Filipino-American Activist Freed, Two Companions Remain Missing

Roxas has been reunited with her family. The fate of her two companions — Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc – is unknown.

UPDATE: Melissa Roxas Moved to Philippines to Pursue Human-Rights Advocacy

MANILA – A Filipino-American activist abducted five days ago “was surfaced” Monday morning by her captors, according to the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

Melissa Roxas, 31, from Los Angeles, California, was freed at 6:30 a.m. Monday, said Bayan’s Renato Reyes Jr., but her two companions — Juanito Carabeo and John Edward Handoc – remain missing.

The three, who worked as health volunteers, were abducted by eight armed and hooded men in a village in Tarlac province on May 19, the latest in a string of so-called enforced disappearances in the Philippines targeting mainly activists.

“We are relieved that she has been freed but we are still worried about her two companions,” Reyes said. “The circumstances of her release are still unknown to us, and there is concern for her safety as well even if she has been released.”

Roxas has been reunited with her family and could not yet make any statements to the press, Reyes said. He added that Roxas’s medical condition, or whether she was harmed by her captors, is not yet known.

Roxas, Carabeo and Handoc were abducted in sitio Bagong Sikat, barangay Kapanikian, La Paz town, in Tarlac, a province just north of Mnaila.

Bayan, in a press statement on Sunday, said Karapatan, the human-rights group, had reported that the three were taken at gunpoint by eight men wearing bonnets over their heads. The men used two motorcycles and a Besta van without license plates – a common modus operandi in several other similar abductions in the Philippines.

Reyes said his group is “outraged that these abductions continue despite repeated condemnation here and abroad.”

This is the first time that a Filipino-American activist has fallen victim to what looks like another case of enforced disappearance, one of the forms of human-rights violations in the Philippines. Roxas is a member of Bayan-USA and the cultural group Habi Arts based in Los Angeles, California.

According to human-rights groups, more than 200 Filipinos have been victims of enforced disappearance since 2001, the year President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took power. Aside from these abductions, the Arroyo regime and the military have been accused of murdering more than a thousand activists, peasants, workers, human-rights advocates and journalists in a campaign believed to be part of a dirty war against the communist insurgency.

Several investigations, most notably by the United Nations Human Rights Council, have pointed to the military as the main culprit in these atrocities. (

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