CHICAGO – The lobbying by human rights advocates to bring up human rights issues during the visit of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Thursday (July 30) appears to have paid off.
A legal assistant of Rep. Jim Moran (Virginia, D) had called up the US State Department and "confirmed that human rights would be brought up by President Obama during Arroyo’s visit."
Tamari Shai, legislative assistant to Moran, informed Joanna Quiambao, a volunteer of Katarungan and Migrant Heritage Commission Legal Resources program, in an e-mail that human rights “will be a major topic of discussion. We remain hopeful that Melissa’s (Roxas) case specifically would be brought up," said Roxas’ lawyer, Arnedo S. Valera.
An e-mail message sent by this reporter to Shai for comment was not answered.
Meanwhile, Valera, of the MHC’s Legal Resources program, told this reporter that he has filed an appeal before the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Manfred Nowak under the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, on Roxas' claim of torture and abduction by alleged elements of the Philippine military.
He said the case was received at the Geneva Office at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, 2009.
Roxas is the first known American citizen under President Obama’s presidency to claim to have been a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines.
In a case she filed with the Philippine Supreme Court, the 31-year-old activist said she was abducted along with two companions in Kapanikian, La Paz, Tarlac, by armed men on May 19 and detained until May 25, during which she claimed the tortured occurred.
She said she believed the torture was carried out at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, home to the Army’s 7th Infantry Division. It also named the Special Operations Group (SOG) and those wearing military uniforms as interrogators and torturers.
The Philippine Commission on Human Rights’ ocular inspection of Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija on June 10, 2009 tended to validate Melissa’s physical description of the place where she was tortured.
In the Urgent Appeal and Allegation filed by Roxas’ lawyer, it was alleged that she was subjected to torture by asphyxiation with the use of a doubled-up plastic bag, repeated beatings on the face and body, and having her head banged repeatedly against the wall by her interrogators.
Roxas suffered multiple abrasions as well as a psychological disorder called acute stress disorder with supporting medical certificates.
Roxas’ case threatens to aggravate the Philippines’ tattered reputation due to the unending cases of human rights violations, assassinations and killing of journalists.
"The Philippines always boasts of being a signatory to all major human rights declarations and treaties, it is now time to stop lip service and comply with these international UN instruments", said Valera, co-executive director of the Migrant Heritage Commission based in Fairfax, Virginia.
Records of the Philippine human rights watchdog Karapatan reveal there have been more than 1,1016 victims of politically motivated torture under the Arroyo administration since 2001.
More than a thousand other activists were victims of extrajudicial killings and hundreds others victims of enforced disappearances.
President Arroyo’s officials, however, maintain that not all such violations were the handiwork of government functionaries. They said plenty of killings, abductions, and torture were committed by rebels, notably the New People’s Army (NPA). - GMANews.TV