PH a dangerous place for rights defenders under Duterte with arrest of women and children’s rights advocate

Rights group Karapatan called for the immediate release of women and child rights advocate Maria Salome Crisostomo-Ujano, as the group condemned her arrest yesterday, November 14, as “an attack on women and children’s rights advocates under a regime that spent its whole term endangering rights defenders, wrongfully tagging them as criminals and terrorists.”

“We call for the immediate release of Maria Salome Crisostomo-Ujano, as we condemn how the Duterte administration and its state forces continue to make this country a dangerous place for dissenters and rights defenders, including women’s and child rights advocates,” Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay said.

Ujano, 64, was arrested in her home in Malolos, Bulacan, yesterday morning, November 14, by men in civilian clothes, with no identification papers. They were later identified as elements of the Regional Intelligence Unit 4A (Lead Unit), RIU3, Malolos CPS, PIU, Bulacan, 1st PMFC, Bulacan PPO, Balagtas MPS, Delta Company 7Oth IB, and 7th ID PA, as stated in the PNP Region 3’s press release, wherein they also said that they have arrested “one of the country’s most wanted person.”

“Nothing is more audacious than the PNP commending themselves for the unjust arrest of Ujano by reviving an old baseless charge, and labelling her as a most wanted person who has eluded arrest for 15 years. In fact, various organizations that she has worked for the last two decades attest that she has been active and present in the public eye all these years. The PNP is making an utter lie to justify her unjust arrest,” Palabay said.

Ujano was presented with an “order of arrest,” a certification dated October 2, 2020 which said there is a standing warrant against her, for a rebellion case filed before the Taguig City RTC Branch 266, on November 20, 2005. It was only presented to her during her when she insisted for information on the alleged case against her. Her family maintained that the rebellion case has no basis, stressing the fact that she was not aware of any case filed against her.

Ujano has worked with different organizations advocating women and children’s rights. She is currently the national coordinator of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking, and was also former executive director of the Women’s Crisis Center. She is currently detained at Camp Crame.

She was likewise a political prisoner during Marcos’ martial law, and one of the members of the Hawaii class suit against the Marcoses.

“Up to the end of the current regime, those who work to uphold and protect human rights become subjects of harassment and attacks. Arrests and detention of individuals like Ujano are expected to continue as long as Duterte and his minions remain in power. We call on fellow rights advocates to join the call and efforts to release Maria Salome Ujano from detention,” she concluded.