On the continuing judicial harassment vs Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela officers

Yesterday, March 7, 2024, KARAPATAN, through its legal counsel, was notified by the Office of the Solicitor General that it intends to appeal the decision of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 84 Judge Luisito Cortez upholding the acquittal of ten human rights defenders of Karapatan, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela on charges of perjury. Notably, the OSG’s appeal will be handled by members of the NTF-ELCAC’s (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) Legal Cooperation Cluster.

KARAPATAN views this as part of the sick, deluded and obsessive form of judicial harassment by the NTF-ELCAC and former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. against its officers and fellow human rights defenders. This case, which dates back to 2019, went through preliminary investigation and trial hearings, resulting in our acquittal by Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 139 Judge Aimee Alcera in 2023, and Judge Cortez’s dismissal of the government’s petition for certiorari that same year. Yet, the saga continues to this day.

Such frivolous yet retaliatory charges pursued by government counsels also show how public funds are being wastefully utilized to go after those who defend and uphold human rights. Instead of pursuing cases against corrupt public officials or against police and military officers responsible for the killings of drug suspects or activists, our government lawyers are wasting the people’s money for its campaign against human rights watchdogs.

This, however, is no surprise, considering the NTF-ELCAC’s policy to undertake legal offensives against those whom they perceive as enemies of the State. From the Duterte to the Marcos-Duterte regime, this is the same task force that filed cases of perjury against young environmental activists Jonila Castro and Jhed Tamano. This is the same task force that lauded police and military officers responsible for the Bloody Sunday killings and arrests. This is the same task force that is notorious for red- and terrorist-tagging in the Philippines. This is the same task force that has justified the killings and other human rights violations against peasants, indigenous people, workers and development workers.

As we strongly denounce this continuing harassment against human rights defenders, we reiterate the persistent call for the abolition of the NTF-ELCAC and for an end to the attacks perpetrated under the Marcos-Duterte regime. We shall continue to challenge these attacks and demand justice for all victims of human rights violations.