UPDATE (Philippines): Human rights and political activists exonerated from murder cases face another questionable charge


Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAU-003-2009
ISSUES: Administration of justice, Arbitrary arrest & detention, Human rights defenders,

Dear Friends,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) writes with deep concern that a labour lawyer and several other activists, who had already been released after they were exonerated from questionable charges, have been charged with another murder complaint. Had they not been informed by a colleague, they would have not known that they had also been charged and investigated for murder.


As mentioned in our previous appeal (AHRC-UAU-068-2008), lawyer Remigio Saladero Jr. and 20 other activists had been charged with multiple murder and multiple frustrated murder in Calapan City. Though the crime took place in 3 March 2006, none of the respondents had been informed, nor knew of the charges laid against them.

When the prosecutor first resolved the case in July 2006, the names of all the respondents were described initially as John Does. However, when the prosecutor made an amendment to the complaint on September 2008 to include the names of the respondents the latter were not informed of this action. The prosecutor resolved to file the case in court in the absence of any response from the respondents. They were neither informed of the conduct of a preliminary investigation that could have given them opportunity to answer the allegations.

Thus, when the court issued orders to arrest all the respondents, none of those whom the policemen had arrested in separate incidents from October to November 2008 had any idea at all that they had already been charged for murder. In this period, apart from Remigio, five other activists, namely Arnaldo Seminiano, organizer for Ilaw-Buklod ng Manggagawa (IBM); Nestor San Jose, coordinator for the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) in Rizal; Rogelio Galit, spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka); Crispin Zapanta, a member of political party Bayan Muna and Emmanuel Dioneda, executive director of the Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services, Inc., were also arrested.

The other respondents were left with no choice and were forced to go in hiding, effectively preventing them from doing their activities, in order to avoid being arrested as they had to await a resolution from the court which challenged the issuance of the arrest orders on them and the irregularities in the filing of charges. In their petitions, they sought intervention for the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 39 in Calapan City to recall the arrest orders and to subsequently dismiss the charges laid on them.

The court, however, had been able to resolve the petition in favor of the respondent on the 5th February 2009 which eventually led to the release of Remigio and the five other detainees mentioned earlier from jail on the same day.

In hisĀ order, RTC judge Manuel C. Luna, Jr., held that the respondents could not be charged for the multiple murder and frustrated murder of six different individuals altogether in one complaint. Also, it ruled that “each act of murder and frustrated murder should have been charged in separate information (complaint)”.

But on 11 February 2009, few days after they were released from jail, Remigio and his fellow respondents, were once again informed of another murder charge laid against them. This time, the case involves the killing of a Ricky Garmino, 37, a member of a government paramilitary group, the Civilian Auxiliary Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU). The crime upon which they are charged took place in Rodriquez, Rizal province in 29 July 2008. It was filed on 4th August 2008.

Those who had murdered Ricky, according to the records, are members of a rebel group, the Narciso Antazo Aramil Command of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People Army (CPP-NPA) operating in Rizal province.

Except for Arnaldo, some of those charged for the 3rd March, 2006 murder incident in Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro and the burning of a cell site of a telecommunications company in Lemery, Batangas on 2 August 2008, were included as respondents. To read the names, please see our previous appeal: (AHRC-UAC-239-2008)

In a sworn statement dated on 30 July 2008, the wife of the murder victim, Adelia Garmino, claimed that she had seen her husband being tied and taken away. She claimed that the perpetrators were NPAs, numbering more or less 30 men. Some of them were wearing uniforms similar to that of soldiers, while the others were in plain clothes. They shot her husband as he was struggling to free himself.

A witness, a certain Braulio Tambong, also claimed in his statement on 1 August, 2008 that the men and women whom Adelia mentioned also happened to introduced themselves to him as soldiers shortly before they went inside the yard to kill Ricky. However, strangely although he had not seen any of the perpetrators before, he has claimed to have been able to recognize some of the perpetrators, including Remigio, since their names and physical features had already been described to him by Ricky himself prior to his death.

The victim’s brother, Ronnie Garmino, also claimed that prior to his brother’s murder, members of the same NPA command had also visited in their place three occasions; and it was on these occasions that he was able to recognize almost all of their faces. His brother too told him that he may be sentenced to death for being a CAFGU member.

In his statement, Ronnie narrated that it was around 1pm of 29 July 2008 when he had seen his brother being tied up and carried towards a stream from which he was also taking cover. He recognized the two men carrying his brother as Nestor San Jose and Romie Aguilar, and the one who shot Ricky to his left shoulder as Julio Atienza. Ronnie said Julio was together with 20 NPA rebels when they killed his brother.

Ronnie is supposed to have been able to identify 70 of the names and the alleged aliases of the respondents exactly as it was written and in the same order in the list of name as they were written in complaint of murder in Pueto Galera, Oriental Mindoro. This was the complaint upon which the respondents were exonerated. The new charged had been filed at the Rizal Provincial Prosecutor’s Office, Pasig City.

Soon after Remigio and his fellow respondents became aware of this new murder case, they noticed police patrol cars overtly watching at the office where he is working, the Prolabor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE), along at E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City. Tinted vehicles without plate numbers and motorcycles were also seen there. Unknown men with suspicious movements were also seen watching the entrance portion of the office and the clients going in and out.

Please write letters to concerned authorities requesting their intervention to ensure that a thorough review is conducted into the new charge laid on the respondents. The charges must be withdrawn should there be no sufficient evidence to hold them for trial. Also, express your deep concern to this pattern of filing questionable charges against human rights and political activists.

The AHRC has also written letters to the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders for her appropriate intervention.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Dear ____________,

PHILIPPINES: Human rights and political activists exonerated from murder cases face another questionable charge anew

Name of victims:
1. Remigio Saladero, 49 years old; member of the Pro-Labor Legal Assistance Center (PLACE); chief legal counsel for Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU), an alliance of Trade Unions
2. Rogelio Galit, spokesperson of Katipunan ng mga Magbubukid sa Kabite (Kamagsasaka-Ka). He was arrested on November 3 from his house in Barangay (village) Kaong, Silang Cavite
3. Crispin Zapanta, a member of political party Bayan Muna
4. Emmanuel Dioneda, executive director of the Labor Education Advocacy Development Response Services, Inc.
5. Nestor San Jose, coordinator for the Pagkakaisa ng mga Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (PISTON) in Rizal
6. 72 other persons charged for arson and conspiracy to commit rebellion for allegedly having been involved in burning a cell site of a telecommunications company in Lemery, Batangas on 2 August 2008
Status of the case: the complaint is now pending before the prosecutor’s office in Rodriguez, Rizal

I am writing to express my grave concern over the filing of charges whose names and organizations mentioned above.

As you are maybe aware, all these persons have been charged with criminal offenses on two separate occasions; firstly, it involves murder charges in Puetro Galera, Oriental Mindoro in March 2006; secondly, the charges for arson and the conspiracy to commit rebellion for burning a cell site in Lemery, Batangas on 2 August 2008.

However, the first charged though had already been dismissed when a court judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 39 in Calapan City held on 5 February 2009 that there were irregularities in the filing of charges, in particular the respondents could not be charged for several offenses in one complaint. The second charged, however, remains pending before a court in Batangas province.

I am once again appalled by these continuing incidents wherein human rights and political activists are charged with questionable offenses.

When the prosecutor filed the first charged in court, none of those respondents had been informed; nor were they aware of the charges laid on them. Thus, they had not been given any opportunity at all to respond to the charges which resulted to the issuance of arrest orders on them. This scenario too is similar to what happened to the second charged that has been filed in court.

Though the second complaint remains pending in court, I am gravely concerned that the respondents mentioned in the case are needlessly prosecuted over questionable offenses. They too had to needlessly endure the continuing threats of arrest. As a result, all of these respondents have likewise been effectively prevented from carrying on their work as human rights and political activists, like providing assistance to the needy.

Once again, I am deeply concerned there may have been irregularities in the charge of murder upon which these respondents came to know only on 11 February 2009. It is pending before the prosecutor’s office in the Rodriquez, Rizal province.

The complaint, which involves the murder of a militia man, Ricky Garmino, that took place in 29 July 2008, also has serious questions regarding the issues of merit and credibility of the statements that the witnesses have made. For instance, one of the witness named the respondents to this new charge were described as it was similarly written in exact order as the charged in Calapan City had.

In this regard, I therefore urged your intervention to ensure that this new charges laid on the respondents are thoroughly reviewed. Should there be no sufficient evidence, or are the filing of charges made irregular, they must be withdrawn unconditionally. I am disturbed by this continuing scenario upon which human rights and political activists were deliberately charged with questionable offenses in court.

Yours sincerely,


1. Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace
JP Laurel Street, San Miguel
Manila 1005
Fax: +63 2 736 1010
Tel: +63 2 735 6201 / 564 1451 to 80
E-mail: corres@op.gov.ph

2. Ms. Leila De Lima
Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., Commonwealth Avenue
U.P. Complex, Diliman
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 929 0102
Tel: +63 2 928 5655 / 926 6188
E-mail: chr.delima@yahoo.com or mtm_rodulfo@yahoo.com

3. Deputy Director General Jesus A. Verzosa
Chief, Philippine National Police (PNP)
Camp General Rafael Crame
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2724 8763
Tel: +63 2 726 4361/4366/8763
E-mail: bluetree73@gmail.com

4. Mr. Raul Gonzalez
Department of Justice (DoJ)
DOJ Bldg., Padre Faura
1004 Manila
Fax: +63 2 521 1614
E-mail: raulgonzalez_doj@yahoo.com

5. Mr. Ronaldo V. Puno
Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)
A. Francisco Gold Condominium II
EDSA cor. Mapagmahal St., Diliman
Quezon City
Fax: +63 2 925 0332
Tel: +63 2 925 0330 / 31
E-mail: rvpuno@dilg.gov.ph

6. Mr. Christopher Lock
Court Administrator
Office of the Court Administrator
Supreme Court of the Philippines
New Supreme Court Building Annex
Padre Faura St.,Ermita,
1000 Manila
Tel: +63 2 525 5741 / 521 5133

Thank you.

Urgent Appeals Programme
Asian Human Rights Commission (ua@ahrc.asia)

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : AHRC-UAU-003-2009
Countries : Philippines,
Issues : Administration of justice, Arbitrary arrest & detention, Human rights defenders,