CHR Chair Urged to Look into Illegal Arrest, Detention of Labor Lawyer

Members of a coalition calling for the release of jailed labor lawyer Remigio Saladero, Jr. and other activists facing trumped-up criminal charges trooped today to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and urged Chairperson Leila de Lima to investigate his illegal arrest and detention.

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

The coalition is composed of workers’ federations, church groups, lawyers, and law students, among others campaigning for Saladero’s freedom.

As chief legal counsel of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) and a pro-bono lawyer of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), Saladero handles over 700 labor cases. He is also a columnist for the online publication Pinoy Weekly.

He is currently detained at the provincial jail in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro while facing charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder for allegedly participating in a New People’s Army (NPA) ambush in March 2006, along with five others.

A total of 72 Southern Tagalog activists are facing the same charges, in what has been 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 and others 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 how the 72 participated in the attack, said members of the Free Atty. Saladero et al Coalition. 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 coalition’s members added.

“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,” Soluta said. It has happened before with (the) Tagaytay 5 and Ptr. Berlin Guerrero, (who are) now freed. “Why should a devoted worker and human rights defender like Attorney Saladero spend even one more minute in jail?” (

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