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UPLB alumnus, human rights advocate Sally Ujano arrested over a 15-year old “rebellion” case

Ujano served as executive director at the Women’s Crisis Center and has been the coordinator of Philippines Against Child Trafficking since 2008, prior to arrest.

Maria Salome “Sally” Crisostomo Ujano, alumnus of UPLB socio-civic environmental organization UP Kappa Phi Sigma – Conservation and Development Society (UP KPS-CDS), was arrested last November 14 by non-uniformed officers, UP KPS-CDS wrote in a Facebook post.

May pinakitang warrant of arrest na ang kaso ay rebelyon na na-file noong 2006. Hinanapan niya [Sally Ujano] ng ID ang mga nakasibilyang mga tao pero wala silang pinakita sa kanila kahit ang arresting officer ay di nakapag labas ng impormasyon,” Sally Ujano’s daughter Karla wrote in a Facebook post.

[“They showed a warrant of arrest for a rebellion charge filed in 2006. My mother asked for the identification of the non-uniformed personnel, but even the arresting officer was not able to present any information.”]

In the video posted by Karla Ujano, Sally Ujano can be heard insisting that she did not receive “summons” from the Department of Justice (DOJ) nor a subpoena for the case.

According to the Police Regional Office 3, Ujano has a standing warrant of arrest for the crime of rebellion that is dated June 28, 2006, and that she had “eluded the arms of the law for more than 15 years”. Ujano was allegedly involved in the ambush of two military personnel in Quezon in 2005.

“Let me emphasize that this arrest is, foremost, the result of a lawful implementation of a warrant of arrest issued by judicial authorities, and her affiliation with the CPP-NPA-NDF [Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front] may have been incidental to the criminal case she is accused of,” Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Police General Dionardo Carlos said.

Human rights advocate, not in ‘hiding’

Contrary to the authorities’ claim, UP KPS-CDS reported that Ujano was not “hiding”, and that she even actively participated in organization activities in recent years.

“Sis Sally, however, was unaware of these charges [rebellion case] and was much less ‘hiding’. She has been actively attending public gatherings, including organization activities, and participated in the opening ceremonies of 2019 ‘Ako Para sa Bata’ event at Mall of Asia Conference Center,” UP KPS-CDS said in their official statement on Ujano’s arrest.

In truth, Ujano has been the national coordinator of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) since 2008, and served as the executive director at the Women’s Crisis Center from 1990 to 2007.

Walang batayan ang nasabing kaso dahil noong 2005 ay aktibo siyang [Sally Ujano] naglilingkod bilang Executive Director ng Women’s Crisis Center. Wala siyang kaalam-alam sa kaso na wala man lang pinadalang impormasyon sa kanya,” Karla Ujano insisted.

[“There is no basis for the said case because in 2005, my mother served actively as Executive Director of Women’s Crisis Center. She knows nothing about the case and no information was given to her.”]

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reported that they are now closely monitoring and investigating the case of Ujano, while she is currently detained at Camp Crame in Quezon City. 

“We raise concern over the propriety of the use of a 15-year-old warrant of arrest in order to hold in custody a 62-year-old women human rights defender (WHRD) […] She is a recognised ally of the government in combatting trafficking of women and girls, the promotion [of] reproductive health services, and addressing violence against women,” CHR wrote.

Persisting attacks on human rights defenders

Sally Ujano is popularly known for her legacy focusing on women’s and children’s rights, particularly on anti-child trafficking.

Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) also said that Sally lobbied for the passage of laws such as Anti-Violence Against Women and the Children Act in 2004.

“Her contribution to the women’s movement and child rights advocacy are invaluable. Without a doubt, her arrest is but among the government’s endless attempt to silence its people, especially those who are critically voicing out their opinion against the government. Her human rights advocacy cannot be construed as acts of rebellion,” WLB added.

Human rights group Karapatan called Ujano’s arrest 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”.

According to PACT, under the coordination of Ujano, they have even partnered with several government institutions such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), DOJ, and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Anti Human-Trafficking Division.

“We demand accountability from the PNP and call on them to reverse the false charges against Ujano. There have been far too many cases of trumped-up charges linked to advocates and activists when they should be considered as partners for change and development,” wrote Alternative Law Groups, a coalition of legal resource non-government organizations advocating for human rights and social justice.

Meanwhile, CHR reminds the national government that it has the “primary responsibility” to create a protected environment for human rights defenders.

“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,” CHR added. [P]

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