Karapatan: Perjury case vs. groups seeking protection against gov’t forces is a retaliatory suit

Today, August 15, leaders of Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and Gabriela filed their counter-affidavits on the perjury case filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. at the Department of Justice in Quezon City.

“Under President Rodrigo Duterte, the attacks directed against human rights activists have intensified with at least 155 human rights defenders killed since he took office in June 2016. This perjury case is a retaliatory suit, founded on trumped up allegations that do not affect the legal standing of the petitioners. We call on the DOJ to immediately dismiss this petition so all can go back to the more fundamental matters of red-tagging, harassment, and killings perpetrated by state forces against human rights defenders – issues raised in the our amparo and habeas data petition,” Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay said.

Aside from Palabay, Karapatan national officers Reylan Vergara, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista “Kiri” Dalena, Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol and Jose Mari Callueng filed their joint counter affidavit. 

Palabay reiterated that “Esperon has failed to sufficiently establish the elements of the crime of perjury under the Revised Penal Code when they haphazardly filed the case against Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela in an apparent retaliatory suit meant to harass the organizations.”

“We echo the statement of the RMP that they have filed for renewal of registration back in 2010, and have subsequently submitted a General Information Sheet and Audited Financial Statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). RMP has already aired that they have concrete reasons to believe that their re-registration had been approved by the SEC as the latter continued to receive the group’s compliance in its reportorial requirements,” she emphasized, as they called on the DOJ Quezon City prosecutor to immediately dismiss the case. 

“Esperon has accused us of perjury, but from the very beginning, this perjury case is baseless and insufficient. While we stand that in our separate verification, we vouched for the truthfulness and correctness of the ultimate facts we alleged in our Petition insofar as Karapatan is concerned, we assert that the security adviser has no evidence to show that RMP has deliberately and willfully asserted a falsehood,” Palabay explained.

Under article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, elements of perjury are: (a) that the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter; (b) that the statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer authorized to receive and administer oath; (c) that in the statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood; and (d) that the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.

“Duterte, through Esperon and all of his lapdogs, is targeting us because of our staunch advocacy and human rights work. Most of us are already vilified, threatened, and slapped with trumped-up charges. The perjury case is nothing but an act of reprisal for our exposition of human rights violations and efforts to seek legal protection from this government who have been systematically attacking the rights of entire communities and individuals,” she added.

“We urge the Justice Department to dismiss the perjury case filed against us by NSA Esperon. We further ask the Justice Department to embody its name and mandate, and stand alongside human rights defenders who have been politically persecuted,” Palabay concluded.