Rights group condemns arrest of Rodolfo Salas for trumped-up charges

Karapatan denounces the arrest of Rodolfo Salas, an organizer of farmers and cooperatives in Pampanga since 1992, on February 18, 2020 in Pampanga on trumped-up multiple murder charges filed at the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32.

Respondents in the said case include former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, Juliet de Lima, peace consultants Vicente Ladlad, Adelberto Silva, Randy Echanis, and Rafael Baylosis, former Bohol mayor Exuperio Lloren, peasant organizers Oscar Belleza and Norberto Murillo, among many others.

A petition for the writ of habeas corpus was filed on February 25 by the son of 73-year old Salas, reportedly the former chairperson of the Communist Party of the Philippines, at the Supreme Court.

Human rights advocates and lawyers have dubbed the said murder charges as the case of “travelling skeletons.” In July 2000, a complaint for multiple murder was filed against 25 alleged NPA guerrillas in connection with the alleged mass grave found in Baybay, Leyte. On January 10, 2005, the case was dismissed due to insufficient evidence. Six years later, on 2011, multiple murder charges were filed in connection with another alleged mass grave in another town, in Inopacan. Five of the victims, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found in Baybay, Leyte on June 27, 2000 were the same alleged victims in the Hilongos case, whose skeletal remains were allegedly found on August 26, 2006 in Mt. Sapang Dako, Inopacan, Leyte.

The said case has been pestering the respondents for years, with a line-up of alleged witnesses from the military who, in the course of their testimonies, gave fake and perjured accounts. Salas is the latest victim in this case of judicial harassment against those perceived as ‘enemies of the State,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

“This malicious practice of weaponizing the judiciary to clamp down dissent has been the standard practice of numerous administrations, but such tactic has been thoroughly used under the Duterte regime. This practice and policy should end,” she concluded.