Labor lawyer illegally arrested and accused as NPA rebel in Southern Tagalog, Philippines

Around 1 P.M. of 23 October 2008, Atty. Remigio Saladero Jr., a labor lawyer of Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE) and chief legal counsel of labor organization KMU, was working in his office when an unidentified man in plainclothes came in and asked if he is Atty. Saladero. He said yes.

The man left, and returned in police uniform together with several other police officers from PNP-Antipolo.  He was shown a defective warrant of arrest (bearing the wrong name, i.e. Remegio Saladero alias Ka Patrick and address i.e., Los Baños, Laguna). Charges of Multiple Murder and Multiple Frustrated Murder dated 6 October 2008 was reflected on the warrant.  The said warrant was issued by Branch 40 of Mindoro Oriental RTC in Calapan City.

Atty. Saladero was handcuffed and forcibly taken out of his office. His mobile phone, computer CPU (central processing unit) and a laptop were also taken by the police.

He was first taken to the Rizal Provincial Police Headquarters in Antipolo where the arresting officers took his picture. The police refused Atty. Saladero's assertion of his right for a phone call to inform his family of his whereabouts.

Later, he was transferred to Camp Vicente Lim in Laguna.  At past 8P.M., he was able to call his wife, Maricel.  She arrived at Camp Vicente Lim at around 11:30 P.M., accompanied by Atty. Noel Neri of PLACE and the human rights Quick Reaction Team (QRT) composed of KARAPATAN-National, AnakPawis Partylist and KMU members.

At first, the police refused to allow Maricel and Atty. Neri to talk to the victim. After a heated argument, the two were finally allowed to speak to Atty. Saladero but only for a short time.

The QRT stayed in the area until the morning of October 24 to ensure that no further violation will be committed against Atty. Saladero.

At around 6:30AM the following day, October 24, Atty. Saladero was made to board a red Toyota Corrolla with no plate and was transported to Batangas Pier to be taken to Calapan City.

By 10 in the morning, another human rights team was already waiting for Atty. Saladero at the Branch 40 of Mindoro Oriental RTC in Calapan City. The team was alarmed that after five hours of waiting, Atty. Saladero has yet to be presented in Court. Calapan City is about an hour and 45 minutes travel via ferry from Batangas Pier.

While waiting for Atty. Saladero, the paralegal of the team asked a court clerk for the documents of the charges filed against the labor lawyer. But he was refused citing various reasons.

Later, at around 4 P.M., Atty. Saladero and his custodians finally arrived at the court.  He was then brought to Calapan City Provincial Jail.

Atty. Saladero was a professor at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and Dominican College, both in Metro Manila. He is also a columnist of Pinoy Weekly, an online newspaper where he writes about various labor cases in the Philippines.

He is a member of PLACE which handles around 700 pro-bono cases on labor, human rights, criminal, civil and administrative cases. PLACE, being a progressive labor law office, has been subjected to harassments and surveillance from unidentified men believed to be military agents.

Atty. Saladero is also charged with arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion together with other 26 activists for allegedly burning a Globe cell site in the town of Lemery in Batangas province last August 2, an incident already claimed by the New Peoples Army (NPA).