CHR: Fil-Am activist to return to RP to testify

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 19 2009 06:43 PM | Updated as of Jul 20 2009 08:04 PM

MANILA - Filipino American activist Melissa Roxas will return to the Philippines on Monday to attend a hearing on her petition for a writ of amparo before the Court of Appeals, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said Sunday.

In a statement, the CHR said aside from attending the hearing on July 30, Roxas, who has accused the military of abducting her last May 19 and subjecting her to physical and mental torture, will also testify before the rights body.

The testimony of Roxas, who was in captivity for 6 days, will be held Thursday at the CHR.

"This public hearing by the CHR will be carried out in line with its Constitutional mandate, to investigate human rights violations," CHR chair Leila De Lima was quoted as saying.

"The culture of impunity in the Philippines must be brought to an end. These individuals and groups who carry out abductions and torture must be held to account. The government must take meaningful action to protect human rights in the Philippines, not merely in statements and on paper, but also in reality," De Lima said.

Protective custody

The CHR will be providing protective custody of Roxas upon her return on Monday evening.

"It is vital that the survivors of human rights violations are protected. Their safety and well-being must be safeguarded so that they can be allowed to tell their stories, and shed light on the true situation in the Philippines today," De Lima said.

"We will do everything we can to keep Ms. Roxas safe. At the same time, however, this demonstrates that there is a need to overhaul the witness protection program in the Philippines," the CHR chief said.

"One of the best ways to help ensure the safety of Ms. Roxas, is to allow her to tell her story to the Filipino people and to the world. That is one more reason these hearings before the Court of Appeals and the CHR, as well as the robust participation of media, are so important. Transparency and accountability will help keep Ms. Melissa Roxas safe, and they will help keep all of us safe as well," she added.

Bayan welcomes Roxas return

Activist group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) meanwhile welcomed the news of the Filipino American's impending return, saying it shows Roxas's "serious intent" to pursue her case.

"She is determined to seek justice for the human rights abuses committed against her and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc [the two volunteers who were with Roxas during the abduction]. She will face head on the denials made by the Armed Forces of the Philippines," Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a statement.

"We hail her courage in returning to the Philippines. Her determination to prove that she was abducted and tortured should put to rest claims by the military that the whole thing was fabricated," Reyes said.

Bayan said Roxas, who is also a member of Bayan USA, will be accompanied by the California-Nevada Conference of the United Methodist Church which will be on a human rights fact-finding mission.

"Melissa would be the best person to refute the lies of the Arroyo government. Her testimony wil be important, especially now that killings and abductions are on the rise again just a year before the elections. Despite domestic and international criticism, the killings and disappearances continue" Reyes said.