Rights groups face revived perjury charge from Esperon complaint

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
Rights groups face revived perjury charge from Esperon complaint
In this Oct. 3, 2019 photo, rights groups call for the dismissal of National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s perjury case.
Karapatan / Released

MANILA, Philippines — Rights leaders, who sought protection writ from the court but failed, are facing revived perjury charges for supposedly lying in their petition for writ of amparo previously filed before the Supreme Court.

City prosecutor Vimar Barcellano found probable cause to indict the following on a charge of perjury:

  • Elisa Tita Lubi, Karapatan chair
  • Cristina Palabay, Karapatan secretary general
  • Roneo Clamor
  • Gabriela Krista Dalena
  • Edita Burgos, mother of missing activist Jonas
  • Jose Mari Callueng
  • Wilfredo Ruazol
  • Sr. Emma Cupin, Rural Missionaries of Philippines
  • Joan May Salvador, Gabriela secretary general
  • Gertrudes Libang

All but Palabay, who is in Geneva, Switzerland for the 43rd United Human Rights Council, and Cupin have posted bail ahead of the issuance of a warrant.

  1. Their perjury case is consolidated with the case against 80-year-old Sister Elenita Belardo of RMP.
  2. The arraignment is set on March 16

Amparo petition

The 11 rights leaders filed a petition for writ of amparo and habeas data before the SC in May 2019, claiming threats and violence against human rights defenders and development workers.

The Court of Appeals looked into their plea, upon order of the SC, and dismissed it saying it lacked evidence to prove the existence of extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrest and other violations.

Esperon's complaint

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr., a respondent in their amparo petition, filed a perjury complaint accusing them of lying that RMP is a “registered non-stock, non-profit organization” in their plea.

Esperon raised in his complaint that the Securities and Exchange Commission revoked RMP’s Certificate of Registration in 2003.

Only Belardo was initially charged by Quezon City Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor but Esperon filed an appeal.

In the latest resolution issued by Barcellano, the prosecution said: “[A]ll the respondents cannot feign ignorance about the falsehood wilfully stated in their Verification/Certification as to the unregistered status of RMP.”

“[T]he issue on whether they acted in good faith is best determined, however, during trial proper,” the resolution further read.

In the information or charge sheet filed before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37, the 10 are accused of “conspiring and confederating together and helping one another, did then and there wilfully, unlawfully, feloniously and knowingly make untruthful statements under oath upon a material matter.”

Palabay slammed the revival of the charges and called it a “reprisal suit.”

“With this, it seems that, instead of being provided with relief from these attacks by the judicial system, the judicial system itself is being abused as an instrument of our political persecution,” she said in a statement.

“The malicious, baseless and utterly absurd perjury charge is yet another proof of the closing civic and democratic space in the Philippines,” Palabay added.

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