QC court acquits rights group members in Esperon’s perjury case
MANILA, Philippines – A Quezon City court on Monday acquitted human-rights activists and progressive group members of perjury that was filed by then National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon.
In a ruling issued by the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 139, acquitted are the following:
- Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) national coordinator Elenita Belardo;
- Karapatan Chairperson Elisa Tita Lubi;
- Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay;
- Karapatan Deputy Secretary Roneo Clamor;
- Karapatan Treasurer Gabriela Krista Dalena
- Ms. Edita Burgos, mother of missing activists Jonas;
- Karapatan National Council members Jose Mari Callueng and Wilfredo Ruazol;
- Gabriela chairperson Gertrudes Libang, and
- Gabriela secretary general Joan Salvador
In 2019, Esperon accused the groups of issuing false statements in the petition for writs of amparo and habeas data in seeking protection from the courts against red tagging and harassment.
READ: Nat’l Security Adviser Esperon sues religious group, 2 others for perjury
Esperon, in his complaint, said RMP falsely claimed that it is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) when its registration was revoked.
Initially, the Quezon City Prosecutor charged Belardo but dropped the charges against the others. Esperon then filed a motion for reconsideration, leading to the filing of a court case.
But the court, in its ruling issued Monday, the court said that the prosecution failed to present enough evidence to warrant a conviction of all the accused.
“In sum, for failure to establish beyond reasonable doubt that all accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood, all accused must perforce be acquitted,” Judge Aimee Marie B. Alcera said in the decision.
Meanwhile, Karapatan, in a statement, said the court’s ruling is “a victory of truth and justice against lies and enemies of the people.”
“We will continue to explore all options under domestic and international human rights mechanisms to hold the perpetrators of this form of judicial harassment accountable,” it said in a statement.
“Under any regime, especially now under another Marcos, human rights defenders, together with rights violations victims, and fighters for justice, will prevail,” the group added.
This is not the first time that a court dismissed a case filed by the government against individuals or groups tagged to have links with the communist movements.
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