President Aquino,

My name is Melissa Roxas. In 2009, while conducting a medical survey in La Paz, Tarlac, I was abducted, illegally detained, and tortured for 6 days by the Philippine military. While I was eventually released, and have testified my case in the Philippine Courts, I have yet to see justice for myself and for countless other victims of human rights abuses by the Philippine military.

I am deeply concerned and disturbed over the continuing and vicious attacks on human rights activists.  Your administration’s counter-insurgency policy, Oplan Bayanihan, deliberately associates human rights defenders, activists and civilians as members or supporters of the revolutionary armed group New Peoples Army (NPA) and branded as “enemies of the State” or “terrorists.”  Your administration uses this as justification for illegal arrests based on trumped up charges, even extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture.

My friend Brandon Lee and his fellow advocates for indigenous rights with Ifugao Peasant Movement and the Cordillera Peoples Alliance are currently targets of a ruthless political vilification campaign branding them as members of the NPA simply because they advocate for the rights of the poor.  They are being intensely surveilled and harassed by local elements of the Philippine military on a regular basis and because of this, fear for their lives.

I understand this situation far too well. I understand exactly how Brandon feels when he tells me he cannot sleep at night for fear of an attack on him and his family. This type of vilification is how your administration silences the people most critical of its policies and those working to improve the conditions of the most marginalized in the country.

Your administration should uphold and implement the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), and various human rights treaties and instruments to which the Philippine government is a party and signatory.

I write this letter from the United States, where Brandon and I are from. I write this letter with our supporters around the world who stand with Brandon, and demand this vilification stop immediately.  We demand an end to the human rights violations.

For peace, justice, and human rights,

Melissa Roxas
Los Angeles, California