Senators, int’l groups support rights defenders facing perjury raps

Sr. Elen Belardo, former national coordinator of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, chats with workers. Belardo faces arrest over perjury charges filed by Gen. Hermogenes Esperon. (Photo courtesy of RMP)

“He [Duterte] has once again blatantly weaponized the law against those who dare stand up against his atrocious policies.”

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – Several groups and personalities expressed their support to the ten human rights defenders facing perjury charges.

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. sued Karapatan officers namely: Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor and Jose Mari Callueng; Edita Burgos; film maker Gabriela Krista Dalena; Gabriela’s Joan May Salvador and Gertrudes Libang; Sr. Emma Cupin, national coordinator of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) and Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol of Iglesia Filipina Independiente.

Rights defenders decry revival of fabricated perjury charges

In a statement, Senator Francis Pangilinan said, “It is ironic, if not shocking, that after being denied court protection, a group of activists and human rights defenders are now facing perjury case filed by high security officials in the country.”

Sen. Leila De Lima, meanwhile, said that the filing of perjury case against the 10 activists is President Duterte’s desperate move to silence dissent.

“He has once again blatantly weaponized the law against those who dare stand up against his atrocious policies,” De Lima said in a statement.

She said that under Duterte, human rights defenders are treated as criminals while violators are given full protection.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, expressed alarm that human rights defenders and political activists continue to “face constant threats and undue restrictions to their rights to freedom of expression and association as a result of their efforts to seek protection against such threats.”

“Not only is the government preventing activists from doing their work, it is also depriving them of access to legal recourse,” the group said in a statement.

The group called on the government to drop the perjury charges against the 10 activists saying that instead of using the law to intimidate critics, the government should fulfill its obligation to ensure a safe and enabling environment where they can continue their work without fears of reprisals.

Meanwhile, Irish-based human rights organization, The International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders or Front Line Defenders said they are deeply concerned by the “increasingly hostile environment for human rights defenders in the Philippines.”

The group believed that the rights defenders are targeted for their legitimate and peaceful work for the protection of human rights.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders also said that the perjury case is a retaliation against the activists who seek legal protection in the Supreme Court. ()

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