October 24, 2008
HUMAN RIGHTS LAWYERS CONDEMN ATTACK ON THEIR RANKS
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL), the International Association of People’s Lawyers (IAPL), Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), SENTRA and the Public Interest Legal Center (PILC) condemn the abduction and illegal arrest of Atty. Remigio “Ming” Saladero, Jr, a member of the NUPL, the chief legal counsel of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and Board Chairperson of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistant Group (PLACE). Atty. Saladero is a human rights lawyer who was one of those who argued before the Supreme Court on the constitutionality of Pres. Gloria Arroyo’s calibrated preemptive response policy. He is also a member of the media as a columnist of Pinoy Weekly. He is a respected labor lawyer handling nearly 700 labor cases before various tribunals.
A group of armed men claiming to be members of the PNP barged into the office of Atty. Ming on October 23 showing a 2006 warrant of arrest for multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder cases in the Regional Trial Court in Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.
The attack against Atty. Saladero is a violation of his right to due process considering that he was never informed about the complaint and was not able to defend himself before a warrant of arrest was issued. It is also an attack against the legal profession since Atty. Saladero was harassed for the exercise of his profession. It is a blow the right to counsel and access to justice by many workers and human rights victims whose cases Atty. Saladero is handling.
The case filed against Atty. Saladero is part of the Arroyo government’s attempt to cow human rights advocates critical of the policies of Pres. Arroyo. Atty. Saladero have been subjected to various attacks in the past mostly from military for his being the lawyer of suspected members of the New Peoples’ Army in Rizal. He was also one of the respondents in the case for Conspiracy to Commit Rebellion, Arson and Destruction of Property filed by the military and Globe Telecoms against 27 leaders and activists from Southern Tagalog Region in connection with bombing of Globe Cellsite in Lemery Batangas on August 2, 2008. These trumped-up charges have no basis in fact. Atty. Saladero is not a member of the New People’s Army and is not a fugitive. He has been openly litigating in courts and has never been involved in any case of arson to blow up Globe cellsites.
PLACE said the illegal arrest of Atty. Saladero and his possible prolonged detention will adversely affect the operation of PLACE. “Atty. Saladero handles most of the 700 cases of PLACE. Not only that, his other cases mostly human rights and pro bono will be also affected” said Atty. Noel Neri, member of NUPL and colleague of Atty. Saladero in PLACE.
Members of the legal profession, particularly human rights lawyers, will not take this recent attack sitting down. The raiding team members are criminally liable for qualified theft when they confiscated the desktop computer, laptop and cellphone of Atty. Saladero when they executed the supposed warrant of arrest. We will file criminal and administrative cases against public officials who facilitated the illegal arrest and harassment case against Atty. Saladero and false witnesses who committed perjury in their affidavits. The Supreme Court has chastised the Department of Justice for “prostituting” their office to harass political opponents of Pres. Arroyo. We will make sure that those responsible for the travesty of Atty. Saladero’s right to due process will be held liable for their participation in the scheme to harass a human rights lawyer who sacrificed so much for the interest of human rights.
We ask the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to immediately call for the release of Atty. Saladero and condemn this attack on the legal profession.
October 24, 2008
Atty. Neri Javier Colmenares