Monday, June 1, 2009

Exclusive:
MELISSA ROXAS BACK IN LOS ANGELES


By Yong B. Chavez, www.FilipinOnline.com 

LOS ANGELES-- Fil-Am human rights activist Melissa Roxas, who was abducted in the Philippines by masked gunmen last May 19 according to a police report, is back in the United States. "She arrived last night in Los Angeles," Kuusela Hilo, Bayan-USA vice-chair, confirmed. As to her physical condition, Hilo said that she has yet to see Roxas personally but she was given the information that Roxas "is injured." "I think she's okay...but she'll be needing support," Hilo adds. 

Below is the report I did for ABS-CBN which came out first on Balitang America last May 28.

UPDATE: Bayan just released a statement telling Melissa Roxas' captivity story for the first time. Scroll below for the full statement.

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RP Gov't Says Abduction Staged, Activists Outraged
By Yong Chavez, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau | 05/29/2009 7:33 AM

LOS ANGELES, CA—Filipino-American activists are outraged at a statement from the Philippine government, suggesting the abduction of Melissa Roxas and two companions was staged by leftist rebels. Demonstrators led by the leftist groups Karapatan and Bayan-USA screamed their outrage outside the Philippine Consulate yesterday, demanding justice for Roxas, the Los Angeles native who was one of the three abductees. “Am I angry? Yes I am! My own personal friend has disappeared! We know what you’re doing!” screamed one demonstrator towards the Consulate building’s fa├žade. Read more

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Abducted Fil-Am activist tortured, files Writ of Amparo
Now it can be told. 

Abducted Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas, who was forcibly taken by armed men in La Paz, Tarlac last May 19 and surfaced six days later, was subjected to physical and mental torture during her captivity. She now seeks the protection of the Supreme Court for herself and her relatives here in the Philippines. 

Roxas is a member of BAYAN-USA , the overseas chapter of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. She arrived in Los Angeles, California Monday morning June 1, Philippine time, to be reunited with her family. She has not faced the media or issued any statement since her release because of the trauma left by her abduction.

Based on her petition for a Writ of Amparo and based on her sworn testimony, Roxas was held for six days blindfolded and in handcuffs in an area suspected of being a military camp in Nueva Ecija, possibly Fort Magsaysay, headquarters of the 7th Infantry Division. It is a short distance from La Paz, Tarlac where she was abducted. During her captivity, Roxas said she heard radio communications where people were addressed as “Sir”. She also heard what she believed to be was a firing range as well as the sounds of aircraft. 

Respondents in the petition for a writ of Amparo include President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, AFP Chief of Staff Victor Ibrado, Philippine National Police chief P/Dir. Gen. Jesus Verzosa and Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, commanding general of the Philippine Army.

During the time of detention, Roxas was denied counsel, subjected to torture via asphyxiation using a plastic bag and was hit repeatedly by her interrogators. She was forced to admit that she was a member of the New People’s Army and was asked to return to the fold of law. 
Roxas was dropped off in front of her house around 6:30am on May 25. Her captors left her with a SIM card and phone as well as the handcuffs they used on her. One of her interrogators even called her on the phone after she was dropped off. 

“There is credible basis to say that Melissa was abducted by the military as part of the government’s counter-insurgency operations. The abduction and torture were clear violations of her rights. It is despicable and those involved must be made accountable,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. 

“The Arroyo government must now address this issue. For the past few days, it has systematically attempted to cover up the incident. The Ermita-led Presidential Commission on Human Rights has called the abduction a ‘fabrication’ by Bayan and Karapatan. Defense secretary and presidential aspirant Gilbert Teodoro has not conducted any investigation in the military’s involvement,” Reyes said. 

Bayan said that the matter has also been brought to the attention of the United States government through its embassy in Manila. 

“We cannot just let this incident pass. We do not raise these issues simply because we want to discredit the government, as the PHRC alleges. We raise these issues because we want an end to these abductions, torture and other extra-legal activities being undertaken by state security forces,” Reyes said. 

“We demand that the incident be investigated and that the PHRC withdraw its earlier statements that the incident was a fabrication,” he added. ####

FO FYI: US Green Card Production Delays


USCIS is announcing that applicants may experience up to an eight-week delay in the delivery of their permanent resident card while USCIS is in the process of upgrading card production equipment.  USCIS Field Offices will issue temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp to applicants approved for permanent residence at the time of their interview.  You will need to take your passport to your appointment.  If you do not have a passport, you must bring a passport-style photo and government-issued photo identification to receive temporary evidence of permanent residence.

If the application is approved subsequent to your interview or by a Service Center or the National Benefit Center, bring the above documents to an INFOPASS appointment to be issued temporary evidence of permanent residence in the form of an I-551 stamp.