64-year-old child rights advocate arrested over ‘ridiculous charges’

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A 64-year-old human rights leader has been arrested over a 16-year-old rebellion case filed back in November 2005.

The Sunday morning arrest of Maria Salome Crisostomo-Ujano, national coordinator of the Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), was confirmed by both her daughter Karla Ujano and the Philippine National Police.

Authorities in Malolos served the arrest warrant at around 10 a.m. on Sunday in front of Crisostomo-Ujano’s house in Barangay Mabolo in Bulacan.

According to Karla, her mother was arrested by police officers and some civilians without IDs as she returned from her Sunday jogging routine. She was not allowed to even change clothes before being brought to the police station and then to Camp Crame.

“Hinanapan niya ng ID ang nakasibilyang mga tao, pero wala silang pinakita sa kanya. Kahit ang arresting officer ay ‘di nakapaglabas ng impormasyon,” Karla said. “Wala siyang kaalam-alam sa kaso na wala man lang pinadalang impormasyon sa kanya.”

The said arrest warrant was issued in June 2006 by Hon. Virgilio Alfajora of the Lucena City Regional Trial Court Branch 59. Karla said that without a prior court summons before the arrest, the family was shocked that a rebellion case dating back to 2006 had existed.

Central Luzon Police in a statement claimed that the rights advocate “had been in hiding for 15 years” as a top wanted person in the Philippines.

Crisostomo-Ujano is said to be detained at Camp Crame. She has been in contact with her family and was accompanied by one of her children.

The child rights advocate is the previous executive director of the Women’s Crisis Center. For the past decades, she has managed cases of gender-based violence, informed women about their rights, and worked against sex trafficking and child labor among other campaigns.

Crisostomo-Ujano has even worked closely with the PNP women and child protection units and the Philippine Women’s Commission.

Rights groups and concerned individuals are currently calling for her immediate release.

“Sally has always been in the public eye for her work on protecting children and women from human trafficking and domestic violence for the last three decades, and these trumped-up charges are ridiculous,” the PACT said in a statement.

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