Photo of Sally Ujano screen-captured and cropped from the Child Rights Coalition Asia’s video on “Honoring the Pioneers of Child Rights Advocacy,” 22 November 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2gCV7JrjPUQ.

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Statement on the Arrest of Human Rights Defender Salome “Sally” Ujano

PAHAYAG NG PAKIKIISA

Maalab na pagbati sa inyo mga kabaro at kasama na magtataguyod ng karapatan at kapakanan nating mga kababaihan!!!

Sa ngayon, bagama’t ako ay nasa piitan, ako ay taos-pusong nakikiisa sa inyong lahat para sa pagdiriwang ng mahalagang araw na ito.

Ako at ang aking pamilya ay labis na nalulungkot sa nangyaring inhustisya sa akin. Sa kabila ng higit 30 taong paglilingkod sa babae at batang biktima ng karahasan at eksploytasyon, kasama ng ibang NGO’s at mga service providers mula sa pamahalaan, ako ay di-makatarungang kinasuhan ng rebelyon.

Sa ganitong kalagayan, humihingi ako ng inyong suporta sa pagmonitor ng aking kaso upang matiyak na makamit ko ang layuning mapawalang-sala, makapiling ko na ang aking pamilya at maipagpatuloy ko ang gawain para sa pagtiyak na ang karapatan at kapakanan ng mga babae at bata ay nirerespeto at pinangangalagaan ng bawat tao at sektor, lalo na ang ating pamahalaan.

Muli, maalab na pagbati sa inyong lahat sa pandaigdigang araw ng kababaihan!

Mabuhay tayong lahat!

Ma. Salome C. Ujano
Political Prisoner | Person Deprived of Liberty
TCJFD
March 8, 2021

With the start of the 18-day Campaign to End Violence Against Women, The Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission revisits the arrest of Human Rights Defender Sally Ujano.

The Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) officially recognized and granted reparations to Ms. Maria Salome “Sally” Crisostomo-Ujano as a victim of human rights violations under the Marcos Regime.[1]

She had personally filed for her case on October 2014 for Torture and Unlawful Arrest in connection with her detention at Camp Nakar, Lucena City. Imprisoned by state agents from 1983 to 1985, she sustained multiple beatings under the maltreatment of her detaining officers, causing the miscarriage of her first child. She was repeatedly interrogated on her alleged involvement with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), but never presented with a valid warrant of arrest even after her release.

Sadly it appears that her rights are AGAIN being breached by state forces.

At around 10:00 AM on 14 November 2021, a group of men surprised the 64 year-old Ujano and her family at their home in Barangay Mabolo, Malolos, Bulacan. They were told that Sally was under arrest for the crime of rebellion. Videos of the incident taken by her family show that the men were not in uniform and had failed to immediately present a warrant of arrest. At least one uniformed personnel arrived only later, after much persistence from Ujano for proof that they were agents of the State. Ujano also demanded to know why she had received no summons or subpoena from the Department of Justice, as it was her first time to receive information on the charge filed against her name. The group told her that the warrant and other evidence were to be presented to her in court.[2] Ujano was arrested that same morning.

On the evening of the same day, Police Regional Office 3 released a statement on the incident, lauding the responsible officers for “the successful arrest of one of the country’s Top Most Wanted Persons during a manhunt operation,” and claiming that Ujano had “eluded the arms of the law for more than 15 years.” The Philippine National Police, in a press briefing the following day, stated that they were “very pleased” to announce her arrest, and mentioned that the DILG-DND has offered Php 5 million as a reward for her arrest under Joint Order on Reward No. 14-2012. They explained that the fifteen-year-old warrant, dated 28 June 2006, particularly cited her alleged involvement in the ambush of two military personnel in Quezon Province in 2005. They claimed that she assisted in planning the ambush in her capacity as a member of the Kilusang Larangan Guerrilla of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA)’s Southern Tagalog Regional Party Committee.[3]

Ujano’s daughter has released a statement denouncing the arrest, stating that, contrary to the PNP’s claims, her mother has not been in hiding for the past fifteen years, and has in fact been actively involved with the government and non-government organizations in various efforts against the exploitation of women and children.[4] She is the current National Coordinator of Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), and, prior to this, served as the Executive Director of the Women’s Crisis Center (WCC), where she worked from 1990 to 2007.[5]

The Commission on Human Rights expressed its alarm over the arrest last November 16, recognizing her as an ally of the government in combatting trafficking of women and girls, the promotion of reproductive health services, and addressing violence against women.[6] It noted that: “The continuing arrests and criminalisation of human rights defenders are seen by the human rights community as attacks against the right to organise, freedom of expression, and the right to defend rights. This recent arrest has the effect of silencing human rights advocates especially women’s and children’s human rights defenders, contributing to the shrinking civic space in the country.” PACT and other organizations such as Karapatan and the Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) have also expressed their concerns over the arrest.

While the Memorial Commission is concentrated on fulfilling the right-to-know and memorialization aspects of Transitional Justice towards the Martial Law Period, the right to the non-recurrence of such abuses is paramount to the whole of nation approach in government. The words of the CHR are echoed, calling forth the government’s responsibility to create a safe space for human rights defenders to perform their roles.

#FreeSallyUjano #WeRemember

[1] “Resolution” (Case No. 2014-14-10580, Quezon City: 2016), accessed through the archives of the Human Rights Violations Victims’ Memorial Commission.

[2] Karla Ujano, “Ang nanay ko po na si Ma. Salome Crisostomo Ujano,” Facebook, 14 November 2021, https://www.facebook.com/karla.ako/posts/10224391534168585.

[3] Police Regional Office 3, “RD Baccay Lauds the Arrest of the Country’s Top Most Wanted Person in Bulacan After Hiding for More than 15 Years,” Facebook, 14 November 2021, https://www.facebook.com/PoliceRegionalOffice3/posts/1516736132044112; Philippine National Police, “Press Briefing,” Facebook, 15 November 2021, https://www.facebook.com/pnp.pio/videos/1635799083432583.

[4] Ujano, “Ang nanay ko po na si Ma. Salome Crisostomo Ujano.”

[5] Philippines Against Child Trafficking, “Please share,” 14 November 2021, https://www.facebook.com/antichildtrafficking.phils/posts/2722475011379335

[6] Commission on Human Rights, “Statement of CHR Commissioner Karen Gomez-Dumpit, Focal Commissioner on Women’s Rights, on the arrest of Maria Salome “Sally” Crisostomo-Ujano.” 16 November 2021, https://chr.gov.ph/statement-of-chr-commissioner-karen-gomez-dumpit-focal-commissioner-on-womens-rights-on-the-arrest-of-maria-salome-sally-crisostomo-ujano/