Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign

On the one year anniversary of Melissa Roxas’ surfacing in Quezon City after enduring six days of physical and psychological torture at the hands of her captors, who many believe to have been the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Roxas and her many supporters worldwide are still demanding for justice. The anniversary resonates for supporters of Roxas especially after the tumultuous national elections in the Philippines and the pronouncement of a new president scheduled to assume office just as President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to step down by June 30th.

“One year after Melissa’s ordeal, she is still suffering from both physical and psychological trauma from the abuse she endured while in illegal detention,” states Kuusela Hilo of the Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign. “Yet not one arrest has been made for the abduction of Melissa Roxas and her companions until now. Like thousands of other victims of human rights abuses committed under the Arroyo government, Melissa Roxas and her many supporters demand the immediate prosecution of Arroyo herself once she steps down. We challenge President-elect Aquino to do the conscionable thing and bring justice for Melissa and all victims of human right abuses in the Philippines.”

Roxas, an American citizen, was volunteering for a community medical mission in La Paz, Tarlac on May 19, 2009 when she was forcibly abducted at gunpoint along with her two companions, blindfolded, and thrown into a cell where she would endure her experience until finally being released on May 25th.

A writ of amparo filed by Roxas was eventually granted by the Philippine Court of Appeals, acknowledging the legitimacy of Roxas’ experience of abduction and torture, along with corroborating medical reports on her physical condition post-detention. But while some praised the high court’s decision to grant the writ of amparo, most criticized it for letting the respondents to the claim–including Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, and several high-ranking members of the AFP–off the hook, further illustrating the pervasive culture of impunity for known human rights abusers under the Philippine judicial system.

Since returning to Los Angeles in late 2009, Roxas, a human rights advocate and member of Habi Arts, has been active in speaking out publicly against her ordeal and on behalf of other victims of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances that have taken place under the Arroyo government’s counter-insurgency program known as Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL). Roxas has also filed complaints with the US State Department and the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

“The reason why I tell my story is because it is also the story of many others, and it reflects the experience of many Filipinos who have been abducted and tortured in the Philippines. Not all of them have surfaced, not all of them have survived, and those who did have been afforded very few opportunities to speak about what happened to them,” Roxas stated in a visit to New York City last January.

The Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign, initiated by friends and family of Roxas, along with allied groups, has been actively demanding to cut US military aid to the Philippines because of its role in enabling the Philippine military’s practice of human rights violations and state-sponsored terrorism. Arroyo’s OBL campaign has been widely-criticized by international human rights monitoring groups for targeting civilians.  ###