US Counsel for Melissa Roxas
Migrant Heritage Commission (Legal Resource Program)
Washington, D.C.

Let me thank all the media both in the U.S and the Philippines for this opportunity to present the very compelling case of Melissa. We hope that you will be and will remain our genuine partner in our collective pursuit for justice for Melissa and her family.


Melissa is a US citizen. She is the first known American citizen to have become a victim of abduction and torture in the Philippines under the new administration of President Barack Obama.

Melissa’s parents and extended families in the U.S. belong to the more than four million Filipino migrants/immigrants in the United States. They are immigrants who have adopted the US as their home. And just like other Filipino overseas, they contribute significantly to the economy of their host country and their country of origin.

It is very difficult indeed, to imagine that Melissa, a US citizen and a member of the immigrant family will be subjected to torture and inhuman treatment in a government headed by a woman President who always religiously profess adherence to human rights law. Obviously, what we see is an affirmation of how the Arroyo govt. play lip service to the cause and promotion of human rights in the Phil.

Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms. President Obama himself has made strides in making a stand against torture and ill treatment. He criticized interrogation practices during the Bush administration and promised to close the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and he wants to clean up the U.S. reputation on human rights after Bush eight years of administration policies . The new President has given the men the clear charge to restore the United States’ record on human rights. “We must adhere to our values as diligently as we protect our safety with no exceptions. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions. We will uphold our highest ideals”, Obama said.

In a quite ironic event, during the Migrant Heritage Commission People’s Ball on June 7 to celebrate the 103 years of Filipino Migration to the U.S. and the Philippine Independence Day, democratic Congressman Jim Moran of the 8th of Virginia raised howl over Melissa’s abduction and torture. He said that, “People get kidnapped and just because they’re Filipino-Americans, their country of origin feels some right to kidnap, even to abuse them. The reality is that Melissa is an American just like my daughter is an American.” “The Philippine government or military or paramilitary, whoever it was that abducted her, committed a crime, he said.

For him, there should be a direct link between military aid to a country and the way that country treats its own people and its neighbors. “If a military is going to try to act with impunity whether it be in the Philippines, Indonesia, any other nation whether in Asia, Africa or South America, they should not be receiving military assistance because military assistance is meant to be used to further American values,” Moran added.

The Phil. Government should be ashamed for characterizing Melissa’s ordeal as a “stage-managed” abduction and nothing more than a stunt perpetuated by the petitioner and her handlers to gain tremendous “media mileage” and questioning the petitioner’s truthfulness to the extent of her sanity. These unapologetic and rhetorical comments are highly irresponsible, immoral, absurd and grave insult to the intelligence of the victim and the Filipino people. These fallacies played by government as their defense(s) against Roxas are cynical attempts to displace their direct responsibility and avoid whatever form of culpability for the crimes they have committed vs. Melissa. Melissa was tortured and that is a fact. The government’s position is so absurd and highly improbable, that either their theories) of escaping liability is that: the abduction and torture of Melissa did not happen or that Melissa inflicted unto herself such as to be hanged, punched, choked and suffocated by a plastic bag all alone. Her abduction typify the abductions and enforced disappearances of innocent civilians, allegedly last seen in the hands of suspected state security forces.

The very least that the Philippine Government should have done, if there is still any moral and legal decency left on its sleeves, is to surface the abductors and torturers instead of flat and empty denials. They know what they have done to Melissa. Their act of impunity exhibits little respect for life, freedom, justice and the law of nations. They should be held accountable.

Legal Options:

Since Melissa is a US Citizen, she could file a tort action in Federal Courts for damages for the Intentional Tort of an Unlawful Kidnapping, assault. Etc. Under the Intentional Tort case, Melissa could seek punitive and compensatory damages vs. her identified assailants and if not to initiate the case and litigation against the Philippine Government. A deliberate torture was perpetrated vs. a U.S Citizen, under the color of official authority violates universally accepted norms of international human rights law, and that such a violation of international law constitutes a violation of the domestic law of the United States. There is no doubt that the assailants who tortured Melissa were acting as agents of the Philippine Government, considering that the Arroyo administration has been reported as committing systematic and gross human rights violations vs. its citizens who are expressing legitimate dissent and in the free exercise of their free speech and assembly.

The factual truth is that Melissa was tortured by a group of unidentified military personnel, who were implementing a counter insurgency operations mapped by the military with the stamped approval of President Arroyo. Instead of following the rule of law, they applied on Melissa, the rule of the jungle where his fundamental rights as a U. S Citizen was never respected.

Because the Arroyo administration violated the provisions of the International Covenant Against Torture, The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, private complaints can be lodged by Melissa before the appropriate UN agencies or special bodies in charge of investigating this and even go to the extent of recommending prosecution of the guilty military personnel. If indeed there is a finding of gross pattern of human rights violations being committed by the govt. against its citizenry, the Philippine government should be expelled from its membership in the UN Human Rights committee. We can ask the Special UN Rapporteur on torture Manfred Nowak to investigate the Roxas case, file a complaint with the State Department against the Philippine government and that a thorough investigation to be done by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

There is a strong legal possibility that because Melissa is a U.S Citizen, extra territorial jurisdiction can be exercised by the U.S to bring the perpetrators over to the U.S for trial under the Convention against Torture and violations of U.S laws.

Yesterday, the international community historically commemorated the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims. President Obama on this occasion said: “Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country and the fundamental values of our People.” The US must stand against torture wherever it takes place.”

To all of you who are supporting Melissa and all victims of torture and human rights violations: Let us always remember that Justice is not something that is begged for, it is something that one must aspire and fight for. And this is what we need to do for Melissa as one migrant/immigrant family.

Thank you.