Fil-Am activist Roxas, HR lawyers file manifestation at CHR; take exceptions against “misleading” findings

News Release
References: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL secretary general (09175113373); Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez, NUPL assistant secretary general for legal services (09164093986)

Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, through her correspondent counsel National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), today formally assailed the Resolution of the Commission on Human Rights that practically cleared the military from liability for her enforced disappearance and ensuing arbitrary detention and torture in 2009.

“We are alarmed at the possible consequences this Resolution has in relation to the culture of impunity which already exists within the ranks of the military,” declared NUPL Secretary-General Atty. Edre Olalia.

The Resolution dated February 14, 2011 stated that there is no sufficient evidence to establish that State forces are liable for Roxas’ ordeal. It had also stated that there is “strong indication” that the New People’s Army is liable for the said forcible taking and “cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment and punishment.”

Roxas, who is back in the United States, communicated to the NUPL that despite the CHR’s Resolution, she is determined to expose the truth. “I cannot help but entertain the thought of totally losing all faith and confidence in the CHR’s independence and objectivity,” she admits. The Fil-Am activist was abducted last May 19, 2009 in La Paz, Tarlac and had suffered torture at the hands of her abductors to force a confession that she was an NPA member.

“We are disturbed by how the Resolution uses narrow definitions and distinctions between “torture” and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” states Atty. Ephraim Cortez, NUPL’s Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Services. “Given the bare facts, the Resolution should not divine how many angels can dance on the head of a pin to make an artificial dichotomy between these two concepts. What was done to Melissa is torture.”

Roxas also decried the lack of due process, as the CHR cited “secret” sources in pinning the NPA as possible perpetrators. “The CHR conducted a crucial part of the proceeding without notifying her, and without disclosing who were present in such proceedings. Worse, the Resolution gave credence to the testimony of the un-named sources which was taken “secretly.” It is axiomatic that for  testimony to be credible, it must not only come from a credible source – which is unverifiable independently at best and dubious at worse on this point in the present case – but must also be credible in itself.” This is in contrast with her testimony given in an open, public and transparent proceeding and not under the dark shadows of medieval inquisitions,” explains Atty.  Olalia. “

“The CHR cannot contradict the basis for the doctrine which the Supreme Court itself has laid down,” adds Atty.  Cortez. “The SC held that due to the secret nature of enforced disappearances and torture, much of the information and evidence proving such will logically come from the victims themselves,” he continues. “Of course, these statements can be corroborated by other evidence, such as medical reports of the torture, or landmarks belonging to the detention areas which the victims can identify, all of which Melissa has done.”

Roxas had firmly stated positively in her straightforward narration and recollection that she was detained in a military establishment which she believes to be Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, where she had been told that she was listed in the military’s “Order of Battle”. The “Order of Battle” referred to is the counter-insurgency program instituted under former President Gloria Arroyo’s regime and is more commonly known as Oplan Bantay Laya.

“If we follow the substantial evidence requirement, the descriptions of the place where Melissa was secretly detained are facilities that can only be found in a military camp; the pattern of her enforced disappearance and the manner by which the interrogation and torture were conducted likewise establish that her interrogators are members of the AFP,” Atty. Cortez  maintains. “So it is befuddling then when the present Chair of the CHR publicly declared in defense of the Resolution that it “tells it as the evidence says it.””

“Why, pray tell, – if the perpetrators were indeed NPAs — , would Complainant’s tormentors forcibly take her against her will and defiant resistance in broad daylight and with such brazen impunity; insist and force her to admit wrongfully that she is a member of the CPP and NPA; interrogate her and claim that “they are instruments of God for rebels to change their ways and return to the fold;” exhort her through means mostly foul to “change her ways and go back to the fold of the government;” subject her to anti-communist propaganda; ask her to sign a document which she refused; and then release her only after she was compelled to denounce the NPA? IT JUST DOES NOT ADD UP. It defies sheer common sense and is against the natural course of things, “the lawyers pointed out.

“We question why the CHR ignored the exhaustive and even overwhelming evidence presented against the military for being “insufficient,” while yet speculating on the NPA’s liability without conducting a similar proceeding to explore this hypothesis. This great leap of judgment without proffering any iota of support or even discussion cannot hold water, ” Atty. Cortez stressed.

Hardening its resolve, the NUPL vows to continue to support Melissa Roxas and other victims of human rights violations. “The irony of it all is that with the instant Resolution by a Commission under a supposed new administration professing to be far different from the previous one, the impunity will continue, if not inspired,” Atty. Olalia declares, “and that is no less tragic and horrendous.”#

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