24 June 2011
MANILA — Workers led by labor center Kilusang Mayo Uno condemned the revival of trumped-up charges against its legal counsel and 71 other activists mainly from the Southern Tagalog region in a picket held today in front of the Regional Trial Court in San Pablo, Laguna, saying the revival is a sign of continuing harassment of activists under the Aquino government.
The activists, collectively known as the “Southern Tagalog 72” and includes KMU legal counsel Atty. Remigio Saladero, Jr. as well as many KMU leaders, were first slapped with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges in 2008 in Calapan, Mindoro Oriental for acts allegedly committed by the New People’s Army.
Then, Deputy Regional Prosecutor Elnora Largo-Nombrado released a subpoena dated 20 May 2011 against the 72 activists, asking them to appear before the San Pablo, Laguna RTC on 24 June and submit counter-affidavits for charges of multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder.
“We strongly condemn this dogged harassment campaign via trumped-up charges against Atty. Saladero and 71 of our comrades. The government has no right to harass activists just because they are activists and blame them for acts allegedly committed by the NPA,” said Lito Ustarez, KMU vice-chairperson.
“Harassment via the filing of trumped-up charges is one of the ugly trademarks of the Arroyo regime’s shameful human-rights record. The revival of trumped-up charges against the ST 72 calls attention to the fact that the human-rights situation in the country has not changed at all under the Aquino government,” he added.
The Calapan, Mindoro Oriental RTC claimed it returned the first batch of charges to the prosecutor because of a mere technicality. The case filed in the San Pablo, Laguna RTC is shrouded in mystery for the ST 72.
“What we are seeing in the ground as far as human-rights issues are concerned, are no different from what we saw under the Arroyo regime. Human-rights violations under the Arroyo regime persists to this day because the Aquino regime merely rehashed Oplan Bantay Laya in Oplan Bayanihan, using high-sounding phrases,” Ustarez said.
“It is these kinds of repressive and persecutory acts which ignited the Filipino workers’ and people’s hatred of the Arroyo regime. At the rate the Aquino regime is going in the realm of human rights, it won’t take long before it becomes the object of the same hatred of the Filipino workers and people,” he added.