Lawyers and media groups in Baguio City condemned the arrest of labor lawyer and columnist Remigio Saladero Jr. and tagged it as the worst attack against a human rights defender and an advocate of press freedom.
BY ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH
Posted by Bulatlat
BAGUIO CITY (246 kms. North of Manila)– Lawyers and media groups here condemned the arrest of labor lawyer and columnist Remigio Saladero Jr. and tagged it as the worst attack against a human rights defender and an advocate of press freedom.
They added Saladero’s arrest and continuing detention is a manifestation of the gravity of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s human rights violations record.
“That (Saladero’s case) is the worst form of attack against human rights defenders, filing trumped-up cases to silence him on his human rights work and advocacy,” said Jose Mencio Molintas, a lawyer and appointed member of United Nations (UN) Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Saladero is a labor lawyer who also writes Husgahan Natin (Let Us Judge It), a column discussing labor issues and human rights in Pinoy Weekly, an Internet-based news outfit. He is currently detained at Calapan City Provincial Jail in Oriental Mindoro, where he was brought after his arrest last Oct. 23 in his office in Antipolo City on multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges. These charges arise from the claim of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA) who allegedly took part in ambushes against policemen two years ago.
Molintas, who is also the vice-president for Luzon of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), added he knew Saladero as dedicated to his human rights work by rendering free legal services to the workers and the poor and oppressed.
Another lawyer, Cheryll Daytec-Yangot condemned the arrest as an assault on basic human rights and a manifestation of the gravity of Arroyo’s disregard of basic rights.
“If they can concoct a case against a lawyer and violate his human rights, they can do that to anyone just to stifle dissent against a regime whose record is unprecedented,” added Daytec-Yangot, a human rights lawyer here.
She added Marcos’ human rights record pales in comparison to that of Arroyo.
Press freedom advocate
Media groups on the other hand viewed the arrest and continuing detention of Saldero as a concern regarding press freedom.
Desiree Caluza, Secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet and a member of the NUJP National Directorate, said the press is enraged by how the state continues to perpetrate abuses against writers and journalists who exercise their right to freedom of expression.
“Saladero was arrested not because he was suspected of being a member of the NPA but because he wrote about the government’s inability to address the issues of the labor sector,” Caluza said. “The government should stop thinking that the arrest of Saladero will stop those who would write about and express the issues of the marginalized sectors. The will to express and write about the marginalized sectors cannot be curtailed for as long as the exploitation and oppression continues.”
Meanwhile, the NUJP national office pointed out in a statement that Saladero is known as a defender of press freedom, having argued before courts against the Arroyo government’s implementation of Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which resulted in the raid of a national broadsheet, threats of closure of broadcast stations and arrest of journalists.”
“We urge the court in Calapan City to speedily act on the case. We likewise ask the members of the PNP in Calapan City to exert restraint and to refrain from further violating his rights,” the NUJP stated.
Pinoy Weekly staff refuted the PNP claim that Saladero is an NPA member. “He could not have been writing his weekly column Husgahan Natin and working as a high-profile labor lawyer in Manila if he was in the hinterlands as a rebel,” a staff-writer said.
NUJP stated that it appreciates Saladero’s contributions to the cause of press freedom and advancement of rights of media practitioners and workers. “We are concerned that his prosecution may be linked to his high-profile work as a human rights lawyer, government critic and columnist,” the NUJP statement read. Northern Dispatch / Posted by Bulatlat.com