Photo of Melissa Roxas while in a press conference in the US before her July 20 return to the Philippines
MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has summoned a Filipino American activist to explain a video which purportedly shows her in an alleged training camp of the New People’s Army.
CHR Chair Leila de Lima, in an interview over ABS-CBN News Channel’s Top Story, said Filipino American Melissa Roxas would be asked to explain a video shown by two partylist representatives in a press conference Saturday.
De Lima said she saw the video of the press conference of Bantay Rep. Jovito Palparan and ANAD Rep. Jun Alcover on Saturday where they showed the video as well as photographs. The video and photographs of Roxas purportedly in a training camp somewhere in Sierra Madre mountains in Aurora province.
"We are going to ask Melissa about it so we again summoned her to appear tomorrow afternoon at 1:30 p.m.,” said the CHR chair
She said that CHR has also summoned Palparan and Alcover to produce the video and phographs.
“We will ask Melissa to comment and give her side on that,” said de Lima.
De Lima said that CHR was not supposed to hold hearings this week on the allegations that Roxas was abducted and tortured allegedly by the military.
She said, however, that the Filipino American activist is set to return to the US on July 31.
The local human rights body chair admitted that they were surprised at the “exposé” of the two partylist representatives.
“We are quite intrigued by this development and we want to hear Melissa's side,” said De Lima.
De Lima said that she saw video, but said the CHR would need the testimony of Roxas as well probe the authenticity of the video which was shown by the two partylist representatives.
“We will ask her, of course, if that's her, whether there was such an incident or event showing some young men and women undergoing such a training. So at this point, the CHR would not have any basis in saying whether that particular video or photo is authentic,” said the CHR chair.
Image grab from alleged video presented by ANAD Rep. Jun Alcover and Bantay Rep. Jovito Palparan of NPA camp allegedly showing a purported Filipino American activist Melissa Roxas
De Lima admitted that “there was some resemblance to Melissa.” She added, however, that “at this point, we cannot say that categorically and even the authenticity, the supposed authenticity of that video, we do not know that yet.”
The video showed purported NPA rebels having meals on plastic dishes and banana leaves, resting with automatic rifles, and a segment even showed supposed rebels practicing what seemed to be military drills.
She said they would ask the two lawmakers, who are both known for their anti-communist stance, about the source of the video.
During the lawmaker’s press conference, they said that “a lady rebel” provided the copy of the video in early July.
De Lima said that an invitation was also sent to Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo because “Alcover and Palaparan [they] keep saying that Ocampo had something to do with that.”
Ocampo's Bayan Muna and its allied organizations see ANAD leader Alcover as "a known asset of the military and is notorious for his malicious comments against progressive organizations.”
Likewise, Bantay's Palparan has been called "The Butcher" by the leftist organizations for his alleged role in the many incidences of extrajudicial killings in Mindoro and Central Luzon where he was previously a military commander.
Image grab from alleged video showing purported Roxas resting with what seems to be a muzzle of an M16 rifle at the lower left side
De Lima, meanwhile, stressed that the protective custody provided by the CHR to Roxas remains.
“The protective custody was because of her appearance and testimony before the CHR and Court of Appeals, that responsibility remains,” said the CHR chief.
Roxas was provided protective custody by the CHR upon her return to the Philippines so that she could attend the hearings of the CHR as well as the Court of Appeals hearing on her petition for a writ of amparo against the military.
“Return to fold of law”
Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), apparently convinced of the authenticity of the video shown by the representatives of ANAD and Bantay, said on Monday said it was willing to extend assistance to Roxas.
“If Melissa wants to return to the folds of the law, she wants to return to the fold of the law, she can ask help from the military and we will help...especially because we have our SIP or Social Integration Program,” said AFP public affairs office chief Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr. in a press briefing in Camp Aguinaldo.
“We can help her return to the fold of the law. Instead of coming out like this and being used by some groups, she should return to the fold of the law and we will help her,” the military spokesman also said of Roxas.
“We are waiting for the response of Melissa although her lawyer said Melissa is not an NPA. But the evidence is very clear (that she is a member of the NPA),” Brawner said.
The AFP spokesman, however, clarified that the main issue still is whether Roxas was abducted and tortured by soldiers as she had alleged.
An emotional Melissa Roxas returns to the Philippines and was met at the airport by CHR Chair Leila de Lima and activist lawmakers, July 20, 2009
“Her being an NPA is not the issue here but of course the alleged abduction and torture. So with that evidence (video), we are saying that indeed, it is possible that other groups outside the military are responsible for the alleged abduction and torture of Melissa,” added Brawner.
AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Victor Ibrado had said last week that a military probe showed that there was no involvement of its members in the supposed abduction of Roxas.
He said, however, that they are going to cooperate in a separate or independent investigation if it turns out that soldiers are indeed involved.
“If there is anyone of our personnel who are pinpointed or identified (as involved), then we will make them available. We will help the investigation, we will not stop or obstruct the investigation,” said Ibrado.