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CHR report on Melissa Roxas practically clears AFP in torture — Bayan


News Release
April 24, 2011

The umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan today slammed the Commission on Human Rights  resolution on the case of the abduction and torture of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas. The group said that the report “practically clears the AFP of any wrongdoing”.

“We are very disappointed with the report. This seems to be a departure from the investigation initiated by the former CHR chair. The resolution says that there is insufficient evidence to lay responsibility for Melissa’s abduction and torture on the AFP. This is despite Melissa’s credible and detailed testimony,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“The resolution is an embarrassment for the CHR. It’s also a great injustice after Melissa fully cooperated with the probe of the Commission. This tends to discourage victims seeking the CHR’s help,” he added.

Roxas, a member of BAYAN’s United States chapter, was abducted in La Paz, Tarlac on May 19, 2009 along with John Edward Jandoc and Juanito Carabeo. She was held for several days and subjected to various forms of torture on allegations that she’s a member of the New People’s Army.

In its findings, the CHR said that there is insufficient evidence to support the claim of torture because there was not enough evidence to determine the identities of the abductors. The CHR says torture includes the elements of State  party and agents.

“In the light of the lack of evidence against the persons who inflicted the physical and psychological maltreatment on the complainant, it is not possible for the Commission to reach any findings on torture, the definition of which includes elements of State party or agent and certain intentions, purposes and motivations,” the CHR resolution said.

“There is, however enough evidence to find that complainant has suffered cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment by persons unknown,” the CHR added.

Insufficient evidence against AFP

“As regards the complainant’s belief and allegations that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines forcibly took Melissa Roxas and companions from Mr. Paulo’s house in Tarlac on May 19, held her in captivity and subjected her to physical and mental maltreatment: there is insufficient evidence to support this conclusion, and insufficient evidence to pinpoint individual members of the AFP as the possible or probable perpetrators,”

“The CHR has received information that indicates the possibility that members of the NPA committed the kidnapping and other human rights violations on Roxas et al. These sources have been found to be credible. However, no specific names of individuals have been provided to the CHR, thus the Commission, with its limited resources, is unable to further follow up and identify specific persons as the possible perpetrators,” the report said.

The report also said that “given the findings that present strong indication of involvement of the members of the New People’s Army as the perpetrators of the human rights violations against the complainant, there is a need to remind the parties of …the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law” which was signed by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

Bayan decried as “gratuitous, illogical and unsubstantiated” the CHR’s statement that sources pointing the NPA’s involvement were “credible”.  The group questioned the basis of how the CHR came to the conclusion that the “findings present strong indication of the involvement of the NPA.”

“The CHR practically clears the AFP and misleads the public to believe the NPA abducted Melissa, without even presenting a shred of evidence and with total disregard for the detailed testimony of the victim. Nowhere in the report does it offer any detail, let alone motive, for the NPA to abduct Melissa,” Reyes said.

Bayan said that the line of questioning by Melissa’s captors during her detention and torture make it “illogical” to pin the blame on the NPA. The umbrella group said that the line of questioning, as detailed in Roxas affidavit, was consistent with how the military interogates activists suspected of being NPA members.

“During detention, accordng to her testimony, Melissa was forced to sign a document saying she’s NPA and was repeatedly asked to return to the fold of the law. She was asked how she got involved in Bayan USA and was lectured on anti-communism and religion. She was told she was in the “order of battle”. She was only released when she played along with her captors’ demand that she will reform. Is this the work of the NPA? It simply defies logic. What is the motive of the NPA for abducting her? Why does the CHR give this theory any credibility?” Reyes asked.

In her testimony, Roxas said she got a glimpse of men wearing fatigue uniform, heard gunfire as if in a firing range, and heard the sound of aircraft as if near an airport or landing strip. She also said she was confined in a facility that appeared to be a barracks that had iron bars.

“Isn’t it the AFP who has the motive for abducting Melissa, because of her leftist involvement? Why was Melissa’s detailed account of her interogation simply disregarded? Why not pursue the investigation as to theinvolvement of the AFP instead of clearing them,” Reyes said.

“The CHR makes a big deal about so-called non-state actors involved in Melissa’s abduction yet offers not a shred of evidence. After practically clearing the AFP, the CHR then says it cannot determine the identities of the abductors because it has neither manpower nor resources,” he added.

Bayan said that the AFP alibi that human rights violations against leftists were the handiwork of the NPA has already been discredited years ago.

“The line that the NPA did the human rights violations against leftist activists has long been discredited. It was rejected by the Melo Commission and by the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings Philip Alston. It is a surprise then that the CHR again resurrects this worn out and discredited line. It’s an injustice to Melissa and other victims of torture who are unable to identify their torturers hidden in the shadows,” Reyes said. ###

Media groups urge Aquino to take concrete action to Stop the Killings


by Ronalyn V. Olea, Bulatlat.com

MANILA – In an open letter, media organizations called on President Benigno S. Aquino III to take concrete action to put a stop to the killings of journalists.

The Freedom Fund for Filipino Journalists, Inc. (FFFJ), a national network of press oriented organizations, together with other media organizations and mass communication professors and students, said the action should “send a signal that the executive will do all that is necessary and within its power to counter impunity.”

Six journalists have been murdered since Aquino assumed the presidency. An unidentified gunman shot at broadcaster Miguel Belen of Camarines Sur on July 9, 2010; he later died on July 31. On January 24, Gerardo Ortega [2] was gunned down in Puerto Princesa, Palawan. A woman broadcaster Marlina Flores Sumera [3] was shot dead on March 24. The FFFJ noted that the first two killings are work-related and said that the murder of Sumera could also be work- related.

The group said that while the murder of three other journalists are probably not work-related, the killings, said FFFJ, “are part of the same culture of impunity that has allowed to go unpunished the murder not only of journalists but also that of political activists, human rights workers, members of the clergy, lawyers and even progressive local officials.”

According to the FFFJ, a number of these killings involve local government officials and officers of the Philippine National Police. “We are anxious because you have not taken any significant action to show political will to put an end to impunity and to launch the presidential initiatives needed to begin the process of change,” the letter said.

“We realize that there are many other urgent problems that call for your attention. But you were elected because the people were hungry for change, and you thwart that belief in the possibility of change at the risk of the people’s loss of faith in the capacity of the system to deliver justice,” the letter further stated.

While the groups recognize the limitations of the executive in dealing with the problems in the judiciary, they asserted that “the power and capability of the president resonates in different ways and … executive action can have a positive impact on the conduct of the judicial system, as it does on the legislature.”

The groups also decried the snail-paced trial of cases against the alleged masterminds and killers of the massacre [4] on Nov. 23, 2009 that claimed the lives of 58 victims, including 32 journalists. “Fifteen months since the Massacre, in which 32 journalists and media workers were killed together with 26 others, the cases against the alleged masterminds and killers have hardly moved. Even more dangerously, however, these killings enfeeble the Philippine state, demonstrating that it cannot enforce its own laws, and protect its own citizens within its own territory,” the groups said.

The groups pointed out that failure to prosecute the killers of journalists as well as those of political activists and the masterminds behind these crimes “is sending the dangerous signal that, as in the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the killings can continue during Aquino’s watch without the perpetrators being punished. “That failure will confirm that impunity will continue to reign, and those with the means will not stop the use of violence against those they wish to silence,” the letter further stated.

On August 8, 2010, the FFFJ and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) discussed their concerns with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office and Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. The groups recommended, among others, the following: 1) the strengthening of the Witness Protection Program; and 2) the formation of Multi-Sectoral Quick Response Teams which will combine both investigative, forensic and other police actions on the killing of journalists; 3) Steps that would accelerate the pace of the Ampatuan Massacre trial. For long-term reform, the groups also called for a review of the rules of court “to diminish the possibility of abuse and manipulation.”

“We understand that it has been less than a year since that meeting. But we are alarmed by the unabated killing of journalists and political activists, and the continuing human rights violations which undermine Philippine democracy more than any rebellion. We reiterate the need for your administration to act now to prevent the further deterioration and the recurrence of more killings – if only to retain the public’s confidence in the promise of reform,” the media groups stated.

“As we pause from daily routine in this period of spiritual contemplation and renewal, we ask once again that you draw strength from our advocacy to end the impunity that has punished the Filipino people for so long,” the groups said.

Other signatories include Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Center for Community Journalism and Development, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, faculty members of the University of the Philippines-College of Mass Communication, BusinessWorld and College Editors Guild of the Philippines.

Murder of mining worker equates to ‘killing’ of small-scale mining by MNCs says CTUHR


19 April 2011

For Reference: Daisy Arago, Executive Director, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, +3910.380.1897

The Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR) condemned the killing of Santos “Ricky” Manrique, president of Federation of Miners’ Association in Pantukan (FEDMAP) Compostela Valley saying that the incident is characteristic of how huge mining corporations are also murdering local and small-scale mining groups.

“Whilst the murder of Manrique Santos is deplorable in itself, this incident is also reflective of the state of mining industry in the country where multinational companies are displacing small-scale local mining groups and communities of national minorities to allow MNCs to extract mineral resources in the country’s mountain ranges. With Aquino’s public private partnership, this trend will surely intensify,” says Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive director.

“It must also be mentioned that special units of the Armed Forces are usually assigned in mining sites to ‘render security guarding services, maintain peace and order, guarding and protecting installations and properties’ of mining companies. These are made possible through MOAs between local government units, the AFP and the mining companies like in Kitako Mining and Sagittarius Mines also in Southern Mindanao. Thus, it becomes almost a given that where there are mining operations, there are also military operations,” Arago noted.

According to reports, Manrique is one of the leaders who strongly oppose the entry of foreign mining corporations in a 1, 663 hectare gold-mining area in Kingking village in Pantukan. He is also a village councilor of Napnapan village.

Small scale miners in Pantukan have been opposing the joint operation of the Nationwide Development Corporation (NADECOR) and Russell Mining and Minerals Inc, a US-owned mining corporation.

Other than the Pantukan mining project, Manrique also opposed the entry of Napnapan Mineral Resources, Inc. (NMRI) that was allowed by the government to operate on a 4,912-hectare of land affecting small-scale miners in villages of Boringot, Biasong and Diat.

In April 12 at around 6:30 pm, two unidentified men barged in Manrique’s residence in Mendoza subdivision and shot the miner several times while he was having dinner. The gunmen immediately fled the crime scene riding a motorcycle that headed towards Tagum City. Santos sustained three gunshot wounds causing his death.

“The perpetrators couldn’t be any bolder by killing the victim in his very home. We condemn this grave human rights violation and we demand President Aquino to live his promise. When he won the presidency even before he first took office last year, Aquino promised to bring closure to human rights killings. Almost a year has passed yet killings of labor leaders and activists continue to rise with no one still being prosecuted,” Arago added.

Manrique is the fifth labor leader murdered under Aquino. He is the forty-fourth victim of extrajudicial killings since Aquino took office in June 2010.#

With reports from Nonoy Librado Development Foundation (NLDF) and sunstar.com.ph.

Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, Inc
702 Culmat Bldg, 127 E. Rodriguez Avenue
Quezon city, 1112 Philippines
Telefax No. 632.4110256
email:[email protected]
website: www.ctuhr.org

CTUHR is an independent non government organization engaged in documentation, research and investigation of human rights violations committed against workers. It is also engaged in education, training and advocacy for workers rights and assist in the formation of workers and community organizations in the Philippines,

Progressive OFWs around the world join calls to ‘FREE Artist Ericson Acosta! Free all political prisoners in the Philippines!

Free Ericson Acosta campaign poster

Progressive OFWs headed by Migrante chapters worldwide commenced this online petition to gather support from OFWs and families. The signatures will be collated and will be submitted to the Secretariat of the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign.

Fellow OFWs, we are counting your signature and your support signifies a lot in our struggle for justice for all victims of state-sponsored terror and persecution of peace-loving and freedom-fighter -social, political and cultural activists like of Ericson Acosta and many more who are languishing in Philippine prisons.

Below is the Statement by the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign issued on April 15, 2011.

Who is Ericson Acosta and why is a National Artist calling for his immediate release from detention? National Artist Bienvenido Lumbera today led artists, journalists, members of the academe and human rights advocates in the public launching of the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign.

Last February 13 in San Jorge, Samar, members of the AFP’s 34th IB arrested cultural worker Ericson Acosta on mere suspicion that he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

He was unarmed and was in the company of a local barangay official when he was arrested without warrant. He was held for three days without charges and was subjected to continuous tactical interrogation by the military.. He has been charged with illegal possession of explosives and is detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail. Handling his defense is a legal team from the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), led by Atty. Jun Oliva and Atty. Rey Cortez. (ReadAcosta’s counter-affidavit)

Acosta is a former UP activist. During the ‘90s, he served as editor of the Philippine Collegian, UP’s official student publication. He was former chairperson of the student cultural group Alay Sining, former chair of the campus alliance STAND-UP and member of the UP Amnesty International.

Acosta edited the Philippine Collegian’s groundbreaking F1 Literary Folio, where his poem “And So Your Poetry Must” first appeared.. He acted in several theater productions in UP, including the UP Repertory Company’s “Sa Sariling Bayan” directed by Soxy Topacio; Dulaang UP’s “Green Bird,” directed by the late Ogie Juliano; and “Monumento,” which he wrote and directed. He also played the lead role of Andres Bonifacio in this multi-media production by the UP Alay Sining. Acosta also wrote several patriotic songs for the activist cultural group.

He has worked in the media as segment writer for ABS-CBN’s Wanted TV Patrol and assistant entertainment section editor of the Manila Times. His works as a poet and songwriter have remained relevant especially to the succeeding generations of activists in and out of the university. He helped in the reestablishment of the Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP) during EDSA II, and has worked closely with the peasant sector. His bias for the poor and oppressed dates back to his campus days.

Acosta’s plight is no different from artists like Lumbera, Bonifacio Ilagan, Jun Cruz Reyes and Axel Pinpin who were also incarcerated, persecuted and harassed for their political beliefs.

The Free Ericson Acosta Campaign is spearheaded by Acosta’s former colleagues from the UP Philippine Collegian, UP Alay Sining and UP Amnesty International, as well as his former schoolmates from St. Mary’s College, UST High School, his family and friends.

The campaign started when friends started posting personal testimonies about Acosta in their blogs and Facebook accounts, immediately after they became aware of his illegal arrest and detention in February. The campaign now maintains the Facebook page “Free Ericson Acosta,” and a campaign blog (www.freeacosta.blogspot.com).#

Please click on the following link to sign petition:

Uphold and defend workers’ rights! Justice to Celito Baccay and all victims of trade union repression!

14 April 2011

The Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement (FMWM) in Toronto, Ontario, Canada extends its deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Celito Baccay, 31, a union leader murdered by unidentified gunmen in Dasmarinas, Cavite, Philippines on March 8, 2011.

Baccay had been a worker for five years at the Maeno Giken Inc., a Japanese-owned steel factory operating inside the First Cavite Industrial Estate (FCIE). Maeno Giken Inc. manufactures steel structures and parts of heavy equipments like container crane, fuel and chemical tanks used locally by different Japanese-owned companies. Half of their products are exported to Japan.

A fact-finding mission conducted by the Worker’ Assistance Center (WAC), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW) reports that workers of Maeno Giken Inc. claimed that harassment against them heightened when they started to form a union. Workers said they were intimidated by Company Vice President for Operations Gart Dennis Melchor who was very much against the union, bringing his firearms to work often, cleaning and loading the pistols with bullets, in the workplace. They are also aware of Melchor’s connections with the army and police officers.

Being a board member of the workers union MAGIKWO (Maeno Giken Workers Organization), Celito Baccay was also considered by his co-workers as the union’s founder and the most fearless among the union leaders. This is why Maeno Giken Inc. attempted to coopt Baccay by offering him a promotion. Yet he declined because he knew that it would disqualify him from being a union leader and member. He chose service to his co-workers over his personal advancement.

We in the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement condemn the killing of Baccay as well as leaders of unions and other people’s organizations who assert people’s rights and advance their welfare. While these are done to threaten and silence union leaders and human rights defenders, the perpetrators protect the interests of capital i.e., foreign multinationals and their local hirelings to ensure the continuous flow of profit into their coffers.

Despite massive protests by human rights advocates and the ILO high-level mission here in the country to investigate trade union repression and extrajudicial killings, there has been no stop to the killings, other repressive measures and rights violations. The presidential election in May of last year was supposed to give Filipinos a more peaceful environment where the basic rule of law should exist, still, even with a new president in place, these criminal acts continue! It is as if these are condoned by elements in the civilian and military bureaucracies. Their failure to take adequate action in response to these dreadful crimes clearly deprives people of their right to life.

The lack of an efficient police investigation, the government’s being irresponsive to intervene, and the absence of protection for witnesses, are totally unacceptable!

We join the rest of the Filipino people in seeking justice for Celito Baccay. We call on the Aquino government to conduct an immediate, impartial and more thorough investigation into this heinous crime and into the anti-union activities of the Maeno Giken management.

Justice for Celito Baccay! Justice for all victims of trade union repression! End the killings!
Uphold and defend people’s democratic rights!

Cathy Carpio

Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement
Member: Bayan Canada and Migrante Canada
Toronto, ON, Canada
[email protected]