URGENT ACTION MEMO
May 28, 2009

To: All BAYAN-USA member organizations and allies
From: BAYAN-USA Executive Committee
Re: Action to stop the Philippine government cover-up of the abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Handoc

Background:
On May 27, the Philippine Embassy posted on its website a statement by the Arroyo government’s Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC), UPDATE ON THE RECENT ALLEGED ABDUCTION OF MELISSA ROXAS, JUANITO CARABEO, AND EDWARD HANDOC AS REPORTED BY KARAPATAN AND BAYAN.” The statement made baseless claims that the abduction was fabricated and involved the New People’s Army (NPA).

Simple review of the statement revealed that it was filled with factual errors and outrageous speculations. Release of the statement is clearly a propaganda tactic by the Arroyo administration to shift blame and absolve itself of responsibility for the triple abduction and the human rights violations being committed under its watch. Moreover, the statement makes dangerous accusations that imperil the investigation of the abduction of and the justice due to Melissa, Juanito and John Edward; advance Arroyo’s “Oplan Bantay Laya” campaign that has already resulted in the targeting of civilians; and undermine the credibility of BAYAN and KARAPTAN.

Action:

The BAYAN-USA Executive Committee urges all BAYAN-USA members and allies to act urgently to stop the Philippine government’s cover-up of the triple abduction. We are calling for the following actions:

  1. Circulate the BAYAN-USA statement denouncing the PHRC’s statement. The statement is pasted below and attached.
  2. Fax and Phone Barrage: Contact the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC to demand that they remove their posting of the PHRC statement. Include a copy of the official police reports on the abduction case (attached). Sample text for a fax cover sheet and a sample phone script are at the end of this memo. The Philippine Embassy can be contacted at:

Phone: 202-467-9300

Fax: 202-467-9417

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Sample Fax Sheet Text:

Dear Ambassador Gaa, I am writing to demand that the Philippine Embassy remove its website posting of the PHRC statement on the abduction of Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc, on the grounds that the statement contains major inaccuracies and dangerous speculations which jeopardize a fair and thorough investigation into the incident, including the false claim that a police report was not filed.  For your information, a copy of the filed police report is attached.  In the interest of protecting the integrity of this case, I urge the Embassy to remove the statement immediately.

Sample Script:

“Hello, my name is _______________. I am calling to demand that the Philippine Embassy remove its website posting on the abduction of Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc. The statement published on the website is filled with factual errors and wild speculations which jeopardize the investigation of the abductions. The statement must be removed from the website immediately.”

For Immediate Release
May 28, 2009

Reference: Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary-General, BAYAN USA, email: secgen@bayanusa.org

STOP THE ARROYO GOV’T’S COVER-UP OF THE ABDUCTION OF ROXAS, CARABEO, & HANDOC! –BAYAN USA

All efforts to cover up the truth must be stopped and exposed, starting with the removal of the Philippine Embassy’s latest post on its website.

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, denounced recent claims by the Arroyo government’s Presidential Human Rights Commission (PHRC) that the triple abduction of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Handoc was a mere fabrication by BAYAN Philippines and human rights group Karapatan, as well that the disappearance of the three involved immersion with the New People’s Army (NPA). The statement from the PHRC was posted yesterday on the website of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC.

That same day, BAYAN USA and allies were launching indignation actions across the United States for the abduction of Roxas, one of the alliance’s founding members from Los Angeles, as well as her companions Carabeo and Handoc, who have all since surfaced.

“The Arroyo government is working double-time to cover up its tracks in the case of Melissa Roxas, Juanito Carabeo, and John Edward Handoc by spewing outright lies. Its claims in its latest statement on the case are not only false, but reprehensible and condemnable in its aim to set the real perpetrators of this heinous crime free and save face. What we are witnessing is the Philippine government’s obstruction of justice through its culture of impunity,” states BAYAN USA Chair Bernadette Ellorin.

Inaccuracies and Gross Distortion of Facts

Ellorin pointed out several factual errors to the PHRC’s statement released just yesterday. Such outstanding errors are as follows:

PHRC:

“There are no reports of this case in the local government office or with local police authorities of the Municipality of La Paz, Tarlac, where the
abduction allegedly took place, filed by anyone, let alone Bayan and Karapatan.”

BAYAN USA:

At least two police reports were filed on the triple abduction. An initial police report was filed on May 20th, 2009 signed and filed by La Paz Police Chief Inspector Ronald R. Fernandez. The report, detailing the account of witnesses of the May 19th abduction by armed men, was addressed to Tarlac Provincial Director Supt. Rudy Lacadin based in Camp Malabulos. On May 26th, after Roxas surfacing, Police Senior Supt. Chief of the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response (PACER) Leonardo Arias Espina issued a letter request to human rights group Karapatan, acknowledging the previous initial La Paz, Tarlac police report and inviting Roxas in for questioning.

PHRC:

“There is strong possibility that Roxas and company were on an “immersion” in NPA-infested areas. And that the NPAs could have hidden them for safety purposes, perhaps after receiving reports of a possible encounter or attack by government forces. At some point, organizations like Bayan and Karapatan wanted to take advantage of the situation by letting loose a press statement that an abduction took place, in anticipation of the possibility that Roxas and company would be killed in the crossfire.”

BAYAN USA:

Sufficient documentary evidence compiled by Karapatan– an internationally-recognized and credible Philippine human rights monitoring group– into a fact sheet on the case reports that Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc were part of a medical mission team in La Paz, Tarlac, not an an immersion with the NPA. Quick claims of NPA-involvement are a tactic of the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, which aims to annihilate the armed NPA through the violent targeting of civilian groups engaged in social justice work and community service. By baselessly branding groups such as BAYAN and Karapatan as “communist fronts” and shifting the blame of confirmed human rights violations to the NPA, the Arroyo government absolves itself from having to take the appropriate legal and judicial measures in the over 1,000 cases of extrajudicial killings and over 200 cases of enforced disappearances of unarmed leftist activists.

PHRC:

“We recall the 836 alleged cases of unsolved killings (aka extra-judicial killings) Karapatan released to media in 2006 but which was eventually debunked to be an exaggeration, and the recent 1,016 alleged cases of torture it raised before the UN Committee Against Torture and which to this date remain unsubstantiated
.”

BAYAN USA:

As officially reported by United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in his 2007 country report, the pattern of rampant extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances remains due to a culture of impunity, which includes non-efforts by the Philippine authorities to conduct investigations and prosecute the perpetrators of human rights violations, despite confirmation and documentation of such cases.  Just recently in his 2009 followup report, Alston points out the continuing failure of the Arroyo government to provide a good faith effort to address the killings committed by the Philippine military, and that the culture of impunity remains, leaving thousands of cases of confirmed killings and abductions unresolved.

The Truth Will Come Out

According the PHRC, no Philippine law authority has ever received an official report about the abduction. BAYAN USA believes the fact that the official reports filed with signatures from Philippine law authorities exposes to the highest degree that outrageous propaganda machinery of the Arroyo administration. These reports must be popularized, as well as the case fact sheet generated by Karapatan.

BAYAN USA calls on the Philippine Embassy in DC to remove the PHRC statement from its website immediately. It also encourages action by the international community to counter efforts by the Arroyo government to cover-up the triple abduction starting with an email/fax barrage of copies of the official police reports and Karapatan fact sheet on the case, to the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the PHRC. The Philippine Embassy’s website was amongst the first to publish the statement from the PHRC.

BAYAN USA remains confident that the truth will eventually surface on what happened to Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc. “Once Melissa Roxas speaks out, no amount of lies concocted by the Arroyo administration’s propaganda machine will be able to save it from the consequences,” Ellorin ended.

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