Court acquits 10 human rights defenders of perjury

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QC Hall of Justice (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 9) — Ten human rights activists walked out the Quezon City Hall of Justice victorious on Monday, after they were acquitted of perjury.

Leaders from Karapatan, Gabriela, and Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) were cleared after government prosecutors failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt the charges filed against them.

Former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon filed the perjury case in 2019 when the human rights defenders sought the Supreme Court’s help for protection amid red-tagging and terror designation.

Esperon alleged perjury was committed when they stated in their petition that the RMP is "duly registered as a non-stock, non-profit corporation under Philippine laws."

According to him, the Securities and Exchange Commission already revoked RMP’s Certificate of Registration for failure to submit the required General Information Sheets and Financial Statements from 1997 to 2003.

In its ruling, the high court said the prosecution failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that “all accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.”

One of the acquitted groups said they would file cases against Esperon.

"Sagutin nyo na lang po ang napakaraming kasong naka-file sa Ombudsman, at maghanda pa po kayo dahil marami pa po kaming ifa-file lalo na pagkatapos ng acquittal namin. Sorry, NSA Esperon, nasa panig namin ang katotohanan at hustisya," Cristina Palabay, Karapatan's secretary general, said after the decision was announced.

[Translation: Just respond to the numerous cases filed with the Ombudsman, and be ready because we will file many more, especially after our acquittal. Sorry, NSA Esperon, but truth and justice are on our side.]