Rights groups troop to DOJ Quezon City, face NSA Esperon’s perjury charges

“This perjury case is an act of reprisal. National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. jumps at every opportunity to malign and harass human rights defenders, even using the most minute and ridiculous of charges. He will now have to stretch the flimsy accusations that he has hurled against Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela. He has had years of practice in deception, corruption, and masterminding killings, being the military’s Chief-of-Staff during the bloody reign of plunderer Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” said Karapatan vice-chairperson Reylan Vergara. 

The preliminary investigation into the trumped-up perjury charge filed by NSA’s Esperon against Karapatan, RMP, and Gabriela is underway. Today, Sept. 5, Esperon is set to file a reply to the counter-affidavits submitted by the three organizations last August 15. Fellow human rights defenders, members of the said groups, and advocates trooped to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Quezon City to condemn the retaliatory suit and support human rights defenders amid this judicial harassment. 

Here is a quick timeline of the events leading to the reprisal perjury charge filed by NSA Esperon:

May 6, 2019: Petitioners Karapatan, Gabriela and RMP filed a petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data before the Supreme Court (SC).

May 24, 2019: The Supreme Court, in an en banc session, issued a writ of amparo and habeas data for petitioners Karapatan, Gabriela, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), as it directed the 14th Division of the Court of Appeals to hear the petition on June 18, 2019, and to submit a decision on the case.
The petitioners prepared their witnesses and their judicial affidavits. One of Karapatan’s supposed witnesses was Ryan Hubilla, a senior high school student and Karapatan Sorsogon staff member who experienced threats and harassment from suspected military agents. However, Hubilla was killed on June 15 together with another Karapatan human rights worker Nelly Bagasala.
June 18, 2019: The CA’s 14th Division held a three-hour summary hearing on the petitions filed by the groups, but the court justices did not allow the petitioners to present testimonial evidence and other documents to prove their allegations in the petition on technical grounds.
June 28, 2019: The amparo and habeas data petition was dismissed by the Court of Appeals’ 14th Division.

July 2, 2019:  NSA Esperon filed a perjury complaint in relation to the amparo and habeas data petition. Of the 600-page amparo petition submitted by said groups, Esperon nitpicked on one procedural issue, which targeted RMP. Esperon accused RMP of making a false statement by claiming it is a duly registered organization, following his claim that RMP’s registration with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) was already revoked.  

Under article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, the elements of perjury include making a willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood. RMP has already released its statement on July 5, 2019, clarifying that given their records, they filed for a renewal of their registration in 2010 and have kept the documents proving the SEC received the records. From then on, the organization has been submitting General Information Sheet (GIS) and Audited Financial Statements to the SEC. They likewise asserted that the attestation they have made were in good faith and borne out of diligence. The SEC did not give any notice to the said organization regarding the revocation of its registration. 

August 1, 2019: Following the perjury complaint filed by NSA Esperon, Karapatan, RMP, and Gabriela attended the preliminary investigation at the Department of Justice in Quezon City on August 1, 2019. 

August 15, 2019: On August 15, leaders of Karapatan, 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.

“Last August 15, Esperon was not asked to attend but an uninvited and nosy bootlicker came to stick his nose around. AFP’s Antonio Parlade Jr. was inside the prosecutor’s office when we arrived. He was neither part of the respondents nor the petitioner. Despite his presence and that of lawyers affiliated with the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), we were far from intimidated. Epal talaga si Parlade, nagpapapansin. Unfortunately, he is like a sad and thrown out recorder who has nothing new to say. Esperon and Parlade will no doubt continue their antics and malicious campaigns; we expect nothing new from these avowed militarists,”Vergara retorted.

“Likewise, we will be here to respond to their many allegations. No matter how much they seek to sidetrack the issue and silence the victims, the problem of State-perpetrated human rights violations continue and the call for justice reverberates.  For this case, we stand alongside RMP in asserting that no deliberate and willful falsehood was done in the course of our amparo and habeas data petition. This perjury charge is baseless, akin to the many lies that these militarists have peddled. We thus urge the DOJ to immediately dismiss this case,” Vergara concluded.