Philippine government trying to cover-up Fil-am abduction

News Release

May 28, 2009

Philippine government trying to cover-up Fil-am abduction

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan condemned in the strongest terms the statement coming from the Philippine government and its Presidential Human Rights Commission on the circumstances of the abduction and eventually surfacing of Filipino-American activist Melissa Roxas and her companions Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc.

“The PHRC has shown utter incompetence once more when it says that there are no police reports regarding the abduction of the three. This is a lie,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes , Jr.

The group said that as of May 20, 2009, the La Paz police through its police chief, Police Chief Inspector Ronald R. Fernandez signed and filed a special report addressed to Tarlac Provincial Director Police S/Supt Rudy Lacadin based in Camp Makabulos. The initial police investigation was spurned by the May 19 report of the homeowner where Roxas and company were abducted and by the report of the baranggay captain of the area where the three were taken.

“We received a copy of Police C/Insp. Fernandez’ report last May 24, from a Karapatan Central Luzon official who personally talked to the La Paz police and was given the report,” Reyes said.

Tarlac provincial director S/Supt. Lacadin, eventually confirmed the incident to the Police Anti-Crime and Emergency Response headed by Police S/Supt. Leonardo Arias Espina. Further proof is that the PACER has contacted Karapatan to formally inquire about the abduction.

Bayan said that it was the La Paz police report, based on their initial investigation, which revealed that Roxas and company were forcibly taken by at least eight armed men, wearing bonnets and riding a van last May 19 in Sitio Bagong Sikat, Bgy. Kapanikian, La Paz, Tarlac.

“It is ridiculous that the PHRC claims that no such report of an abduction was ever filed. It’s obvious that the PHRC did not conduct its own investigation. It seems that it merely relied on word of non-governmental organizations like FIND and AFAD. That the PHRC did not conduct its own probe shows the very little regard it has for the plight of the abducted activists,” Reyes said.

“What is even more outrageous is that despite not conducting its own thorough investigation, despite existing police reports, the PHRC is now forwarding the theory that the three abducted activists were held by the New People’s Army. What is the PHRC’s basis for saying this? What shred of evidence to they have?” the Bayan leader asked.

Bayan believes that as in previous cases of disappearances, the Arroyo government is quick to absolve the military from any involvement and shifts the blame to other entities like the NPA. This theory lacks any credibility even with the international community, the group said.

“There are credible indications that the three were abducted by elements of the military and were taken possibly to a military camp before their eventual release. There is an ongoing investigation as to the circumstances of the abduction. Right now, the organizations and the families of the victims are focused on looking after the recovery and well-being of the three,” Reyes said.

“The PHRC, by prejudging the incident as a mere propaganda tool by Bayan and Karapatan, shows that it has really no intention of uncovering the truth behind the abduction of Roxas and company. The Philippine government is more interested in saving face. From their statements, it is clear that the Arroyo government is gearing for another cover up, first by trying to downplay the incident and next, by blaming it on the NPA,” he added.

Bayan believes that in time, the truth will come out. “And when it does, no amount of official cover up can suppress it,” Reyes said. ###

Philippine Embassy

News Release

27 May 2009

27 May 2009. The Philippine Government is committed to the protection and promotion of human rights and takes very seriously any report or allegation of abuse of human rights. With regard to reports on the abduction of
Filipino American activist Melissa Roxas and her two companions, Juanito Carabeo and Edward Handoc, police authorities are currently investigating this. We encourage all those who may have information to cooperate with the

As allegations of abuse of human rights has been made, the Presidential Human Rights Committee (PHRC) has looked into this and its Secretariat released today the following update:

“As a policy, we consider with serious doubts all allegations of human rights violations from groups like Karapatan, Bayan and their allied organizations, given their penchant for and track record in coming up with unfounded allegations, and for bringing such cases before the media and international organizations with nary an intent to officially refer such cases to government for proper action.

We recall the 836 alleged cases of unsolved killings (aka extra-judicial killings) Karapatan released to media in 2006 but which was eventually debunked to be an exaggeration, and the recent 1,016 alleged cases of torture it raised before the UN Committee Against Torture and which to this date remain unsubstantiated.

Hence, on this recent allegation of abduction and enforced disappearances, the PHRC Secretariat immediately referred the matter to the Coalition Against Involuntary Disappearances (CAID), a more credible alliance of NGOs involved in cases of disappeared persons, to verify if indeed such a case did exist.
Initial information from the Families of Involuntary Disappearances (FIND) and the Asian Federation Against Disappearances (AFAD), both active member-organizations of the CAID, based on their on-going investigations,
revealed the following:

• There are no reports of this case in the local government office or with local police authorities of the Municipality of La Paz, Tarlac, where the abduction allegedly took place, filed by anyone, let alone Bayan and Karapatan. This is surprising considering that both organizations would know that the standard operating procedure is for such cases to be immediately filed by the interested party/ies.

• Roxas has already surfaced, while Carabeo and Handoc are allegedly still missing. On the other hand, Roxas, and for that matter Bayan and Karapatan, have yet to come out with a statement as to the actual circumstances of the alleged abduction.

• There is strong possibility that Roxas and company were on an “immersion” in NPA-infested areas. And that the NPAs could have hidden them for safety purposes, perhaps after receiving reports of a possible encounter or attack by government forces. At some point, organizations like Bayan and Karapatan wanted to take advantage of the situation by letting loose a press statement that an abduction took place, in anticipation of the possibility that Roxas and company would be killed in the crossfire. Fortunately, no such incident occurred.
• Another scenario being contemplated on is that Roxas was released by the NPAs precisely because her “immersion” was over, and that her two companions, being actually active members of the movement, have opted to
stay on with their colleagues.

• Despite due diligence by FIND and AFAD, there are no leads that direct to an incident of abduction.

Simply put, there is high probability that the alleged abduction of these persons has been fabricated.

Karapatan and Bayan have been very silent lately. There is apprehension, even among other NGOs and CSOs, that both are busy fabricating another story to explain the sudden surfacing of Roxas and the continued “disappearance” of the other two, all at the expense of the Philippine government.

As of this writing, law enforcement authorities contacted by the PHRC Secretariat have denied ever receiving reports or having been informed of any abduction.

The PHRC Secretariat shall be posting developments on this case.” END.

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