MANILA, Philippines - The US Embassy in Manila is gathering more information on the case of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas who was allegedly abducted and tortured by members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last month.
US Embassy spokesperson Rebecca Thompson told GMANews.TV that they were aware of the allegations hurled against the military by Roxas at a Los Angeles press conference last Sunday.
“We take seriously the safety and security of American citizens and are seeking further information about this case," Thompson said.
Roxas can still seek the full protection of the US as she has not applied yet for dual citizenship despite having both Filipino parents.
Thompson, however, was mum whether the action they took was calling on the Federal Bureau of Investigation to step into the case as Roxas’ legal counsel Arnedo Valera claimed.
Valera reported that the FBI had already informed them that they would begin the investigation of Roxas’ allegations of abuse at the hands of Philippine soldiers. US officials in Manila have not confirmed this as of posting time.
In a sworn affidavit, Roxas claimed that she was abducted on the afternoon of May 19 by 15 armed men believed to be members of the military, while on a medical mission in La Paz town in Tarlac. Her two other companions, John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo, were also allegedly kidnapped.
She said they were taken to a van, blindfolded, and handcuffed on the way to what she presumed was Fort Magsaysay, a military camp in Nueva Ecija province.
Roxas related that she was "interrogated" and “beaten up" several times. She repeatedly demanded to see her lawyer and stressed that she had rights, too, but her captors only told her that the concept of "rights" was nonexistent.
She said she was held captive for six days and upon her release on May 25, she was given a subscriber’s identification module (SIM) card through which her abductors would communicate with her and monitor her actions.
Valera said Roxas would seek legal action in federal courts for damages for the Intentional Tort of an Unlawful Kidnapping, where the alleged victim could seek punitive and compensatory damages against her identified assailants or initiate the case and litigation against the Philippine government.
AFP spokesperson Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. already expressed reservations in dragging the entire government in the case as this would further complicate the matter.
Brawner stressed that an internal inquiry found that military personnel were not responsible for Roxas’ alleged abduction and torture and that such an incident might have been "fabricated."
Although Press Secretary Cerge Remonde already stated that the Palace is ready to face any probe on the alleged kidnapping, Valera urged the government to owe responsibility over the incident.
“The Philippine government must not shy away from the responsibility. They must pursue investigating the AFP," Valera said.
Data culled by GMANews.TV from the human rights group Karapatan showed that from January 2001 to March 2009, it documented 1,017 cases of extrajudicial killings; 1, 010 victims of torture, 201 cases of forced disappearances; and 203 victims of abduction.
In 2007, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston reported that the Arroyo administration, through the military, had been carrying out a national policy of killing leftist activists. [See: Palace ready to face probe on 'torture' of Fil-Am activist] - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV