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

November 17, 2021 - 5:30 PM
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Photo of child rights advocate Sally Ujano (Salinlahi Alliance for Children's Concerns / Facebook)

A network of child rights advocates called on local authorities to release a child rights advocate who was previously arrested for alleged rebellion.

The Child Rights Network stressed that Sally Crisostomo-Ujano, whom they fondly call “Ate Sally,” has long been working with government agencies for children’s rights.

The CRN is also the same alliance campaigning against online sexual abuse in the country.

“Contrary to the claims of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Region 3 that Ujano is a ‘most wanted person’ that has been hiding ‘for more than 15 years,’ CRN can attest that Ate Sally – as advocates fondly call her – has been an NGO worker working with government agencies and child rights groups and even active in recent campaigns in addressing child trafficking and the pernicious issue of online sexual abuse and exploitation of children,” the CRN said.

The network then called on the Philippine National Police to release her. It described Ujano’s arrest as a “grave blunder” of the local cops.

“We call on the PNP to release Ate Sally now and correct this grave blunder. At a time when child rights advocates are fighting uphill battles for the continued safety and welfare of Filipino children, we call on the police force to remain as strong partners, and not as antagonists who indiscriminately nab well-meaning citizens,” it said.

The group also cited November being celebrated as National Children’s Month in its address to the PNP.

The annual event was declared through Republic Act 10661 signed by the late former president Benigno Aquino III in 2015.

“November is even celebrated as National Children’s Month, but is this how the PNP wants to celebrate the occasion – by nabbing advocates instead of supporting them?” the CRN said.

Ujano, the national coordinator of the Philippines against Child Trafficking (PACT), was arrested last Sunday, November 14 in Bulacan.

Based on reports, the warrant of arrest served against her was for rebellion charges.

In a statement from the Police Regional Office 3, the warrant was issued by Virgilio Alfajora Presiding Judge of Regional Trial Court Branch 59, Lucena City on June 28, 2006.

The PRO-3 further described Ujano as “one of the country’s top most wanted persons.”

The activist is currently detained at the PNP headquarters in Quezon City.

Counter-statements from child rights groups

CRN countered the regional police and stated that Ujano has been supporting the government’s fight for children’s rights for years.

“Ate Sally is a symbol of the intersectionality of rights that state actors must be equipped to understand: a senior citizen who has consistently been on the side of justice supporting the government’s fight for children’s rights,” it said.

The group also said that her arrest is a form of harassment against child rights advocates.

It added that the arrest sends a bad message to the public as “it is a crime to support communities in fighting abuses and reporting violence against children and women.”

“The arrest is sowing apprehension against dedicated, well-meaning organizations that are driven by the commitment to protect children and women from sexual abuse and exploitation, both online and offline,” it said.

Other child rights organizations such as PACT and Salinlahi Alliance for Children’s Concerns also demanded for Ujano’s immediate release, citing her works in campaigning to stop child abuse and trafficking in the Philippines.

PACT also attached a link to a YouTube video where Ujano delivered a keynote address during the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 2019.