roxas’ ordeal was “stage-managed”. However, the same high court ruling denied the request for an investigation of Fort Magsaysay, the alleged military camp where Roxas was detained.
Enriquez, Chairperson of the Philippine national human rights organization Karapatan, presented Karapatan’s most current human rights report which identifies the Arroyo government’s national counter-insurgency program, Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL), as the framework for a “reign of terror” in the Philippines.
“Oplan Bantay Laya is by far the bloodiest and most brutal counter-insurgency campaign unleashed on the Filipino people by any Philippine president,” Enriquez stated.
According to Karapatan, OBL’s objective of annihilating the ongoing armed insurgency in the Philippine countryside is being pursued by targeting legal, aboveground civilians critical of the policies of the Arroyo government. This has resulted in the politically-motivated killings of over 1000 government critics since Arroyo assumed power in 2001.
“The three tiers of opposition to the Philippine government– the armed rebellion in the countryside, the unarmed civil society groups, and the progressive block in the Philippine Congress– are all lumped into one target for Philippine state security forces to go after,” Enriquez explained.
Enriquez also reported that extrajudicial killings in 2009 surpassed the previous annual totals since the Arroyo government assumed power in 2001 due especially to the shocking, “unparalleled” massacre in Ampatuan, Maguindanao which claimed 58 lives last November 23rd. The November massacre also serves as a gruesome salvo to election-related violence in the Philippines with the upcoming national elections this May. Meanwhile, the Arroyo government set a target deadline for the second stage of OBL by June 2010.
Both made strong statements for the cutting of further US military aid to the Arroyo government for its ties to the Philippine military’s perpetration of gross human rights violations, as examined in a 2007 US Senate hearing on the Philippines.
While in New York City, NYCHRP arranged for Roxas and Enriquez to meet with several human rights lawyers as well as a courtesy visit to the office of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston, who reported on the Philippine military’s involvement in human rights violations when he visited the country back in 2007.
Anticipating the escalation of election-related violence and electoral fraud in the Philippines this year, the local human rights advocacy organization is also promoting an international election-monitoring mission to the Philippines this May 2010 known as the People’s International Observers Mission (PIOM). For more information on how to join the PIOM or about NYCHRP, email firstname.lastname@example.org. ##