AUCKLAND – A group of New Zealanders and Filipinos advocating human rights in the Philippines has condemned the filing of new murder charges against labor lawyer Remigio Saladero, Jr. and five union organizers.
The new murder charges come barely a week after Saladero and the five union organizers were released from three months’ detention at the Oriental Mindoro Provincial Jail.
“We are outraged at the continuing human rights abuses targeting trade union organizers and political activists in the Philippines,” said Luke Coxon, spokesperson of Auckland-Philippines Solidarity (APS) and himself a union organizer in this city. “Contrary to claims of undergoing human rights training, it’s clear that police and military forces have little regard to human rights as they continue to arrest and detain innocent civilians. We therefore urge the New Zealand government to think twice before pledging NZ aid for the Philippine police-military in the next five years.”
In May 2007, former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark raised concern on the human rights crisis in the Philippines and pledged New Zealand aid to the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government to help address the situation. The New Zealand Agency for International Development (NZAID) provided NZ$120,000 to fund the training by New Zealand police for the Philippine police on basic ethics and human rights, among others. A key priority for NZAID during 2009 will be to “review the expiring country strategy and complete the development of a new strategy, to shape NZAID’s engagement in the Philippines over at least the next five years.”
“It’s clear that human rights in the Philippines will not improve as long as foreign aid is used to fund brutal police-military operations targeting critics of the corrupt government,” Coxon said.
Saladero – executive director of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Zcenter (PLACE) and chief legal counsel of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU or May 1st Movement) – was arrested on Oct. 23 last year at his house in Antipolo, Rizal by combined elements of the Philippine National police (PNP) and the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP).
He and six others were arrested by police on charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder in connection with an ambush by the communist-led New People’s Army (NPA) in March 2006 in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro. On Feb 5, the Calapan City Regional Trial Court ordered their release due to defects in the complaint filed against them.
A week later, another case was filed against Saladero and five of the other activists, alleging their involvement in the killing of a member of the paramilitary Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) in Rizal in July 2008. (Bulatlat.com)