Karapatan slams revival of dismissed perjury case vs rights defenders

Today, March 3, 2020, leaders of Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela posted bail on the trumped-up perjury case filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37.

Esperon alleged that the respondents committed perjury in stating that the RMP was a registered non-governmental organization at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data filed by the officers of the three organizations before the Supreme Court last year. Respondents averred that they did not commit the said offense, citing Esperon’s case as “a clear reprisal on the human rights defenders’ efforts to seek legal protection for the threats, harassment and other human rights violations committed against them by Pres. Duterte, Esperon and several other government officials.”

The case was already initially dismissed for eleven of the respondents by Senior Assistant Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence,” while the case proceeded to be filed against former RMP National Coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo.

However, following Esperon’s filing of a motion for reconsideration, the case has been revived against 10 of the respondents in the case, namely: Karapatan national officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, and Jose Mari Callueng; RMP’s Sr.  Emma Cupin; and Joan May Salvador and Gertrudes Libang of Gabriela, after Quezon City Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano found probable cause to pursue the case. The case was dismissed against Karapatan’s Reylan Vergara for lack of jurisdiction. Nine out of the 10 Karapatan officers posted bail today, while the human rights group’s secretary general Cristina Palabay will post bail when she arrives from Geneva, Switzerland, where she is currently conducting advocacy work on the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution on the Philippines.

Karapatan condemns in strongest terms this perjury charge by Esperon which came back from the dead after it has been dismissed. We assert and reiterate that this perjury charge is nothing more than a trumped-up retaliatory suit after Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela, filed a petition for the issuance of writs of amparo and habeas corpus before the Supreme Court in May 2019 to seek protection from red-tagging, military harassment, and human rights violations directed against the three organizations and its members.

Esperon has failed to sufficiently establish the elements of the crime of perjury under the Revised Penal Code. It is baseless and insufficient. By pursuing this case, Esperon and his militarist sycophants in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) are merely proving that the Duterte regime’s critics and human rights defenders indeed face reprisals from the government for their line of work, either through State violence or through the weaponization of the law. The Duterte regime is merely baring its fascist fangs, hellbent on silencing anyone who dares to resist its authoritarian rule.

If Duterte and NTF-ELCAC think that this perjury case will silence us into fear, they are utterly mistaken. We will fight back.


Roneo S. Clamor
Karapatan deputy secretary general