Esperon sues groups that filed for protection vs gov't harassment

MANILA, Philippines – National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr sued 3 human rights groups for perjury after they asked the courts for a protection order against government harassment and intimidation.

Esperon filed the perjury complaint against Karapatan, Gabriela, and the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) on Tuesday, July 2, at the Quezon City Prosecutor's Office, according to a press release posted on his office's Facebook page on Wednesday, July 3.

Esperon, a former military chief, accused the 3 groups of making false allegations about government officials in their petitions for writ of amparo and writ of habeas data filed before the Supreme Court.

He also accused RMP, a religious group that works with marginalized sectors, of falsely claiming it is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

He cited a certification issued by the SEC, dated April 15 this year, that attests that RMP's Certificate of Registrated was revoked on August 20, 2003.

RMP supposedly failed to submit the required General Information Sheets and Financial Statements from 1997 to 2003.

Esperon blasted the 3 groups for hiding the supposed true nature of their work – to attack the government and divert funding towards the CPP and its wings, the New People's Army and National Democratic Front.

“For so long a time, many of these so-called cause-oriented organizations have deceived the public into believing that their actions, especially those that are directed against the government, had been legitimate,” said Esperon.

“Some, in fact, had misled foreign funding institutions into giving foreign grants and donations to support their supposed cause, but were instead diverted to the CPP/NPA/NDF in furtherance of the latter’s communist terrorist objectives," he said.

Last March, a Philippine delegation composed of military and Presidential Communications officials went to Europe to ask institutions there to cut their funding for groups like RMP, Karapan, and Ibon Foundation, claiming these groups were using the funds against the government.

Esperon included the following as respondents in his complaint: Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay, RMP national coordinator Sr. Elenita Belardo, Romeo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Editha Burgos, Jose Mari Callueng, Wilfredo Ruazol, Elisa Tita P. Lubi, Reylan B. Vergara, Sr. Maria Cupin, Joan May Salvador, and Gertrudes Ranjo-Liang.

Karapatan counters Esperon

Karapatan, on Wednesday, said it stood by the statements and accusations it made against the government in its petition.

"We stand by our attestation made in good faith and borne out of diligence that they are true and correct based on our own personal knowledge and/or based on authentic records," the group said.

It blasted Esperon's complaint as yet another form of government harassment. 

"The filing of a perjury complaint, along with other documented judicial harassment, extrajudicial killings, defamation and threats directed at our colleagues, is part and parcel of the attacks we face, aimed at discrediting our advocacy and invalidating the urgency of the pleas of the victims of human rights violations," said Karapatan.

Days before Esperon filed his complaint, Karapatan, RMP, and Gabriela were denied protection by the Court of Appeals from military officials.

If the petition had been granted, the CA would have issued restraining orders against members of the military and the court would have also ordered the military to destroy information they have against the groups.

The CA said  there was no evidence to show the accused government officials violated or threatened the right to privacy of members of the groups.

The CA made the decision 10 days after a summary hearing where the the appellate court denied the groups the right to present more evidence. The groups had prepared witnesses for this, including human rights workers who were tagged as communists in flyers.

One witness Karapatan planned to present was human rights worker Ryan Hubilla, to testify on army harassment. Hubilla, a 22-year-old senior high school student; and Nelly Bagasala, 69 – both human rights advocates – were killed by unknown gunmen in Sorsogon on June 15.

The CA said all of the incidents were circumstantial.

“The lumping of previous and present experiences of petitioners is misleading and may give the impression that their life, liberty, and security are threatened to be violated," it said.

The tagging of human rights workers as communists also “has no direct relation to the circumstances of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances,” the CA added. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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