Re: Murder Charges against Remigio Saladero Jr.
To: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
From: Constance Marlatt, LRWC
I am writing on behalf of Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada (LRWC) to express concern with the murder charge which is being pursued against Remigio Saladero Jr, a lawyer in the Philippines.
LRWC has been informed that your office is considering whether to pursue a charge of murder against Mr. Saladero for the killing of Ricky Garmino, and that the next hearing is scheduled for July 3rd, 2009. LRWC is concerned with information indicating that the said charge has been brought against Mr. Saladero for political reasons and is not well founded in facts. Mr. Saladero is a 49 year old labour lawyer, the chief legal counsel for Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), an alliance of trade unions, and the chairperson of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE).
Mr. Saladero was a professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and Dominican College, both in Metro Manila. He is a columnist for Pinoy Weekly, an online newspaper, and writes about various labour cases in the Philippines. He is a member of PLACE, handling around 700 pro-bono cases on labour, human rights, criminal, civil and administrative cases. We have been advised that PLACE, a progressive labour law office, has itself been subjected to harassment and surveillance from unidentified men believed to be military agents.
Many human rights organizations have raised concerns about the possible political motivations to the arrest and charges brought against Mr. Saladero. Human Rights Watch has noted its concern that Mr. Saladero was arrested because of the groups and individuals he has represented; his clients include hundreds of workers who have brought wrongful dismissal cases and suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines.
All the facts available to LRWC indicate that the charges against Mr. Saladero are politically motivated. For example: 1) evidence that Mr. Saladero was in court at Nueva Vizcaya at the relevant time has been confirmed by official court records; 2) the only statement relied on as putting Mr. Saladero at the scene is both uncorroborated and contradicted by other evidence.
Based on the above information, LRWC believes that Mr. Saladero has been targeted because of his work as a lawyer. Arresting a lawyer for his work is not only an attack on the legal profession, it violates the right to legal representation and access to justice guaranteed by the Constitution of the Philippines and by international law binding on the Philippines including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment, and Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. The ICCPR ratified 23 January 1987 guarantees freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and access to legal representation that is timely and confidential. The treatment of Mr. Saladero reported to LRWC appears to violate these standards.
The Philippines is also a signatory to the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). The CAHRIHL was a landmark agreement binding your government to respect and enforce international human rights standards, which includes the protection of those representing clients pursuing investigations of or remedies for human rights violations. Mr. Saladero is an individual whom you have an absolute obligation to protect as a human rights defender.
LRWC calls on your office to act immediately to:
- ensure that Mr. Saladero is given the full protection of all international human rights standards relevant to the treatment of lawyers and people accused or charged with criminal offences;
- carefully examine the bona fides of the aforementioned prosecution of Mr. Saldero and if evidence available to LRWC is confirmed to stay criminal proceedings unless and until there is a proper basis of verifiable evidence facts implicating him in criminal activity.
- assign to Mr. Saladero effective protective measures adequate to ensure his professional and personal safety.
We would appreciate being advised of the action taken and look forward to receiving a reply. Thank you.