By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Remigio Saladero Jr. regrets one thing: after he and six other co-accused in “fabricated criminal charges” were released from prison, they did not file a counter suit against their captors.
Saladero is one of the 72 Southern Tagalog activists who were charged with murder and frustrated murder in 2008, in relation to an ambush by the New People’s Army (NPA) that took place in March 2006. Recently, the charges have been revived and Saladero, along with others, is still attending hearings in court.
Saladero recounted how state security forces took him from his house, how his rights were violated. He also shared how he suffered in detention.
“Our failure to take immediate action made those people believe that they are immune from prosecution,” Saladero said.
Saladero recalled that in October 1994, he received a plaque of recognition for defending political prisoners. Fourteen years later, the reverse thing happened. “I suddenly became the accused. Instead of defending political prisoners, I became a prisoner myself.”
Like Saladero, charges against Kelly Delgado, secretary general of Karapatan-Southern Mindanao Region, have not been dropped. In November 2009, Delgado has been slapped with multiple murder, frustrated multiple murder and theft. Like Saladero, Delgado is implicated to an NPA ambush in New Bataan, Compostela Valley.
In December, the local court in Nabuntaran City, Compostella Valley granted the motion filed by Delgado’s lawyer to suspend the issuance of warrant of arrest.
“It is the height of impunity when human rights defenders themselves become the hapless victims,” Edre Olalia, secretary general of the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said.
Marie Hilao-Enriquez, Karapatan chairwoman, deplored the attacks on human rights defenders. Under the previous Arroyo administration, 35 Karapatan members were killed. Their regional offices were raided, lobbed with explosives or burned, Enriquez said.
“Our volunteers are subjected to surveillance, tagged as terrorists and enemies of the state,” she said.
Of the more than 1,000 victims of extrajudicial killings during the Arroyo administration, 465 are human rights defenders, according to Enriquez.
According to the NUPL, from January 2001 to November 2010, 27 lawyers were killed and eight of whom are human rights lawyers. During the same period, the group also documented 42 cases on attacks against lawyers.
Church workers involved in human rights work and other social concerns became victims of human rights abuses, too. Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza, general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), enumerated victims of extrajudicial killings from the church sector including Isias Manano, Vicente Olea, Alfredo Davis, Edison Lapuz, Rev. Raul Domingo, Juancho Sanchez, Noel Capulong.
Marigza said some survived assassination attempts, were tortured, arrested and detained and disappeared.