ILOILO CITY – Human rights group Karapatan denounces the arrest of and trumped-up charges against retired National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace consultant Ruben Abenir Saluta, 75, along with wife, Presentacion Saluta, 63, and companion, Yvonne Losaria, as part of Karapatan’s claim as “renewed attacks against activists and political dissenters through criminalization of their work”.
Saluta has been a consultant for the NDFP in several peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) from 2016 to 2017. He retired in 2017 after former President Rodrigo Duterte withdrew from peace talks and ordered the mass arrests of NDF peace consultants.
The three were raided and arrested by the the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) with warrants for arrest against Saluta for murder charges and companions for rebellion on the eve of January 29 at Phase 5, Doña Soledad, Brgy. Labangal, General Santos City.
However, according to the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), they were illegally arrested based on fabricated evidence and trumped-up charges of murder and rebellion against them. The CPP added that state forces planted the six high-caliber guns, bullets and military equipment seized from them.
Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay stated that “previous charges against Saluta couple have been long dismissed, and it is highly possible that the evidence taken during their arrest were planted, just like in the past case against them.”
Saluta was imprisoned for illegal possession of firearms and explosives in March 2015 and was released in October 2016 to participate in peace negotiations. He was acquitted of the charges against him in June 2018 after the Quezon City Regional Trial Court found “serious doubt in the prosecution evidence and in their chain of custody” adding the “discrepancies in the testimony of the seizing officer and the receipt of the property seized with the pieces of evidence actually presented in court.”
According to the CPP Chief Information Officer Marco Valbuena, the Saluta couple have retired since their release from imprisonment. They are both suffering from various illnesses; Saluta from hypertension and chronic pulmonary disease while Presentacion from heart disease and also hypertension.
Based on local media reports, the three were turned over to the CIDG Central Mindanao headquarters.
The CPP “denounces the gross inhumane treatment of the elderly revolutionaries who have lived lives in service of the oppressed and exploited masses.”
Karapatan also calls for the junking of the charges against the Saluta couple and Losaria and demands their immediate release./PT