SELDA: Serial liar Esperon regurgitates same stack of lies as the prosecution’s star witness in the Hilongos “mass grave” case

Outside the Manila City Hall this morning, members of the Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (SELDA) conducted a protest action calling for the dropping of charges against individuals and release of political prisoners in relation to multiple murder charges filed against them at Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 32, as National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon takes the witness stand today.

Among those charged in the case are former Rep. Satur Ocampo, Prof. Jose Maria Sison, and Juliet de Lima, along with political prisoners former Bohol mayor Exuperio Lloren, peasant leaders Dario Tomada, Norberto Murillo, and Oscar Belleza and peace consultants Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva, among others.

“The testimony of NSA Esperon, touted as the prosecution’s star witness, is based on hearsay, highly questionable evidence and recycled testimonies full of inconsistencies. He has been lying about this case since it was refiled in January 2007, to further the political persecution of activists and political dissenters,” said Rosalia Bacarra, SELDA Secretary General.

“Such have been the basis of the preposterous Hilongos “mass grave” case, where three skeletons found in an alleged mass grave in Baybay, Leyte — a case which was already dismissed for lack of evidence way back in 2005 — but by some happenstance managed to travel to another mass grave in Inopacan, Leyte, which was allegedly found in August 2006. Esperon knows these lies in this wild, farcical case of travelling skeletons, as much as he knowingly churns out baseless accusations through his red-tagging spree,” Bacarra added.

Karapatan Deputy Secretary General Roneo Clamor said that “Esperon has been pursuing this trumped-up case since his stint as the Armed Forces Chief of Staff then under Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG).”

In his 2007 report, Former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings Prof. Philip Alston cited the IALAG as a means by the executive branch to “use prosecutions to impede the work of these groups [referring to civil society organizations and party list groups] and put in question their right to operate freely.” Alston recommended the abolition of the IALAG, which was done by the Arroyo administration in June 2009, but the practice of criminalizing alleged political offenses and filing of trumped-up charges against activists and dissenters continued.

“Esperon and his cohorts have kept this case for years for the sole purpose of political persecution of activists and political dissenters, and now the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) — of which Esperon is the vice chairman — is now pursuing it to add to its arsenal of tall tales, and to use the case as a launchpad for more trumped-up charges, legal machinations, vilification campaigns, and fascist attacks,” Clamor stated.

He stressed that the “IALAG is merely resurrected in the legal cluster of the NTF-ELCAC, and such an executive body that acts as a factory mill of trumped up charges and dangerous red-tagging should be abolished.” Karapatan said that “a case that is clearly based on lies should be dismissed because they are glaring attempts to deceive the courts and the public.”

“Based on Esperon’s tall tales in the hearing today, as well as other questionable evidence and testimonies presented by the prosecution, we reiterate our call for the immediate release of Bohol mayor Exuperio Lloren, peasant leaders Dario Tomada, Norberto Murillo, and Oscar Belleza and peace consultants Vicente Ladlad and Adelberto Silva. We demand the dropping of the charges against all individuals implicated in the case,” Bacarra concluded.