MANILA — Melissa Roxas, the American activist who was kidnapped and tortured allegedly by Filipino soldiers in May, arrived from the United States last night to pursue her case against her captors.
In a press conference at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Roxas said she returned to the Philippines to pursue her case, not just for herself but for other victims of human-rights violations.
According to Bayan, “Roxas shed tears and was overcome with emotion upon entering the arrival area of the airport.”
She was accompanied by a 10-person delegation from the California-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church who are also in the Philippines for a human rights fact finding mission.
At the airport, Roxas was welcomed by a delegation led by the chairman of the Commission on Human Rights Leila de Lima and the chairman of the House Committee on Human Rights Rep. Erin Tanada. Also present were Karapatan Secretary General Marie Enriquez, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Renato Reyes, Jr. and partylist representatives Satur Ocampo, Liza Maza, Rafael Mariano, Luz Ilagan and Raymond Palatino.
Editha Burgos of the group Desaparecidos and Fr. Rex Reyes of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines were also at the airport to greet Roxas.
Earlier, in a statement on Sunday, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said it would provide protective custody to Roxas upon her return to the Philippines.
Roxas, who accused the military of abducting her and torturing her, is scheduled to appear on July 30 before the Court of Appeals, which is hearing her petition for writ of amparo.
The CHR said that aside from attending the Court of Appeals hearings, Roxas will also testify before the Commission on Human Rights during a hearing scheduled on July 23, Thursday.
Bayan said Roxas is accompanied in her trip by a delegation from the California-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church, which is investigating human-rights abuses in the Philippines. The church is the same organization that campaigned against extrajudicial killings and lobbied the US Senate in 2007, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.
Earlier, the court said Roxas must appear in court or her case will be archived. Roxas went back to the US after her release on May 25, five days after she was freed. In her sworn statements and pronouncements to the press, Roxas said she was tortured and interrogated repeatedly by her captors.
“Roxas’ return shows a serious intent to pursue her case. She is determined to seek justice for the human rights abuses committed against her and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. She will face head on the denials made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” said Renato M. Reyes Jr., secretary-general of Bayan.
“We hail her courage in returning to the Philippines. Her determination to prove that she was abducted and tortured should put to rest claims by the military that the whole thing was fabricated,” Reyes added.
“This public hearing by the CHR will be carried out in line with its Constitutional mandate, to investigate human rights violations,” the CHR’s chairperson, Leila M. de Lima, said in her statement. “The culture of impunity in the Philippines must be brought to an end. These individuals and groups who carry out abductions and torture must be held to account. The government must take meaningful action to protect human rights in the Philippines, not merely in statements and on paper, but also in reality.”
“It is vital that the survivors of human rights violations are protected. Their safety and well-being must be safeguarded so that they can be allowed to tell their stories, and shed light on the true situation in the Philippines today. It is gratifying to note that the work being done by the CHR to assert its independence has given it credibility in the eyes of members of civil society and Ms. Roxas. We will do everything we can to keep Ms. Roxas safe. At the same time, however, this demonstrates that there is a need to overhaul the witness protection program in the Philippines,” she added.
“One of the best ways to help ensure the safety of Ms. Roxas, is to allow her to tell her story to the Filipino people and to the world. That is one more reason these hearings before the Court of Appeals and the CHR, as well as the robust participation of media, are so important. Transparency and accountability will help keep Ms. Melissa Roxas safe, and they will help keep all of us safe as well,” de Lima said.
Earlier, the government and the military insisted that Roxas’s claims of abduction and torture were all fabricated and stage-managed by the Left. (Bulatlat.com)