Women's rights leader's arrest denounced

Various groups denounced on Tuesday, Nov. 16, the arrest of child rights and women's rights leader Sally Crisostomo-Ujano on Nov. 14 in Bulacan.

(Photo from Karla Ujano)

Crisostomo, 64, national coordinator of children's rights non-profit organization Philippine Against Child Trafficking (PACT) was arrested by authorities in Malolos, Bulacan for a rebellion case filed in 2006.

In a statement, Child Rights Coalition (CRC) Asia belied the claims of the Philippine National Police Regional (PNP) Office 3 that Crisostomo-Ujano "has been hiding for more than 15 years."

"Sally 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," it said.

According to CRC Asia, from 1990 to 2007, Crisostomo-Ujano was serving as the Executive Director of the Women's Crisis Center, providing assistance and counseling to survivors of violence against women.

She also worked closely with the PNP Women and Child Protection Units and the Philippine Commission on Women.

"Sally's years-long work as a human rights defender has been crucial to uplifting the lives of women and children. Her arrest is an affront to civil society organizations that legitimately and proactively pursue constructive and healthy engagements and partnerships with the government to uphold the rights of all women and children," the group added.

"We call for the immediate release of Sally and an end to the harassment and persecution of human rights defenders in the Philippines and in the Asian region."

In separate statements, women's groups Gabriela and Amihan National Federation of Peasant Women likewise deplored the arrest of Crisostomo-Ujano who has been a "leading force" in setting up a crisis center for women.

"The tyrannical Duterte regime narrowly equates even humanitarian acts as subversion. Only a despicable and heartless government could invent such case. This vile and evil action of the Duterte regime also indicates its desperate moves to reach its quota of arrests even without basis and to justify its unliquidated billion-budget," Gabriela said.

“Sally’s arrest is an ugly manifestation of the Terror Law and the dangers it poses on our basic human rights. It mirrors the unrestrained arrest of peasant women organizers in the countryside for fabricated charges that are often non-bailable and ensure that the women are silenced and immobilized to speak out and organize against land confiscation and conversion, militarization, and displacement of their communities, and the plunder of our natural resources," Amihan National Chairperson Zenaida Soriano said.

Crisostomo-Ujano is currently detained at Camp Crame.