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Filipino Americans to President Obama: Ask Arroyo about Melissa Roxas and the thousands of victims of state-sponsored torture, abductions, and killings in the Philippines

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Contact: Rhonda Ramiro
Secretary-General, BAYAN-USA

Nationwide Actions Demand a Reversal of the Failed Bush-Arroyo Doctrine and Call for REAL Change in US Policy Toward the Philippines

During nationwide actions this week marking the annual “State of the Nation Address” in the Philippines, BAYAN-USA declared that it would demand accountability from the Philippine government for the illegal abduction and torture of American citizen Melissa Roxas and call on President Barack Obama to discuss the human rights crisis in the Philippines in his meeting with Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on July 30. Roxas, who is the first US citizen known to be tortured in the Philippines during the Obama administration, was abducted, held in captivity and tortured by alleged military agents in the Philippines from May 19-25, 2009.

The Arroyo-Obama meeting also coincides with a hearing of the Court of Appeals in the Philippines on Roxas’ case, at which Roxas will testify about the violent abduction and torture including repeated beatings and asphyxiation with plastic bags that she endured during her six days in captivity in what she believes was a military camp. The meeting of President Arroyo and President Obama also occurs as the US Senate and House deliberate over next year’s military aid package to the Philippines; the current year’s military aid package is $32 million. US military aid to the Philippine grew a staggering 1,500% during the Bush administration and is widely believed to have funded the Philippine military personnel that committed the human rights atrocities, which includes a body count of at least 1,013 people killed and 1,036 people tortured.

“Neglecting to question Arroyo about Melissa Roxas and the thousands of human rights violations being committed by the Philippine military makes the Obama administration complicit in the perpetration of these heinous crimes,” stated Rhonda Ramiro, Secretary General of BAYAN-USA. “Granting tens of millions of US tax dollars to the murderous Philippine military would make President Obama just as guilty as Bush in the continuing torture and murder of innocent people.”

BAYAN-USA and representatives of churches, community organizations, labor unions, and other concerned groups are appealing to President Obama to live up to his declarations of “change,” by asking President Arroyo what action she intends to take about the rampant human rights violations that continue to plague the Philippines. They are also calling on President Obama to specifically ask President Arroyo, as Commander in Chief, to ensure that the Philippine military cooperates with the investigation into Roxas’ case.

“On the UN International Day in Support of Torture Victims, President Obama declared, ‘Torture is contrary to the founding documents of our country and the fundamental values of our people. The US must stand against torture wherever it takes place.’ We are asking President Obama to live up to his words by taking a stand against the state-sanctioned torture used by the Philippine military against government critics,” said Ramiro.

During her meeting with President Obama, President Arroyo is expected to make a pitch for support of her proposed changes to the Philippine Constitution, known in the Philippines as “Charter Change.” Despite widespread popular opposition, President Arroyo has relentlessly campaigned for Charter Change for over two years, including during today’s State of the Nation Address. Charter Change would wipe out constitutional protections that protect Philippine sovereignty by allowing 100% foreign ownership of Philippine land and key industries, as well as open the door to a power extension for President Arroyo beyond the end of her term in 2010.

Recent polls show extremely low approval ratings of President Arroyo. Since Arroyo became president in 2001, the Philippines has experienced the longest period of sustained high unemployment in its history, at 11.2% or 10.8 million people unemployed and underemployed; a cumulative national government deficit of P1.29 trillion, which is triple the deficits of the Aquino, Ramos and Estrada administrations combined; more human rights violations against innocent civilians than under any previous president including Ferdinand Marcos; and at least 16 documented government corruption scandals amounting to $430 million in kick-backs and pay-offs to government officials and relatives.

“If President Obama is serious about promoting peace and supporting lasting change in the Philippines, he should oppose Arroyo’s Charter Change,” stated Ramiro. “Charter Change would result in less security for Filipinos and Americans alike, because it would worsen poverty and pave the way for an Arroyo dictatorship.”

We want REAL CHANGE NOT Charter Change
We want HUMAN RIGHTS NOT Torture
We want DEMOCRACY NOT Dictatorship
We want SOVEREIGNTY NOT Foreign Rule
We want REAL SECURITY NOT State Terrorism
No US Military Aid for Torture, Abductions and Killings in the Philippines
Investigate the Abduction and Torture of Melissa Roxas

BAYAN-USA Actions being held in the U.S

New York
The Real State of the Nation: Community Forum, Play, and Action
Monday, July 27, 2009, 6:00 PM
Bayanihan Community Center
40-21 69th St.
New York, NY

San Francisco
Cha-Cha-Cha Change We Can Believe In: Action to Demand REAL Change and Justice for Melissa Roxas
Monday, July 27, 2009, 4:00 PM
Federal Building
Corner of Mission Street and 7th Street
San Francisco, CA

Los Angeles
Justice for Melissa Roxas and State of the Nation Action
Coincides with Melissa Roxas’ Writ of Amparo Hearing in the Philippines
Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 7:00 PM
In front of the Philippine Consulate
3600 Wilshire Blvd (between S Harvard Blvd and S Kingsley Dr)
Los Angeles, CA

Additional Actions being held in the US

San Francisco
Vigil for Human Rights in the Philippines
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 6:00 PM
St. Patrick’s Catholic Church
756 Mission St.
San Francisco, CA
Sponsored by the USA-Philippines Ecumenical Advocacy Network

Washington DC
Justice for Melissa Roxas Action and Prayer Vigil
Coincides with Meeting of President Barack Obama and President Gloria Arroyo
Thursday, July 30, 2009, 11:00 AM
Sponsored by Katarungan: Center for Peace, Justice and Human Rights in the Philippines
In front of the White House