By Pei Hu
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
MANILA, Philippines – Remegio Saladero, Jr., a well-respected activist lawyer, was suddenly arrested on October 23rd on multiple murder charges. Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the arrest as politically motivated. Saladero is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA), an armed wing of the Communist Party.
Saladero was arrested at his law office in Antipolo City in Rizal province. The police showed a warrant for a two-year-old murder in the Oriental Mindoro province. Philippines police also confiscated Saladero’s personal belongings. Saladero was detained in the Calapan City jail and denied legal counsel while he was being interrogated for six hours.
Saladero has represented suspect groups and individuals including members of the NPA, which include Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), an alliance of trade unions. He is also on the board of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center.
In recent years, Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has faced international criticism for hundreds of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances of leftist activists, journalists, lawyers, and clergy conducted by the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces.
In responding to the international criticism, local and international human rights activists say that the Philippines government is just changing its tactics to convict perpetrators for serious crimes. Saladero’s case bears many similarities to previous cases where the courts subsequently declared the arrests illegal. Recently, the courts declared the arrest and detention of the “Tagavtay Five” unlawful, who were activists and lawyers for farmer’s rights. Police had accused members of being part the NPA.
Under the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, it is codified international law that everyone has the right to promote and protect human rights. Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, calls for the immediate release of Saladero and said, “It’s not just Saladero’s rights that are undermined, but the rights of all Filipinos ever in need of a lawyer.”
For more information, please see:
ABS-CBN News – Labor Lawyer in Police Custody Unreachable – 18 October 2008
Human Rights Watch – Philippines: Continuing Harassment of Leftist Activists – 15 October 2008
Reuters – Philippines: Free Labor Rights Lawyer – 28 October 2008