An alliance of progressive Filipino American organizations, along with other members of the community, held a vigil on May 27 at the Filipino Community Center of Seattle to demand justice for Melissa Roxas, the first Filipina American to be abducted and tortured while she was engaging in health care and humanitarian work in the Philippines.
Melissa Roxas, an American citizen from Los Angeles, was abducted by suspected Philippine military agents on May 19 in the city of La Paz in the Tarlac province. Those abducted include her companions, Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc. They were abducted after providing humanitarian relief to impoverished communities. Melissa’s abductors severely beat and starved her, while accusing her of being a rebel.
“I thought I was going to die there,” Melissa Roxas said as she recounts her ordeal.
Before the vigil, community members had a discussion on the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), ratified 10 years ago, which enables U.S. forces to utilize the Philippines as a military outpost in the Pacific and continue the U.S. war on terror by linking with the Armed Forces of the Philippines, providing substantial military aid, weapons, and training. During the vigil, members of the Filipino community of Seattle expressed their disapproval of the VFA by wearing black t-shirts with a logo that read “Junk the VFA!”
Donna Denina, member of Pinay sa Seattle states, “It’s a shame that Obama and his administration use the VFA as a means to protect their political and economic interests over the Philippines at the expense of the dignity of our people, and in particular, our women.”
Denina goes on to state, “We see that the VFA was successful in protecting the rights of U.S. military servicemen, but what about Melissa? As a Filipina American working to serve the people of the Philippines, myself and many others like me are at risk and I have no faith in our U.S. government to protect my rights as an American citizen if I were to ever travel back home.” ♦
BAYAN-USA’s online petition against the VFA can be found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/JunkVFAnow. The online petition to demand justice for Roxas, Carabeo, and Handoc can be found at www.gopetition.com/online/28021.html.