A local Philippine court dismissed on 9 January 2023 a trumped-up perjury case against 10 human rights activists initiated by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. Esperon Jr. accused the said activists of lying when they sought protection from the Supreme Court against feared state-sponsored attacks.
“This is a victory of truth and justice, against lies and enemies of the people who instigated this form of judicial harassment against us, after our efforts to seek legal protection from threats and attacks,” said Cristina Palabay, Secretary General of Karapatan.
Those acquitted by the court were Rural Missionaries of the Philippines national coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo, Karapatan Chairperson Elisa Tita Lubi, Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, Gabriela secretary general Joan May Salvador, Ronel Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Jose Mari Callueng, Wilfredo Ruazol, and Gertrudes Libang.
The case stems from Esperon’s 2019 complaint which claimed that leaders from Karapatan, Gabriela and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines lied in their petition for writ of amparo before the Supreme Court. The writ of amparo is a legal remedy available to any person in the Philippines whose right to life, liberty and security is violated or threatened by unlawful acts of public officials. The writ covers substantially proven threats of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.
"The numerous legal offensives churned out by Esperon and the legal cluster of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, which includes this malicious perjury case, should, once and for all, cease upon the abolition of this dangerous government body," Palabay said, adding that hundreds of rights defenders remain in jail because of similar malicious charges.
This is the third case wherein the allegations and testimonies of Esperon Jr. were not given credence by courts. In October 2022, a Quezon City court denied Esperon Jr’s appeal to block the website of alternative news organization Bulatlat. In 2021, a Manila court dismissed murder charges against dozens of activists and civilians for failure to provide sufficient evidence.
“The situation on the ground, which we have seen, witnessed, and experienced many times cry out the truth --- it is state forces, their master warmongers in the likes of their former national security adviser, who are liars and enemies of the people. Their statements, actions, and ulterior motives, perpetuate rights violations, injustice and impunity in our country,” Palabay concluded.