Late last year, the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Roxas v Arroyo ordered the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the abduction and torture of Fil-Am activist Melissa Roxas. In her amparo petition, Roxas claimed that she was abducted by elements belonging to the Philippine military. The Supreme Court found that the police and the military investigations on the abduction were one-sided. In ordering the CHR to conduct a thorough investigation, the Supreme Court said:
Ironic as it seems, but part and parcel of the reason why (Roxas) was not able to adduce substantial evidence proving her allegations of government complicity in her abduction and torture, may be attributed to the incomplete and one-sided investigations conducted by the government itself. This “awkward” situation, wherein the very persons alleged to be involved in an enforced disappearance or extralegal killing are, at the same time, the very ones asked by law to investigate the matter, is a unique characteristic of these proceedings and is the main source of the “evidentiary difficulties” faced by any petitioner in any amparo case.
Last week, the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines en banc released its resolution which may be summarized in one sentence: The New People's Army, not the military, abducted and tortured Roxas! However, the CHR did not substantiate this with any evidence. Rights groups all over the country were and remain outraged. In a press release today, the National Union of Peoples' Lawyers, the largest organization of human rights lawyers and paralegals in the country, through Atty. Edre U. Olalia, its Secretary General, castigated the CHR for its resolution.
The full text of the NUPL press release is as follows:
RIGHTS LAWYERS TELL CHR – STOP OBSCURING TRUTH REGARDING FIL-AM ACTIVIST TORTURE
Human rights lawyers association National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) challenged the resolution of the Commission of Human Rights on the abduction and torture of Melissa Roxas, a Filipino-American activist and Bayan-USA member.
“We are at a loss to interpret such illogical legal reasoning ,” states NUPL Secretary-General Atty. Edre Olalia. He was referring to the Resolution’s findings that Roxas was indeed abducted and tortured, but then stops short of holding the military accountable. The resolution further went into unprecedented speculations on who could possibly be behind these human rights violations, pointing at the New People’s Army (NPA).
Roxas was abducted on May 19, 2009 in La Paz, Tarlac. She was repeatedly subjected to physical and psychological torture to force a confession that she was a member of the NPA.
The Resolution states that there was “insufficient evidence” to conclude that military agents were the ones behind Roxas’ abduction and torture. It then, in a leap of inference perhaps betraying a scarcity of objectivity, went on to say that it has received “information” from unspecified individuals saying that the NPA could have possibly committed the kidnapping and other human rights violations on Roxas.
Atty. Olalia points out that “the CHR is quick to deflect AFP’s hand in Melissa’s torture, while giving credence to flimsy and questionable sources to surmise NPA involvement. However, CHR was not able to produce a shred of evidence to substantiate its incredible claims.”
The CHR itself admits the dubiousness of its findings, adding in its defense, “the failure to identify specific persons to accuse and hold responsible is not fatal to the competence of the CHR to make a finding on the question of the commission of human rights violation.”
The Court of Appeals had earlier granted Roxas’ petition for a writ of amparo, declaring that her testimony was “credible and worthy of belief.” The Supreme Court itself had additionally directed that further investigation be conducted with the use of extraordinary diligence in order to identify the perpetrators behind the abduction and torture. And yet with one stroke of the pen, the CHR aims to remove the burden of responsibility on the military to prove that it was not guilty of abducting and torturing Roxas. “Where is this extraordinary diligence?” asks Atty. Olalia. “It is downright ironic for the CHR, which is constitutionally tasked to investigate human rights violations, to be the first to mask the AFP’s role in Melissa’s abduction and torture.”
Joining other other human rights victims, their relatives, and human rights advocates, the NUPL tells the CHR, “Stick to the issue: given the facts, pattern, motive, means, opportunity and context of her ordeal, Melissa was clearly abducted and tortured by the State security forces under the Oplan Bantay Laya program of GMA. Ignoring the overwhelming facts will only engender impunity and make perpetrators gloat and swagger like they were her protectors rather than cut them down to size and make them accountable.”#
Reference: Atty. Edre U. Olalia, NUPL Secretary - General (09175113373)