Dear friends,

Sending these two statements from Karapatan on the revival of dismissed perjury case against human rights defenders, including Karapatan officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista “Kiri” Dalena, Dr. Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol and Jose Mari Callueng.

Karapatan Public Information Desk

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Press Statement
March 4, 2020

Statement on the issuance of warrants of arrests against Karapatan leaders

I was informed by our legal counsels from the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers that the motion for reconsideration filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon against leaders of Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and Gabriela with regards to his malicious perjury complaint against us was granted by Quezon City Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano on February 24, 2020. As of this time, an information has already been filed in court and expectedly, warrants of arrest will be issued soon. My colleagues in Karapatan and Gabriela have posted bail, while I will post bail when I get to the Philippines, expecting that the warrant of arrest may be served against me as soon as I arrive.

What is lodged as a reprisal suit against us human rights defenders who sought the Supreme Court’s writs of amparo and habeas data for legal protection against threats to our lives, liberties and security is now a full-blown case in court. 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.

I am currently doing advocacy work at the UN Human Rights Council, work that I have been doing for many years as a woman human rights defender exercising what I am supposed to do – promote, defend and uphold human rights in all available venues for redress of human rights victims from the domestic to international mechanisms. With the ongoing report-making process of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, I and my fellow rights defenders are here at the 43rd UN Human Rights Council session to ensure that the voices, stories, truths that are being drowned out by the malicious doublespeak, terror-tagging and whitewashing of the Duterte administration will remain in the radar of the international community.

This malicious, baseless and utterly absurd perjury charge is yet another proof of the closing civic and democratic space in the Philippines. It is ironic that this case has been revived from its earlier dismissal, amid Karapatan’s continuing advocacy work in the Philippines and at the UN HRC and our persistent efforts to pursue a just and lasting peace.

Even with these developments, we remain steadfast and committed, and more defiant than ever to continue the work that we do. While we will address the lies and contortions of Esperon and his hyenas in the NTF-ELCAC in court, we will avail all possible venues for justice and accountability, not only for embattled human rights defenders like ourselves, but more importantly for the poor and oppressed sectors, communities and groups who have been at the receiving end of fascist attacks by this administration.

Cristina Palabay
Secretary General, Karapatan
Co-Head, Delegation of Filipino human rights defenders of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines at the 43rd UNHRC session
Regional Council member, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)

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Press Statement
March 3, 2020

Reference:
Roneo S. Clamor, Karapatan deputy secretary general

Karapatan slams revival of dismissed perjury case vs rights defenders

Today, March 3, 2020, leaders of Karapatan, Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Gabriela posted bail on the trumped-up perjury case filed by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 37.

Esperon alleged that the respondents committed perjury in stating that the RMP was a registered non-governmental NGO at the Securities and Exchange Commission in the petition for the writs of amparo and habeas data filed by the officers of the three organizations before the Supreme Court last year. Respondents averred that they did not commit the said offense, citing Esperon’s case as “a clear reprisal on the human rights defenders’ efforts to seek legal protection for the threats, harassment and other human rights violations committed against them by Pres. Duterte, Esperon and several other government officials.”

The case was already initially dismissed for eleven of the respondents by Senior Assistant Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence,” while the case proceeded to be filed against former RMP National Coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo.

However, following Esperon’s filing of a motion for reconsideration, the case has been revived against 10 of the respondents in the case, namely: Karapatan national officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, and Jose Mari Callueng; RMP’s Sr. Emma Cupin; and Joan May Salvador and Gertrudes Libang of Gabriela, after Quezon City Prosecutor Vimar Barcellano found probable cause to pursue the case. The case was dismissed against Karapatan’s Reylan Vergara for lack of jurisdiction. Nine out of the 10 Karapatan officers posted bail today, while the human rights group’s secretary general Cristina Palabay will post bail when she arrives from Geneva, Switzerland, where she is currently conducting advocacy work on the UN Human Rights Council resolution on the Philippines.

Karapatan condemns in strongest terms this perjury charge by Esperon which came back from the dead after it has been dismissed. We assert and reiterate that this perjury charge is nothing more than a trumped-up retaliatory suit after Karapatan, RMP and Gabriela, filed a petition for the issuance of writs of amparo and habeas corpus before the Supreme Court in May 2019 to seek protection from red-tagging, military harassment, and human rights violations directed against the three organizations and its members.

Esperon has failed to sufficiently establish the elements of the crime of perjury under the Revised Penal Code. It is baseless and insufficient. By pursuing this case, Esperon and his militarist sycophants in the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) are merely proving that the Duterte regime’s critics and human rights defenders indeed face reprisals from the government for their line of work, either through State violence or through the weaponization of the law. The Duterte regime is merely baring its fascist fangs, hellbent on silencing anyone who dares to resist its authoritarian rule.

If Duterte and NTF-ELCAC think that this perjury case will silence us into fear, they are utterly mistaken. We will fight back. ###

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PUBLIC INFORMATION DESK
publicinfo@karapatan.org
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Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights
2nd Flr. Erythrina Bldg., #1 Maaralin corner Matatag Sts., Central District
Diliman, Quezon City, PHILIPPINES 1101
Telefax: (+63 2) 4354146
Web: http://www.karapatan.org/

KARAPATAN is an alliance of human rights organizations and programs, human rights desks and committees of people’s organizations, and individual advocates committed to the defense and promotion of people’s rights and civil liberties. It monitors and documents cases of human rights violations, assists and defends victims and conducts education, training and campaign.