NTF-ELCAC desperate in harassing Sister Elenita Belardo, rights defenders —Karapatan

Human rights alliance Karapatan cried foul over the so-called protest staged by groups affiliated with the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) at the Quezon City Hall of Justice on Thursday, February 20, 2020, as former Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) National Director Sister Elenita Belardo, RGS attended the arraignment proceedings of the trumped-up perjury charge filed against her by National Security Adviser and NTF-ELCAC Vice Chairman Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. The rights group slammed the protest as a "desperate attempt" to malign and harass the 80-year old nun.

"Karapatan firmly stands in solidarity with Sister Elenita Belardo as she faces the proceedings of the perjury charge filed against her by NTF Vice Chairman Esperon. We continue to assert that this charge is nothing more than a judicial harassment suit, an explicit act of reprisal after Sister Elen and the RMP together with Karapatan and Gabriela sought legal protection from the State’s threats and attacks on our human rights work. They are not even sparing an 80-year-old nun like Sister Elenita from their vile and foul fascist attacks in staging a State-sponsored protest meant to heckle her and further malign her missionary work for the rural poor," said Roneo Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general. 

At 2 p.m. on February 20, 2020, groups organized by the NTF-ELCAC such as Hands Off Our Children, League of Parents of the Philippines, and Liga Independencia Pilipinas trooped outside the Hall of Justice bringing placards and streamers red-tagging various progressive organizations and mass leaders. The groups also chanted calls urging Sister Elen to “stop lying” and “tell the truth” as they were greeted by Esperon and Presidential Communications Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy following the arraignment proceedings. 

Clamor further questioned the presence of these personalities not related to the perjury case: "In a mockery of the people’s right to air dissent and their legitimate grievances, the NTF-ELCAC has decided to step up in their relentless red-tagging campaign by staging protests against human rights defenders and progressive organizations." 

"The NTF-ELCAC came to the proceedings with the whole circus in tow with the NTF-ELCAC’s pseudo-civil society organizations. How does the NTF-ELCAC have the audacity to call on Sister Elen to ‘stop lying’ and to ‘tell the truth’ when real-life trolls in the likes of Esperon and Badoy have already been exposed time and time again for their baseless accusations and lies? When the NTF-ELCAC already has been exposed and mocked for Photoshopping and fabricating stories about rebel surrenderees? When the entire Duterte regime is one big factory mill of fake news and disinformation?" Clamor asked. 

"This fascist regime is desperately grasping at straws in harassing human rights defenders and anyone who dares to side with the people. Why would they even come in full force for a Metropolitan Trial Court-level case except for the intent to power-trip and harass? They are seriously mistaken if they think we are cowed by their threats, and in a bid to quell the growing unrest against Duterte’s own fascist policies, the NTF-ELCAC is even exploiting the vulnerable sector—the poor and the marginalized by pitting them against activists and those who struggle for genuine social change," the Karapatan official continued. 

"This is the real face of the government’s 'Whole-of-Nation' counterinsurgency campaign: the wastage of billions and billions of taxpayer’s money in its relentless red-tagging, mass deception, and State violence rather than addressing the legitimate grievances that lie at the root of dissent. We urge these groups to stand against the Duterte regime and the NTF-ELCAC’s maneuvers to exploit the people for their own fascist ends. We strongly assert the need to resist the government’s efforts to occupy the narrow democratic spaces we have left and in appropriating the civil society voice to harass and malign its critics. We will continue to expose and oppose this fascist regime’s efforts to suppress us," Clamor ended.