Missing lawyer taken by cops to Mindoro

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DJ Yap, Maricar Cinco/Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: October 25, 2008

MANILA, Philippines – Police have taken into custody the chief legal counsel of the militant labor alliance Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) on purported murder charges, drawing criticism for the “Gestapo manner” of his arrest.

Remigio Saladero Jr., 49, was taken from his home in Antipolo City, which also serves as his office, by members of the Calabarzon police on Thursday afternoon.

His arrest and the circumstances surrounding it were known only hours later, after KMU sounded an alarm about his disappearance and the reported state of disarray in his residence, labor leaders said.

Saladero is now at the provincial jail in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro, Neri Colmenares, secretary general of the National Union of People’s Lawyers, said last night.

Colmenares, who, along with Noel Neri, is representing Saladero, said the latter was scheduled for arraignment on Monday.

“But the judge refuses to give a copy of the information. Thus, no one knows the nature of his case,” Colmenares said.

Saladero was arrested on the strength of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Tomas Leynes of the Regional Trial Court of Oriental Mindoro Branch 40, according to KMU information officer Presto Suyat.

House a mess

He is charged with multiple murder and frustrated murder supposedly committed in Mindoro, Suyat said.

“[But] we have never even been there,” said Saladero’s wife Maricel.

Per Suyat’s account, Saladero and his wife were to meet at their house at 4 p.m. on Thursday.

But when Maricel arrived, Saladero was nowhere to be found and the house was a mess.

“The gate and doors were open. The floor was muddy, his CPU (central processing unit) and laptop were missing, things were disarranged. And Saladero was missing,” the Center for Trade Unions and Human Rights said.

KMU chair Elmer Labog said Saladero’s arrest was done “in a Gestapo manner.”

“His personal belongings…were also taken by his captors,” Labog said.

He said Saladero was in “frail health,” and that the KMU would hold the police, military and the Arroyo administration “liable for any untoward incident that may happen” to the lawyer.

Labog also said the cases against Saladero were “fabricated cases concocted by the police and military to persecute leaders of the progressive movement.”

He described Saladero as a San Beda College law graduate who was among the top 20 bar passers in 1984, a law professor at the Lyceum and the Dominican College, and a respected labor lawyer in charge of more than 700 labor cases.

So sue us

But Chief Supt. Ricardo Padilla, the Calabarzon police chief, challenged the militants to substantiate the accusations against his men and to file the appropriate charges.

“I will cut their throats myself” if the allegations were proven true, he said of his men.

Padilla said Calabarzon police had no axe to grind against Saladero, and were merely following a valid court order.

“Saladero was charged with murder and frustrated murder, and we were just enforcing an arrest warrant issued by a competent judge from Calapan,” Padilla said.

“Who is he in our life? We were not the ones who filed the charges against him,” he added.

Padilla said Saladero spent Thursday night in detention at Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna and was to be transferred to Calapan Friday for a hearing on his case.

He denied that Saladero’s arrest had been intentionally hidden from the public, and said the lawyer’s family and supporters were allowed inside the camp.

Saladero was reported missing by his kin and counsel on Thursday afternoon; it turned out that he had been taken to Camp Vicente Lim, Neri said.

Midnight visit

Neri and about 47 labor activists arrived at the camp at around 12 midnight Thursday.

But only Neri and Saladero’s wife were able to confer with him in his cell for a few minutes before the on-duty police asked them to leave.

Saladero was taken to Calapan Friday morning, according to Romeo Legaspi, chair of the KMU regional affiliate Pagkakaisa ng mga Manggagawa sa Timog Katagalugan (Pamantik).

Neri said the arrest warrant released on Oct. 8 contained errors.

He said the name on the warrant was spelled “Remegio” instead of “Remigio” and the address was Los Baños, Laguna, instead of Antipolo, Rizal.

“It’s another propped-up case against him,” Neri said.

According to Neri, Saladero is being charged with murder because he chairs the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, which handles “workers’ rights and welfare cases.”

Saladero is also among 26 activists charged with arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion for allegedly burning a Globe cell site in Lemery, Batangas, on Aug. 2.

“He is accused of being a New People’s Army rebel because he has appeared daily in courts,” Neri said.

2 strokes

At the KMU headquarters in Quezon City before noon Friday, a teary-eyed Maricel Saladero said her husband was innocent and could not do the things he was accused of.

“He has already had two strokes and is suffering from diabetes, and even to open canned food is difficult for him,” she told reporters. “He is not an NPA. He is a labor lawyer and is still lawyering.”

Maricel said her husband was alone in their house in Antipolo when he was arrested by police at around 3:30 p.m. on Thursday.

“It seems that they waited for him to be alone before they took him,” she said. “I only found out about his arrest at around 9 p.m. on Thursday, when he finally reached me using someone else’s cell phone.”

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