CHR Commissioner urged to look into illegal arrest, detention of top labor lawyer

“With junking of impeach raps, more vigilance needed vs. Arroyo’s HRVs”

Members of the Free Atty. Saladero et. al. Coalition today trooped to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to urge Commissioner Leila de Lima to look into the illegal arrest and continued detention of prominent labor lawyer and human rights advocate Remigio Saladero Jr.

“With the junking of the impeachment raps, President Arroyo will now be more emboldened to intensify its crackdown on the legitimate opposition. The CHR must thus be more vigilant in upholding human rights. It can start by investigating the filing of trumped-up criminal charges against Atty. Saladero and other Southern Tagalog activists,” said Roger Soluta, head of the coalition’s secretariat.

The coalition is composed of workers federations, church groups, lawyers, and law students, among others campaigning for the freedom of Atty. Saladero. As chief legal counsel of Kilusang Mayo Uno and a pro-bono lawyer of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center, Atty. Saladero handles over 700 labor cases. He is also a columnist for the online publication Pinoy Weekly.

Atty. Saladero, who finished #17 in the 1984 bar exams, is also de Lima’s schoolmate at the San Beda College of Law.

He is currently detained at the Calapan, Mindoro Provincial Jail with charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder for allegedly participating in an NPA ambush in March 2006, along with five others. 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.

The coalition related to de Lima the legal lapses committed by Judge Thomas Leynes of the Calapan Regional Trial Court Branch 40, who issued the “defective” warrant of arrest against Saladero et. al. based on an amended complaint by a lone witness claiming to be a deep penetration agent. The 72 were charged despite official witnesses’ claims that only 15 John Does were part of the ambush. It is unclear in the complaint what the participation of the 72 was. Also, no preliminary investigation was held and the accused were not given a chance to submit their counter-affidavits before the serving of the warrant.

“The CHR should investigate how the military is using the courts to maliciously link leaders of legal organizations, and now even a lawyer, to the underground movement. It has happened before with Tagaytay 5 and Pastor Berlin Guerrero, now freed. Why should a devoted worker and human rights defender like Atty. Saladero spend even one more minute in jail?” said Soluta.

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