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Camp of child rights advocate Sally Ujano files motion to quash 2006 rebellion charge

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Camp of child rights advocate Sally Ujano files motion to quash 2006 rebellion charge
Photo shows rights activist Maria Salome Crisostomo-Ujano, the national coordinator of Philippines Against Child Trafficking.
Karla Ujano on Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — The legal counsel of child and women’s rights activist Sally Ujano, 64, has filed a motion to quash the information on alleged acts of rebellion that were filed against her in 2006.

In a statement sent to reporters, Ujano's camp said the motion was filed before her arraignment originally slated for Tuesday. The arraignment that was originally scheduled today has since been reset on December 14 pending resolution of Motion to Quash.

Ujano was arrested on November 14 — by police in plain clothes and who reportedly did not show any identification — for alleged acts of rebellion in Lucena City back in 2006.

Police Gen. Dionardo Carlos, chief of the Philippine National Police, justified the warrant and arrest as being valid, claiming Ujano was on the PNP’s most wanted list for more than 15 years. 

Immediately after the arrest, the Philippines Against Child Trafficking, for which Ujano served as national coordinator, released video clips of Ujano speaking on child trafficking in events and ceremonies attended by government officials, including Social Welfare Secretary Rolando Bautista, himself a former general.

But Carlos claimed that "police records" identified Ujano as a technical staff member of the New People's Army who "allegedly participated in the execution of NPA members suspected to be government spies."

RELATED: Senator calls for probe into arrest of elderly child rights advocate

'Invaluable contribution'

In a virtual press briefing Monday night, various civil society organizations slammed the arrest and detention as "unjust and unfounded."

According to Ujano's former colleagues, the child and women's rights activist had been vocal in the public eye for three decades in her work to end the trafficking of women and children and provide assistance and counseling to survivors of domestic violence. 

“Sally is not an enemy of the State, instead, she is its partner in protecting and defending the rights of women and children,”  Amihan Abueva, regional executive director of Child Rights Coalition Asia, said as she read out a joint statement from the kin and friends of Ujano. 

As executive director of Women’s Crisis Center in 2000 to 2007 and national coordinator of the PACT from 2008 up to the present, Ujano collaborated with and trained the PNP and other government agencies in establishing a rights-based approach in handling trafficking cases, they said. 

“Sally’s contribution to the women’s movement and child rights advocacy is invaluable. It is deeply painful that she who has contributed immensely to society and our country is the one being arbitrarily accused without evidence,” Abueva said in mixed English and Filipino.

According to her colleagues, friends, and family, Ujano had also lobbied and worked for the drafting and implementation of landmark laws such as the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act of 2004.

Ujano’s engagement with the government as a leader in the child and women’s rights movement helped the Philippines attain its Tier 1 status in United States’ index on trafficking in persons in 2016, a label it is set to retain for six years.

"This means that civil society’s healthy partnerships with non-government groups and other sectors have resulted in demonstrable progress in combating trafficking in persons," the groups said in their statement. 

Abueva said that Ujano’s detention is a huge loss to all vulnerable women and children especially during the pandemic, "as cases of sexual exploitation, child trafficking, and early and child marriages have sharply increased."

The Department of Justice earlier said that from March to May 2020, the start of the lockdown last year, the DOJ Office of Cybercrime recorded a 264 percent increase in online tips related to child sexual exploitation compared with the same time period in 2019.

FROM INTERAKSYON: ‘Grave blunder’: Group calls to free detained elderly child rights advocate

'Ordinary citizen'

For colleagues, friends, and family, Sally is a mother, aunt, sister, and grandmother "who simply cares for women and children who are victims of abuse."

They called it "ironic" that during the 18-day national campaign to end violence against women, she herself has become a victim.

RELATED: Police told to be proactive vs violence against women and children during ECQ

“We were surprised and shocked by what happened to Mama. We did not expect this. We are simple citizens working for the country,” Klaro Ujano, Sally's son, said at the press briefing. 

Ujano, a senior citizen with ailments, is currently detained in the quarantine facility of the Taguig City Jail-Female Dormitory in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig. 

After the arrest, Carlos said that the PNP considered Ujano's age and provided her the "services of a personal nurse who will closely monitor her health condition and safety from potential risks of COVID-19 exposure."

“Our family is deeply saddened. We are worried about what might happen to her. We are hopeful that those who will make the decisions will be enlightened and that Sally will be immediately freed,” Boyet Crisostomo, Ujano’s brother, also said.

Earlier, Sen. Leila de Lima, who is gunning for reelection, said that the PNP's claim that Ujano is one of the "country's top most wanted" persons only highlighted holes in the capability for investigation, tracking and coordination of the country's law enforcement authorities.

"I was shown photos of her with government agencies, even members of the PNP, in campaigns against human trafficking," she said in a statement. "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 two decades?" 

Philstar.com reached out to the Philippine National Police for comment through its public information office. This story will be updated with its response. 

Franco Luna with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio and Kristine Joy Patag

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE
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