Lawyers,media hit arrest of labor lawyer

BAGUIO CITY — Lawyers and media groups condemned the arrest of labor lawyer and columnist Remigio Saladero Jr. and tagged it the worst attack against a human rights defender and an advocate of press freedom.

They added Saladero’s arrest and continuing detention is the manifestation of the gravity of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s human rights violation records.

“That is (Saladero’s case) the worst form of attack against human rights defenders, filing trump up cases to silence him on his human rights work and advocacy,” said Atty. Jose Mencio Molintas, appointed member of the indigenous rights experts of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UN-HRC).

Saladero is a labor lawyer who also writes “Husgahan Natin,” a column discussing labor issues and human rights on the Pinoy Weekly, a web-based news outfit. He is currently detained at Calapan City Provincial Jail in Mindoro Oriental where he was brought after his arrest last October 23 in his home in Antipolo, Batangas on multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder charges arising from the Philippine National Police (PNP) claim that he is a member of the New People’s Army (NPA).

Molintas, who is also the vice-president for Luzon of the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), added he knew Saladero as dedicated to his human rights work by rendering free legal services to the workers and the poor and oppressed.

Another lawyer, Cheryll Daytec-Yangot condemned the arrest as an assault on basic human rights and a manifestation of the gravity of GMA’ s disregard on basic rights.

“If they can concoct a case against a lawyer and violate his human rights, they can do that to anyone just to stifle dissent on a regime whose record is unprecedented,” added Daytec-Yangot, a human rights lawyer here.

She added Marcos’ human rights record pales in comparison with that of Arroyo.

Press freedom advocate

Media groups on the other hand viewed the arrest and continuing detention of Saldero as a concern on press freedom.

Desiree Caluza, Secretary-general of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) Baguio-Benguet and a member of the NUJP National Directorate, pointed the press is enraged by how the state continues to perpetrate abuses against writers and journalists who exercise their right to freedom of expression.

“Saladero was arrested not because he was being suspected as an NPA but because he wrote criticisms on government’s inability to address the issues of the labor sector,” Caluza pointed out adding, “The government should stop thinking that the arrest of Saladero will stop those who would write and express the issues of the marginalized sectors. The will to express and write about the marginalized sector cannot be curtailed as long as the exploitation and oppression continues.”

Meanwhile, NUJP in a statement said Saladero is known as a defender of press freedom, having argued before courts against the Arroyo government’s implementation of the Presidential Proclamation No. 1017, which resulted in the raid of a national broadsheet, threats of closure of broadcast stations and arrest of journalists.

“We urge the court in Calapan City to speedily act on the case. We likewise ask the members of the PNP in Calapan City to exert restraint and to refrain from further violating his rights,” appealed NUJP.

Pinoy Weekly staff refuted the PNP claim that Saladero is an NPA member. “He could not have been writing his weekly column “Husgahan Natin” and working as a high-profile labor lawyer in Manila if he was in the hinterlands as a rebel,” a staff-writer said.

NUJP appreciates Saladero’s contributions to the cause of press freedom and advancement of rights of media practitioners and workers. “We are concerned that his prosecution may be linked to his high-profile work as a human rights lawyer, government critic and columnist,” the statement said. # Arthur L. Allad-iw(NorDis)

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