A regional coalition of child rights organizations called on Philippine authorities to release child rights and women’s rights leader Ma. Salome “Sally” Crisostomo-Ujano who was arrested on November 14 over charges of rebellion.
In a statement, the Child Rights Coalition Asia (CRC Asia) “strongly denounces” the arrest of Ujano who has been serving as national coordinator of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking since 2008.
PACT is a member organization of the Civil Society Coalition on the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC Coalition), a member network of CRC Asia.
The group said that contrary to the claims of Philippine authorities that she has been hiding for more than 15 years, Ujano “has always been in the public eye in the last three decades for her non-profit work on protecting the rights of women and children.”
From 1990 to 2007, at the time when the alleged charge of rebellion was filed, she was serving as the executive director of the Women’s Crisis Center, providing assistance and counseling to survivors of violence against women.
“While doing so, she worked closely with the Philippine National Police Women and Child Protection Units and the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, now known as the Philippine Commission on Women,” said the regional child rights group.
It said that as national coordinator of PACT, Ujano “strengthened the collaboration between civil society and government to protect children against child trafficking.”
The Philippine National Police, however, claimed that the arrest of Ujano was a result of lawful implementation of a warrant of arrest.
“Let me emphasize that this arrest is, foremost, the result of a lawful implementation of a warrant of arrest issued by judicial authorities,” said newly appointed national police chief General Dionardo Carlos.
The police said Ujano was arrested by joint forces of local police units on Sunday, November 14 in Malolos City, Bulacan province, through a warrant of arrest issued by Judge Virgilio Alpajora of Lucena City for the crime of rebellion.
The warrant dated June 28, 2006, was issued almost 15 years ago and stemmed from the alleged involvement of Ujano in the ambush of two military personnel in Quezon Province in 2005.
In a Facebook post by Sally’s daughter, Karla said that the case was not valid because her mother was serving as executive director of Women’s Crisis Center in 2005.
Human rights group Karapatan said “nothing is more audacious than the [police] commending themselves for the unjust arrest of Ujano by reviving an old baseless charge, and labeling 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,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.
“Common sense and justice must prevail,” said WomanHealth Philippines, a nongovernmental organization focusing on women’s rights. “We call for the immediate release of [Ujano] and an end to the harassment and persecution of women human rights defenders.”