The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers welcomed the ruling by a Quezon City court acquitting 10 activists of the charge of perjury filed by former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.
The Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 139 cleared Elenita Belardo, Elisa Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Edita Burgos, Jose Maria Callueng, Wilfredo Ruazol, Joan May Salvador, and Gertrudes Libang over the “failure of the prosecution to establish beyond reasonable doubt that all accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.”
“All accused must perforce be acquitted,” the court ruled.
In his complaint filed in 2019, Esperon claimed that the human rights workers lied in their petition for a writ of amparo filed before the Supreme Court. Esperon said the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines were not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission as the group had claimed.
NUPL President Ephraim B. Cortez said their clients’ acquittal is a just end to the suit.
“This reprisal suit is one of the many legal assaults where the State misused the law to discredit human rights advocacy, criminalize dissent, and stigmatize human rights defenders. But many of these attempts have been frustrated,” Cortez said.
The lawyers’ group cited the successive dismissals of cases involving defective search warrants that have resulted in the release of activists.
The Regional Trial Court of Manila earlier granted the petition for bail filed by Ram Carlo Bautista, Reina Mae Nasino, and Alma Moran after it found the prosecution’s evidence of their alleged illegal possession of firearms and explosives “weak.”
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