Free Saladero Coalition welcomes CHR probe into labor lawyer’s case: De Lima notes legal offensives a ‘new strategy’ vs. activists

Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Leila de Lima yesterday called the emerging pattern of legal offensives against activists a “disturbing pattern” that is most probably the handiwork of the Inter-Agency Legal Assistance Group (IALAG), recommended for abolition by United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Philip Alston.

In a dialogue with the Free Atty. Saladero et. al. Coalition yesterda, de Lima said that the CHR is already investigating the arrest and detention of prominent labor lawyer Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., as well as the filing of what progressive organizations call “trumped-up charges” of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder against 72 of their leaders in Southen Tagalog.

“Those who are charged fit perfectly the profile of the usual victims of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances,” de Lima told members of the coalition. She noted that a “new strategy” has apparently been employed by state authorities after intense local and international pressure caused a slight drop in the number of extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances.

De Lima revealed that the body is set to release a report on the case of Atty. Saladero next week, based on a study of pertinent documents and reports as well as a visit to the labor lawyer in the Calapan Provincial Jail. She also said that the case has attracted the attention and concern of many groups and individuals here and abroad. De Lima also said that Atty. Saladero is her schoolmate at the San Beda College of Law.

“We welcome the CHR’s recognition that Atty. Saladero and other Southern Tagalog activists are being criminalized for being among the Arroyo government’s loudest critics. We will eagerly await the report and hope that it will contribute to the pressure to immediately release Atty. Saladero and the five other political prisoners with him. The IALAG must be made accountable for political persecution and be immediately abolished,” said Roger Soluta, head of the coalition’s secretariat.

Soluta added, “With the impending worldwide recession already affecting the local labor force, workers, now more than ever, need union leaders and lawyers like Atty. Saladero to uphold and defend their rights. But the Arroyo government is instead putting these people behind bars. It is much to the delight of capitalists, we are sure.”

The coalition is composed of workers federations, church groups, lawyers, and law students, and human rights advocates campaigning for the freedom of Atty. Saladero, chief legal counsel of Kilusang Mayo Uno handling over 700 labor cases. He also writes a column for the online publication Pinoy Weekly. He was arrested last October 23 for allegedly participating in a rebel ambush last March 2006.

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