By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL and JONAS ALPASAN
MANILA — A Quezon City court has acquitted the 10 human rights defenders who were charged with perjury case.
In a decision January 9, Judge Aimee Marie B. Alcera Municipal Trial Court Branch 139 said that the prosecution failed to “establish beyond reasonable doubt that all accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.”
“Truth and justice prevailed today against liars and butcher such as former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon and National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan, on Monday, Jan. 9.
The perjury charges were filed by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. in July 2019. Human rights group Karapatan said that the filing of the case against their members is a reprisal after they have filed various complaints against Esperon, other members of the executive department and officers of the military as well as seeking protection from the high court.
ATM. Human rights defenders and their lawyers here outside Branch 139 of QC Municipal Trial Court. Today, the court will issue its decision on the perjury charges filed by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. pic.twitter.com/nGVgY21yd6
— Bulatlat (@bulatlat) January 9, 2023
Esperon served as national security adviser under President Rodrigo Duterte, and earlier led the government’s bloody counterinsurgency program under Gloria Macapqgal Arroyo.
Outside the court, protesters cheered as soon as they received the news.
The 10 human rights defenders were then warmly welcomed by their colleagues and supporters in the human rights community.
In a short program outside the court, Palabay said this is the third time that Esperon’s claims were junked by the court. She cited the Hilongos’ case which was dismissed by Manila Regional Trial Court in 2021, the granting of Bulatlat’s plea of preliminary injunction against National Telecommunications Commission, and now, the junking of perjury case against human rights defenders.
“We never blinked, no matter how your trolls attacked us. Because we know, fighting for the people’s rights is not wrong,” Palabay said.
She also added that the court’s decision is also a slap to the rabid red-tagger, NTF-ELCAC.
Meanwhile, Joan May Salvador of Gabriela said those who spread lies are proven to be on the wrong side.
“Our victory today proves that there is nothing wrong with defending people’s rights,” Salvador said.
Those who were charged with perjury were : Karapatan Council members Palabay, Elisa Lubi, Roneo Clamor, Edita Burgos, Reylan Vergara, Rev. Wilfredo Ruazol, Kiri Dalena and Jose Mari Callueng; Gabriela’s human rights coordinator, Gertrudes Libang; Gabriela’s chairperson and former secretary general, Joan May Salvador; Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) National Coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo; and RMP Northern Mindanao Region Coordinator Sr. Emma Cupin.