De Lima calls for a thorough probe on child rights activist’s questionable arrest

De Lima calls for a thorough probe on child rights activist’s questionable arrest

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima called for an immediate
and serious investigation on the arrest of anti-child trafficking
activist Maria Salome “Sally” Crisostomo-Ujano by local police units
on the basis of a 15-year-old warrant of arrest last Nov. 14.

De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, called on
authorities to observe due process, respect Crisostomo-Ujano’s rights
and thoroughly investigate what truly happened in the said case.

“I join other advocates against human trafficking and human rights
defenders in calling for the observance of due process and respect for
the rights of Ms. Sally Crisostomo-Ujano who was recently arrested
allegedly on the basis of a 15-year old warrant of arrest.”

“I likewise call for an immediate investigation into the legality and
circumstances of her arrest,” she said in her Dispatch from Crame No.
1177.

“Since she has not made any effort to hide or obscure her identity,
authorities have to give her the benefit of the doubt, and release her
while all this is being sorted out,” she added.

Based on media reports, Crisostomo-Ujano was arrested in Barangay
Mabolo in Malolos City, Bulacan through a warrant of arrest issued by
Judge Virgilio Alpajora of Regional Trial Court Branch 59 in Lucena
City for the crime of rebellion.

The warrant, dated June 28, 2006, was reportedly issued almost 15
years ago, with the case stemming from the alleged involvement of
Ujano in the ambush of two military personnel in Quezon Province in
2005.

Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT) decried said arrest,
calling the rebellion charges “trumped-up” and “ridiculous.”

Moreover, De Lima said that the allegation of PNP Central Luzon that
Crisostomo-Ujano is “a Top Most Wanted Person in the province of
Bulacan” only highlighted the gaping holes in the capability for
investigation, tracking, and coordination of the country’s law
enforcement authorities than the latter’s alleged intention to evade
justice.

“I was shown photos of her with government agencies, even members of
the PNP, in campaigns against human trafficking. How can she be a most
wanted person and in hiding when she has been publicly advocating for
women’s and children’s rights, for the last 2 decades?” she asked.

“If someone who has lived a very public life, has a Facebook account,
has made no efforts to obscure her identity and, instead, has been
working publicly with law enforcement agencies in combating human
trafficking can be considered a ‘Most Wanted Person’ by the PNP, then
there is something deeply and disturbingly wrong with the PNP,” she
added.

As such, the lady Senator from Bicol said the public should not allow
the arrest of Crisostomo-Ujano to go uninvestigated.

“Hindi tayo pwedeng pumayag na ang isang mamamayan tulad ni Ms. Sally
Crisostomo-Ujano, na mas marami pang naitulong sa paglaban sa human
trafficking kaysa sa ilang miyembro ng kapulisan, ay basta-basta na
lang dadamputin sa ganitong kataka-takang paraan,” she said.

“Buti pa ang mga Duterte government at Pharmally officials, nagtatago
na nga, at ang iba ay nagtangka pang pumuga, pero lubos ang
pagtatanggol ng Pangulo sa kanila. How can a woman who has served the
interests of human trafficking victims deserve any less?” she
concluded.

Ultimately, De Lima said the imperfections in the police force in
particular, and the criminal justice system, in general, are the main
reasons why she both firmly and consistently opposes the death
penalty, and vehemently speaks against extrajudicial killings. (ai/mtvn)

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