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.

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