âEveryone should understand that the state must protect not only women and children, but also human rights defenders who protect women and children. “
By DOMINIC GUTOMAN and SHARLYN VIVO
MANILA – “If you don’t hurt, what are you afraid of?” “
This line from Ma. SalomÃ© “Sally” Ujano, a longtime women’s and children’s rights activist, was engraved in the heart of her daughter, Karla Ujano, 36, as she grew up.
Over the past 30 years, Karla has witnessed her mother’s dedication to helping survivors of abuse through non-governmental organizations of which she was a part. Her mother was a regular speaker at conferences. In 2019, her mother proudly showed her a TV interview where she shared her thoughts on child trafficking.
Karla never imagined that her mother was put behind bars, portrayed by state forces as a hidden rebel she never was.
It’s been a month since Sally’s arrest.
Sally was arrested by police at 10 a.m. on Sunday, November 14, in Mabolo, in the town of Malolos. The arrest warrant, dated June 28, 2006, was issued by Judge Virgilio Alpajora of section 59 of the Regional Court of First Instance of the city of Lucena.
She is currently facing charges of rebellion, which allegedly resulted from her “involvement” in the ambush of two soldiers in Quezon province in 2005.
Last week, Sally’s lawyers filed a motion to quash the rebellion charges against her.
âThe allegations against her are baseless. Since then, she has worked with her organizations. She never quit her job and it’s an open book, doing public interviews, media exhibitions and other forms of public service, âKarla said in an interview with Bulatlat.
Sally as wife, grandmother and mother
Helping others in need is a family affair for Karla.
She described her mother as a go-to person for help whenever there was family conflict, financial problems, and even legal assistance. She said Sally was always accommodating and ready to help those in need in their community.
âShe takes care of me when I’m not feeling well. Even in the hospital or at home, she reminds me to take my medicine and eat well, âsaid her sister, Thelma Crisostomo, during the Awit in Dasal para sa Kalayaan: a virtual concert for Sally Ujano on the 6th December.
She is also a loving wife to her husband Vic, who they lost to diabetes in 2016. When he breathed his last, Sally stayed with him, singing lullabies to him to ease his pain and suffering.
“They were a very nice couple and we never saw them arguing, maybe they hid it from us,” Karla said.
She also shared how very open-minded her mom is.
âI can always tell her things that a family usually doesn’t talk about. She never imposes her learning on us, but she lends me books like a self-help book that she thinks could help me, âKarla explained.
She also teaches music to her grandchildren and gives them advice as needed.
The life of the party
A graduate of the University of the Philippines, Karla described her mother as “gifted,” having grown up in a family of dancers and singers. She is also very physically active, dancing Zumba regularly as a daily exercise.
âHe’s a very active person. It’s even gotten to the point that we can’t match the energy it gives people. There is no dull moment when we are with mom [Sally]. She wants everyone to be happy, âreads the family’s statement at the December 6 virtual concert that called for her release.
Sally, her daughter said, is often the life of the party whenever they have a gathering of family, friends and colleagues. She dances and sings with her loved ones on these occasions. One of his favorite songs for dancing is “Dahil Sa ‘yo” by Inigo Pascual, as his daughter recalled.
A reliable colleague
At work, Sally is described by her colleagues as a very reliable person.
She has spent decades helping survivors of abuse at the Women’s Crisis Center.
Precy Tulipat, a former WCC employee, said Sally is one of the key people who started their organization in the 1980s. This would later lay the groundwork for a pioneering initiative in the women’s movement in the country. . From 2000 to 2007, Sally was the executive director.
“She had actively led our programs such as feminist crisis counseling, training and education, policy advocacy, survivor organization, fundraising and even guided us in building the national network. on the Family Violence Prevention Program (NNFVPP), âadded Tulipat.
The NNFVPP is a network organized by the COE that coordinates with cities and provinces across the country for the prevention of domestic violence.
She has also developed training modules to help Philippine police deal with domestic violence. They later collaborated on this issue in a regional setting, studying all forms of violence from an intercultural perspective that could help countries like Bangladesh and South Africa.
âWe carefully document and respond to cases of violence against women in rural areas. Most of the time we ask Ujano for help, and it happens frequently. This is why we were in continuous and deliberate coordination with her, asking her to be our guide and our resource person in our training â, declared Amparo Miciano of Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan during the virtual concert.
After decades in the women’s movement, Sally decided to focus on the plight of children through the Philippines Against Child Trafficking (PACT), of which she became the national coordinator in 2009. As part of her work, she represented PACT in various meetings and conferences here and abroad and led its lobbying work which resulted in the adoption by local governments of measures to protect children from trafficking.
Under his leadership, PACT established 50 chapters across the country.
Other laws and policies she lobbied on included the 2004 Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act and for the Philippines to achieve Tier 1 status in the United States against trafficking in persons (TIP), that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been hailed as the “right way”.
Being in Level 1 status meant that the Philippines supported their efforts to eliminate trafficking in the country.
âSally has served the people extensively for years with her advocacy, offering her life for the well-being of women and children. She is already 64 years old, an elderly person, and she does not need imprisonment but a humanitarian consideration that would protect her from any illness, âsaid Fani Velasquez of PACT while praying for his colleague at the event. virtual.
Love of the country
Her mother’s contribution to advancing the interests of women and children, Karla said, is her mother’s best demonstration of her love for the Filipino people and the country.
During the virtual concert, Sally’s colleagues prayed for her immediate release and for justice.
âIt is deeply painful that the one who has contributed so much to society and to our country is the one who is arbitrarily accused without evidence,â said Amihan Abueva, regional executive director of Child Rights Coalition Asia, adding that âeveryone should realize that the state must protect not only women and children, but also human rights defenders who protect women and children.
For Karla, on the other hand, her only wish is to be reunited with her mother, Sally, this Christmas. (JJE, RTS)