“Don’t we have the right to seek protection for ourselves? And perjury? We are God-fearing. We are not liars. They are the ones who lie.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – – The Quezon City city prosecutor has found “reasonable grounds” for the filing of perjury charges against 10 human rights defenders.
City Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano overturned Quezon City Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor resolution in November 2019 dismissing the original complaint against 11 rights defenders. Barcellano granted the appeal of the complainant, National Security Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
Among the accused are Karapatan officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Edita Burgos, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Roneo Clamor, Jose Mari Callueng and Wilfredo Ruazol. Also charged were Gabriela officers Joan May Salvador and Gertrudes Libang and Emma Cupin, national coordinator of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP).
In an interview with Bulatlat, Burgos maintained the case is pure harassment. “The case is being used to retaliate versus Karapatan officers who were only seeking protection from the court,” she said.
Esperon filed the charges following the filing of writ of amparo and writ of habeas data with the Supreme Court by Karapatan, Gabriela and RMP. Esperon was named respondent in Karapatan’s plea for protection against harassment and threats from state security forces. The Court of Appeals eventually denied Karapatan’s petition.
“Don’t we have the right to seek protection for ourselves?” Burgos asked. “And perjury? We are God-fearing. We are not liars. They are the ones who lie.”
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) also maintained that the case is a form of political persecution.
Ephraim Cortez, NUPL secretary general, noted the “extraordinary speed” by which the city prosecutor acted on Esperon’s motion for reconsideration. Cortez told Bulatlat ordinary motions usually take three months to one year.
“It’s been railroaded,” Cortez said, noting that the national task force to end the local communist armed conflict (NTF-ELCAC) chaired by Esperon, boasted as legal victory the filing of perjury against Catholic nun Elen Belardo.
Cortez also noted that the revival of the charges coincide with the 43rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. Karapatan and other organizations filed complaints against the Duterte administration’s human rights abuses before the UN body.