Press Release

Reference: Jeff Rice, Finance Chair, BAYAN-USA phone: 206.291.8078


June 2, 2009 – Seattle, WA –BAYAN-USA, an alliance of progressive Filipino American organizations along with other members of the community, held a vigil on May 27 at the Filipino Community Center of Seattle to demand justice for Melissa Roxas, the first Filipina American to be abducted & tortured while engaged in health care and humanitarian work in the Philippines.

Melissa Roxas, an American citizen from Los Angeles, was abducted by suspected Philippine military agents on May 19 in the city of La Paz in the Tarlac province along with her companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc.  They were abducted after providing humanitarian relief to impoverished communities.  Melissa’s abductors severely beat and starved her, while accusing her of being a rebel. “I thought I was going to die there.” Melissa Roxas said as she recounts her ordeal. “They held my feet and my hands down and doubled-up plastic bags were pulled down on my head and face and closed on my neck and I started to suffocate and I could not breathe anymore and I was seeing white and thinking I was going to die.”

Before the vigil, community members had a discussion on the Visiting Forces Agreement, ratified ten years ago, which enables U.S. forces to utilize the Philippines as a military outpost in the Pacific and continue the U.S. War on Terror by linking with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, providing substantial military aid, weapons and training. During the vigil, members of the Filipino community of Seattle expressed their disapproval of the VFA by wearing black t-shirts with a logo that read “Junk the VFA!” Placards surrounded the room honoring Melissa Roxas and her two companions, John Edward Handoc and Juanito Carabeo.

Donna Denina, member of Pinay sa Seattle states, “It’s a shame that Obama and his administration use the VFA as a means to protect their political and economic interests over the Philippines at the expense of the dignity of our people, and in particular our women. It’s obvious that the VFA was used as leverage to acquit Lance Corporal Smith nearly 4 years after he was found guilty of raping Nicole.” Denina goes on to state that “we see that the VFA was successful in protecting the rights of U.S. military servicemen, but what about Melissa? As a Filipina American working to serve the people of the Philippines, myself and many others like me are at risk and I have no faith in our U.S. government to protect my rights as an American citizen if I were to ever travel back home.”

BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow.  The online petition to demand justice for Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc can be found at http://www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html. To find out more information on these campaigns, you can find members of BAYAN-USA at the Pagdiriwang Festival at Seattle Center June 6-7, hosting a series of films and performing on stage. Also, Pinay sa Seattle will host an education discussion on the “Women of the Philippine Revolution” at the Filipino Community Center 5740 MLK Way on June 20th, 11am-2pm.

BAYAN-USA is an alliance of progressive Filipino groups in the U.S. representing organizations of students, scholars, women, workers, and youth. As an international chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN-Philippines), BAYAN-USA serves as an information bureau for the national democratic movement of the Philippines and as a campaign center for anti-imperialist Filipinos in the U.S.###