Jul 26th, 2009
Contact: Kuusela Hilo
Justice for Melissa Roxas Campaign
Melissa Roxas: Torture, Not Political Affiliation, Is the Issue
The latest accusations of Philippine Congressman Jovito Palparan should bear no weight in determining the outcome of the ongoing investigation on the case of American torture victim Melissa Roxas. This must only be determined by the facts, including the evidence currently being gathered by the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in the Philippines.
It is clear in hurling accusations about Roxas’ political affiliation, Palparan is seeking to steer the public conversation about Roxas’ case to another direction, in hopes of protecting not only the perpetrators of the crime, but maintain the status quo of rampant, state-sponsored human rights violations in the Philippines, of which Palparan is a leading fixture.
By blatantly dismissing the circumstances surrounding Roxas’ case and the rule of International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and its provisions on torture, Palparan seeks to shift the paradigm of seeking justice from a question of the facts and accountability to a question of ideology and political beliefs.
Abduction, Torture, and International Humanitarian Law
It is important to remember that the issue at hand is the abduction and torture of Melissa Roxas, an American citizen and community health volunteer worker who, along with her two companions, was abducted at gunpoint by 15 masked men, in La Paz, Tarlac. Roxas later surfaced on May 25th in Quezon City.
Medical reports from examiners both in Philippines and United States conclude that Roxas showed symptoms typical of a torture victim, symptoms impossible to fabricate or impersonate.
What Palparan and the Arroyo government continually fail to recognize and remember is that international humanitarian law (IHL) prohibits torture and other forms of ill treatment at all times and demands that detainees be treated according to international standards, REGARDLESS OF POLITICAL AFFILIATION AND BELIEFS. The Philippine government, as a state signatory since 1977, is party to all major international humanitarian and human rights law treaties. This includes provisions on torture.
A Hired Gun in the Philippine Congress
In applying the standards set by IHL on the Philippines, one would realize that it is Palparan himself, a former high-ranking official with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), that has accumulated a vast amount of violations, including the assassination campaigns of dissenters in Mindoro, Eastern Visayas, and Central Luzon, under his stints as the commander of the Philippine Army’s 204th Infantry Brigade, 8th Infantry Division, and finally the 7th Infantry Division– the SAME group under investigation of the CHR for the abduction and torture of Melissa Roxas.
Palparan’s integrity as a public servant and lawmaker in the Philippine Congress must also be put into question. Who stands to gain most from Palparan’s accusations against Roxas and divert the public conversation from the documented facts of her abduction and torture? None other than Commander-in-Chief Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself.
Arroyo gladly promoted Palparan twice in a row, despite growing condemnations from international human rights groups. It must be noted that the never-arrested, never-jailed Palparan currently has pending cases against him for numerous human rights violations, including the abduction of university students Karen Empeno and Sherlyn Cadapan in 2006. But despite this, Arroyo’s clique further rewarded Palparan with a seat in the Philippine House of Representatives shortly after his retirement. As an official Philippine lawmaker, Palparan’s main responsibility is to protect the Philippine Constitution and serve the public interest, not policing the New People’s Army or speaking publicly for the Philippine military.
Palparan’s accusations against Roxas and ardent defense of the AFP further prove that torture is in fact a policy of the Philippine government and military.
A Brave Woman
That Roxas found the courage to return to the Philippines to pursue justice “not only for [herself], but for thousands of other victims of human rights violations” is a commendable and extremely brave act. We can only hope that the CHR, which is mandated only to determine cases of human rights violations and make recommendations, continues with its investigation with a truly objective framework, and not under the influence of the likes of Palparan. ###