Perjury raps vs Castro, Tamano are forms of political persecution, judicial harassment of activists

Photo by Jam Sta. Rosa/Agence France-Presse

October 24, 2023

Human rights alliance Karapatan decried the filing of perjury raps against environmental activists Jhed Tamano and Jonila Castro by the commanding officer of the 70th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army, Ronnel dela Cruz, after the two sought protective writs from the Supreme Court against the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

“These cases are clearly a form of judicial harassment against victims of human rights violations like Jhed and Jonila who are seeking accountability and legal protection,” said Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay.

“The military has its head in the clouds if it believes that a thinking public would find credible its claims that Jhed and Jonila voluntarily surrendered and recanted in a press conference organized by the NTF-ELCAC to ‘shame the government’,” said Palabay, “especially since several eyewitness accounts on Jhed and Jonila’s abduction had already been previously posted on social media.”

Karapatan said that “the claims in the perjury complaint against the two young women are fraught with lies, absurdities and inanities that are so incredible and inconsistent that any independent body can see through them.” 

Similar charges were filed by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., against officers of Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela in 2019, after they filed a petition of writ of Amparo and habeas data at the Supreme Court. “In their desperate vindictiveness against human rights defenders, those at the NTF-ELCAC persecute and inconvenience those advocating for human rights and social justice,” she said. 

“The real perjurers and slanderers,” said Palabay, “are these barefaced liars in government who have been baselessly red-tagging activists and other dissenters, staging forced or fake surrenders, planting evidence and presenting fabricated testimonies from fake witnesses.”

“The judicial harassment of Jhed and Jonila are desperate and face-saving moves by their accusers who cannot bear the thought of their own scheme blowing up in their faces,” she concluded. “We must brace ourselves for other, possibly bigger forms of harassment against these truth-tellers and continue denouncing the State’s attempts to persecute them.”