Top Labor Lawyer, Southern Tagalog activists freed from prison after 3 months

‘Tuloy ang laban!’

After about 3 months of detention, KMU’s chief legal counsel and 5 activist-leaders from Southern Tagalog, were released from prison yesterday, Feb 5.

The six were maliciously charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated for allegedly participating in an NPA ambush in Mindoro last 2006.

First to be arrested was KMU chief counsel Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr. last Oct 23 at his residence-cum-office in Antipolo.

Also arrested and imprisoned were Nestor San Jose, PISTON-Rizal coordinator, Oct 24; Crispin Zapanta, Bayan Muna-Southern Tagalog officer, Oct 27; Rogelio Galit, Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka) spokesperson, Nov 4; Arnaldo Seminiano, Ilaw-Buklod ng Manggagawa-KMU (IBM-KMU)organizer, Nov 6; and Emmanuel Dionida, Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services (LEADER) executive director, Nov. 13.

All were served with defective warrants of arrests containing misspelled names and/or false addresses.

The Mindoro Oriental Regional Trial Court issued their release orders at around noon time of February 5. The court granted the “motion to quash the information” filed by the defendants, and ruled that multiple crimes (multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder) filed under only one case was not permissible.

A press conference and welcome-back gathering was held at the KMU head office this morning.

“Tuloy na tuloy ang laban! Kung noon ngang nakakulong kami’y hindi kami napigilan o ang aming mga kasapi na magpatuloy sa pagsusulong ng karapatan ng maralita, ngayon pa,” masaya at mapanghamong sabi ni Atty. Saladero.

Saladero continued writing for his weekly column in online alternative magazine Pinoy Weekly, and made legal advices to his inmates while in prison.

“Hinding-hindi kami ma-di-discourage sa kanilang ginawang pagkulong at pag-harass sa amin. Marami pa tayong laban na gustong suungin at dapat gawin, lalo na ngayong panahon ng ibayong panggigipit sa mga manggagawa’t maralita sa panahon ng krisis,” dagdag ni Saladero.

For his part, KMU Executive Vice President Joselito Ustarez said, “Sisiguraduhin naming ganap na ngang makakalaya at maibabasura ang gawa-gawang kaso sa ang aming mga kasamahan.”

72 activists from Southern Tagalog face the same charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder, and Saladero, etal’s case has not yet been ordered dismissed.

“Sisiguraduhin din naming mananagot ang administrasyong Arroyo at mga responsableng ahente nito sa militar at pulisya sa ginawa nilang pang-ha-harass at pagkakait ng ilang buwang kalayaan sa aming mga kasama,” ani Ustarez.

Atty. Saladero at mga lider-aktibista sa Timog Katagalugan, nakalaya na

Original URL

NAKALAYA na kahapon, Pebrero 5, si Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., chief legal counsel ng Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) at kolumnista ng Pinoy Weekly, mula sa Calapan City Provincial Jail matapos ang tatlong buwan na pagkakakulong.

Kasama niyang nakalaya ang lima pang kasama niyang inaresto at ikinulong na sina Nestor San Jose, Crispin Zapanta, Rogelio Galit, Emmanuel Dionida at Arnaldo Seminiano, pawang mga lider ng makabayang mga organisasyon sa Timog Katagalugan.

Naganap ang mga pag-aresto sa pagitan ng Oktubre 23 hanggang Noyembre 6 noong nakaraang taon.

Samantala, nakalaya rin si Leonardo Arceta, lider-manggagawa sa Laguna, na dinakip noong lamang Lunes, Enero 2.

Matatandaang bahagi sina Atty. Saladero ng tinaguriang Southern Tagalog 72 (ST 72), mga lider ng mga organisasyon ng magsasaka at manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan na simanpahan ng anila’y “gawa-gawang mga kaso” noong Oktubre ng nakaraang taon.

Kabilang sa mga kasong sinampa ang frustrated murder at multiple frustrated murder kaugnay umano ng kanilang pananambang sa kapulisan at pagpapasabog ng mga cell site sa Batangas at Mindoro.

Sa mga naunang pahayag ni Atty. Saladero, ilegal ang pagkaka-aresto sa kanila. Gayundin, depektibo ang mga kaso, maging ang paraan kung paano ito isinampa laban sa kanila.

Inilabas ng Mindoro Oriental Regional Trial Court ang release order ni Atty. Saladero at anim pang aktibista, tanghali ng Pebrero 5.

Sinang-ayunan ng nasabing korte ang pahayag ng abogado na hindi maaaring pasama-samahin ang iba’t iba pagkakasala, halimbawa ang frustrated murder at multiple frustrated murder, sa iisang kaso.

Kayan naman nagbigay-daan din ang korte sa sinampang motion to quash the information ng grupo nina Atty. Saldero.

Ayon sa Executive Vice President ng KMU na si Joselito Ustarez, titiyakin nilang “ganap na ang paglaya nina Atty. Saladero at maibabasura na ang gawa-gawang mga kaso sa kanila.” Bagama’t nakalaya na sina Atty. Saladero ay hindi pa rin binabasura ang mga kasong kriminal laban sa ST 72.

Ayon naman kay Joel Manglunsod ng Anakpawis Party-list, ang paglaya nina Atty. Saladero ay “tanda ng paunang tagumpay ng mga mamamayan laban sa terorismo ng Estado.” Gayundin, ani Maglunsod, “tagumpay ito ng mga nakikipaglaban para sa karapatang pantao.”

Kaugnay nito, maglulusad ang Anakpawis at iba pang makabayang mga organisasyon ng mas matinding kampanya laban sa Oplan Bantay Laya 2 na target umano ang mga legal na aktibista gaya nila.

Nananawagan din ang grupo sa paglansag sa Inter-agency Legal Action Group na siya umanong nasa likod ng “paggamit ng batas upang supilin ang nagtatanggol ng karapatan ng mamamayan at lumalaban sa mapanupil na gobyerno.”

Ayon kay Atty. Saladero, masaya siya ngayong nakalaya na sila at mahaharap na muli ang mga usapin ng mga managawa laluna sa kasalukuyang panahon na talamak ang tanggalan sa mga pagawaan.

Jeffrey Ocampo

Arrested Human Rights Lawyer Yet To Have His Day in Court

by Arthur L. Allad-iw

Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

B

AGUIO CITY – Lawmakers in the House of Representatives have filed a resolution to investigate the arrest and continuing detention of human rights and labor lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr.

And in another related development, the Asian Network of Indigenous Lawyers (ANIL) is bringing the case to the UN Secretary-General’s special representative on human rights’ defenders while urging the Philippine government to order the release of the 49-year-old lawyer who was arrested in Oriental Mindoro over what his supporters claim are trumped-up charges.

Human Rights Watch has already claimed the arrest to be ‘politically motivated.’ Elaine Pearson, its Asia Division deputy director has said the arrest ‘smacks of harassment pure and simple.” The Commission on Human Rights has also reportedly recently started its own investigation into the case.

Interviewed this week by the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project, Bayan Muna Representative Satur Ocampo said that Philippine lawmakers have filed House Resolution No. 887 which directs the House Committee on Human Rights to conduct an inquiry into the arrest and detention of Saladero.

“It was already referred to the Committee on Human Rights but no hearing is yet set,” Ocampo added, when interviewed via phone on December 16 while attending the Congress Bicameral meeting for the 2009 budget.

Saladero Jr. was arrested on October 23 inside his office in Antipolo City by combined elements of the Antipolo police and military intelligence group 4A of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), stated Resolution No. 887 which was filed on November 27 with Representatives Teodoro Casino, Liza Maza, Luzviminda Ilagan, and Rafael Mariano.

Saladero who is reportedly being held in Calapan City jail in Oriental Mindoro in southern Luzon, counts many trade union and human rights activists among his clients as well as those charged with being suspected members of the New People’s Army.

“The trumped-up charges against Saladero appear to be an attempt to intimidate other lawyers of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE) for handling around 700 labor, human rights, civil and administrative cases, including controversial labor cases of Hacienda Luisita and Nestle Philippines,” claims Ocampo.

Hacienda Luisita is the 5,000-hectare hacienda in Tarlac in central Luzon owned and controlled by the family of former president Corazon Aquino. Nestle Philippines meanwhile used to be co-owned by San Miguel Corporation, the country’s largest food and beverage company led by Aquino’s first cousin, businessman Eduardo Cojuangco Jr.

Genesis of the charges

Multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges were filed against Saladero and 71 co-accused based on claims that Saladero and others were involved in an NPA ambush against military forces in 2006 in Oriental Mindoro.

Judge Tomas Leynes of the Regional Trial Court Branch 40 of Calapan issued a warrant of arrest for Saladero on October 8.

Saladero’s lawyer Noel Neri claimed they have already filed motions to quash the warrant and dismiss the case. A hearing was originally scheduled on December 11 but was reportedly postponed to allow more time to prepare the case against him and his co defendants.

According to the Free Attorney Saladero Coalition, there has not been any preliminary investigation. The coalition was formed on November 13 and composed of lawyers, trade unions and human rights groups.

According to court documents, a military agent pointed to Saladero and other activists as among those involved in the 2006 ambush in Oriental Mindoro.

ANIL maintains the Philippine government is contradicting its commitment to the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR) by harassing human rights defenders through “trumped-up” cases filed in court with the sole aim to “silence them from raising human rights issues”.

Composed of human rights lawyers across the region, ANIL has urged the government to “immediately release labor lawyer and newspaper columnist Saladero.”

At least twenty-five lawyers from various countries gathered here for a network conference sponsored by Tebteba Foundation, an indigenous peoples international center for policy research and education.

Babloo Loitongbam, a lawyer based in India, said the background, nature of the charges and the arrest of Saladero are all considered as an attack on human rights defenders as Saladero is working with the realization of human rights.

“We intend to bring the case (of Saladero) to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Human Rights Defenders for appropriate action,” said Loitongbam, also the executive director of Human Rights Alert, an NGO rendering legal services to the poor in India.

Worst attack against defender

In a separate interview with the Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project, lawyer Jose Mencio Molintas, an appointed member of the indigenous rights experts group to the United Nations Human Rights Council, condemned the charges against Saladero.

“That is the worst form of attack against human rights defenders, filing trump up cases to silence him on his human rights work and advocacy,” said Molintas who is also national vice-president for Luzon of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).

A member of the Ibaloi tribe and a veteran human rights lawyer, Molintas added that Saladero is dedicated to human rights advocacy rendering free legal services to the “poor and oppressed.”

GMA record compared with Marcos

Lawyer Cheryll Datec-Yangot meantime criticized the President for what she claimed was “poor leadership” in regard to the promotion and protection of rights in the Philippines.

“It is a manifestation of the gravity of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s disregard on basic rights,” added Daytec-Yangot, a human rights practicing lawyer in the Cordillera.

“If they can concoct a case against a lawyer and violate his human rights, they can do that to anyone just to stifle dissent on a regime whose record is unprecedented,” Daytec-Yangot said, adding: “(Ferdinand) Marcos’ human rights record pales in comparison with that of Arroyo.”

Attack against press freedom

The lawyer’s arrest has also been roundly condemned by media activists given he also works as a columnist and writes Husgahan Natin (Let Us Judge) on the Pinoy Weekly, a web-based news outfit.

“Saladero was arrested not because he was being suspected as an NPA but because he criticized the government’s inability to address the issues of the labor sector,” claimed Desiree Caluza, secretary-general of the Baguio-Benguet chapter of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.

She added that the government should stop thinking that the arrest of Saladero will stop those who would write and express the issues of the marginalized sectors.

“The will to express and write about the marginalized sectors cannot be curtailed as long as exploitation and oppression continues,” added Caluza who also writes for the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Just doing their job

For their part, the police in Oriental Mindoro claimed that they do not have any grudge against Saladero.

“We were just executing a warrant of arrest issued by a judge in one of the courts,” explained Superintendent Ricardo Padilla, CALABARZON (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) police chief.

He added that the police themselves would be in violation of the law if they did not implement a court order.

But Saladero was first reported missing by his next of kin before the police admitted they had arrested him. Saladero’s wife Maricel has repeatedly denied her husband is a member of the NPA and says she fears for her husband’s health behind bars. Philippine Human Rights Reporting Project

Concert and dinner for a cause: Free Atty. Saladero and other political detainees

A concert and dinner for a cause…
            A night of solidarity and music…
 
for the benefit of the campaign to immediately release from prison top lawyer Atty. Saladero
and other political detainees
 
December 18, Thursday, 6pm onwards
at the My Bro’s Mustache bar and restaurant
68 Sct. Tuazon cor. Sct. Madriñan Sts, Timog (near Shell station), Quezon City
 
Confirmed performers include:
The Trio – Lester Demitillo, Becky Abraham, Cynthia Ubaldo
Empiel Palma
Ms. Lolita Carbon (of Asin)
and many more
 
tickets at P1000 – includes dinner and drinks
 
 
visit www.freeattysaladero.wordpress.com for more info, or call 4210986

Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr. handles more than 700 pro-bono cases, mostly of workers and other marginalized.
 
Last October 23, he was visited by military and police agents in his house carrying a warrant of arrest with a misspelled name and a wrong address of his. He was quickly brought to prison without any investigation, and was kept incommunicado for a time. The charges against Atty. Saladero: multiple murder, multiple frustrated murder, arson, and other grave criminal charges for allegedly participating in an NPA ambush of a globe cell site.
 
71 other activists also face the same charges. 6 of them are already in prison. And all of us can become targets, unless we resist.

At the December 10 Human Rights Day rally

meng_saladero_hrday

Photo by Pinoy Weekly

48-day detention of prominent labor lawyer represents new trend in HRVs: Atty. Saladero resumes writing weekly column behind bars

As the world marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, prominent labor lawyer Atty. Remigio D. Saladero Jr. marks his 48th day of detention on false charges concocted by the Arroyo government and meant to silence critics by depriving them of their basic human rights.

“The unjust and illegal detention of Atty. Saladero represents the new trend in human rights violations that should concern all civil libertarians and freedom-loving Filipinos,” said Wilson Baldonaza, co-chair of the Free Atty. Saladero Jr. et. al. Coalition (FASC).

Atty. Saladero, legal counsel of Kilusang Mayo Uno, is charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder for allegedly participating in an NPA ambush in March 2006. A total of 72 mostly high-profile Southern Tagalog leader-activists are facing the same charges, in what is dubbed as a case of wholesale political persecution and criminalization of activists.

Atty. Saladero is detained at the Calapan Provincial Jail along with five other Southern Tagalog activists.

This legal offensive is what Commission on Human Rights chairperson Leila de Lima herself termed as a “news strategy” employed by the government against individuals identified with progressive organizations.

According to Maricel Saladero, wife of Atty. Saladero and spokesperson of FASC, “My husband may not have been felled by bullets nor has he disappeared without a trace, but seeing him behind bars has caused me just as much pain. He does not deserve to be there. He should be doing what he has been doing all these years—helping workers win legal battles. He is never a criminal, he is a people’s lawyer.”

The FASC dared President Arroyo to prove her sincerity in upholding human rights by abolishing the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) as recommended by UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in 2006. The IALAG is believed to be the mastermind behind the concoction of false charges against Southern Tagalog activists, including Atty. Saladero.

Meanwhile, Atty. Saladero has resumed writing his weekly column Husgahan Natin for the publication Pinoy Weekly (now online). He has been providing legal advice to workers in his column since 2003. In his latest column entitled Buhay Bilanggo, he described the deplorable living conditions in the prison.

There are 66 of them inmates cramped into 7 X 7 cell, sleeping on bug-infested plywood beds or on the cement floor. They all share one bathroom, and have to make do with unappetizing meals only worth P7.33 each.

“Alam naman ng lahat na sa kalagayan ng mga bilangguan dito sa ating bansa ngayon, imposible para sa isang bilanggo ang maging nasa maayos na kalagayan,” Atty. Saladero said in his column.

Photos of Defend Southern Tagalog launch, November 22

Photos by Pinoy Weekly

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.