Gov't hellbent on silencing critics with Esperon's motion for reconsideration of dismissed perjury charge vs rights groups

“National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.'s announcement that he will pursue another motion of reconsideration on the trumped-up and dismissed perjury charges against leaders of Karapatan, Gabriela, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is another form of textbook lawfare and judicial harassment," said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan said that “Esperon is merely proving the fact that human rights defenders face reprisals in their line of work under the Duterte regime. Not content with harassing an 80-year-old nun like Sr. Elenita Belardo, the Duterte regime is merely baring its fascist fangs, hellbent in its agenda to silence its critics. Esperon's trumped-up perjury charge against Karapatan, Gabriela, and RMP have already been dismissed, and yet Esperon and his militarist lackeys are more than determined to discredit human rights defenders and put them in jail.”

According to Palabay, Esperon filed the perjury case as an act of reprisal after Karapatan, Gabriela, and RMP 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. The groups named President Rodrigo Duterte and several military and government officials, including Esperon, also the vice chairman of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as respondents.

Included as respondents in Esperon's perjury charge are Karapatan officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Reylan Vergara, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, and Jose Mari Callueng, RMP’s Sr. Elenita Belardo and Sr. Emma Cupin, and Joms Salvador and Gertrudes Libang of Gabriela. Senior Assistant Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor dismissed the perjury charge for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence” for 11 of the respondents but the case proceeded to be filed against Sr. Elenita Belardo.

"Unlike Esperon and his fellow circus clowns in the NTF-ELCAC like Lorraine Badoy and Antonio Parlade Jr., we have nothing to hide and we have nothing to lie for. All we do as human rights defenders is expose and uncover the human rights violations that the Duterte regime has repeatedly tried to hide through its network of deception and disinformation. Esperon, Badoy, and Parlade have long been proven to be nothing more than lying sycophants without any ounce of credibility to back up their ludicrous claims and rabid anti-communist hysterics. This is precisely why the NTF-ELCAC has heightened up its legal offensives against progressives, black propaganda, and fascist attacks on activists," Palabay continued.

"Esperon had already filed this motion for reconsideration on December last year, perhaps to beat the deadline for the NTF-ELCAC's year-end report of so-called highlights and achievements, where the dismissal of our petition for the writs of amparo and habeas corpus and his trumped-up perjury case against us has been included. We are more than confident that this baseless motion for reconsideration will be dismissed for the very same reason that his perjury charge against us was thrown down the drain. Moreover, we stand firmly with Sr. Elen together the support of the broad masses. We will not give a second thought in fighting back. We will resist," the Karapatan official ended.