Affirm the acquittal, Defend the Defenders!

Migrante Canada 

In Solidarity with the Rural Missionaries, GABRIELA and Karapatan

28 August 2023

The Acquittal that Keeps Esperon Jr. Awake at Night and Frothing at the Mouth

When the law is not to former National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.’s liking, he seeks to defy it using malicious charges against the accused, even vilifying the judge who handed down the decision! When the law goes against Esperon’s military training and fascist counter-insurgency background, he is kept awake most nights, frothing at the mouth.

Esperon seeks to review the decision of Municipal Trial Court Judge Aimee Alcera made last January 2023 to acquit the leaders and human rights defenders of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), GABRIELA, and Karapatan on the perjury charges filed by Esperon. 

Judge Alcera ruled that because Esperon and the prosecution failed “to establish beyond reasonable doubt that all accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood, all accused must perforce be acquitted.” It was a shining moment for justice and the rule of law but a terrible blow for Esperon who was bent on weaponizing the law.

Five years earlier, in 2019, the RMP, GABRIELA, and Karapatan filed petitions for the writs of amparo and habeas data before the Supreme Court. In asserting their rights, these human rights defenders asked the Court for protection, for the military to stop committing threats and acts violating their rights to life, liberty, and security, and for the government officials to provide them with all the information on the charges against them. (The writ of amparo (Spanish for protection) will prevent the military in judicial proceedings to issue denial answers to petitions on disappearances or extrajudicial executions and allow the petitioners the right of access to information under the writ of habeas data.)

Esperon’s response was to retaliate by throwing perjury charges against these human rights defenders, but only to have his case thrown out of court by Judge Alcera’s acquittal decision! Esperon’s response to this was a petition for certiorari. Esperon continues to attack, malign, and vilify human rights defenders and judges who uphold the law; he refuses to stop and accept that at this time, he has been defeated by justice and the rule of law. 

Note that Esperon was the former Vice-Chairperson of the NTF-ELCAC and former member of the Anti-Terrorism Council. As the AFP Chief of Staff under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s regime, he led the notorious counter-insurgency programs Bantay Laya 1 and 2 responsible for extrajudicial killings, disappearances, and other gross violations of human rights. He was also implicated in the Garci Tapes scandal which the public believed helped Arroyo win the 2004 national elections. 

This is not the first time that Esperon as an agent of the State has misused the law to discredit human rights advocacy, criminalize dissent, and terrorize the people with malicious, trumped-up charges only to have these charges thrown out by the court. This is the third time! 

In 2006, Esperon filed murder charges against more than 70 activists and NDFP peace consultants in the infamous  Hilongos’ case. In 2021, after 14 years (!), Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina dismissed the murder charges and in her decision wrote that “there is neither documentary evidence of the alleged 15 victims’ deaths nor was there forensic evidence presented before the court.” She added that “The testimonies of the prosecution witnesses on the identities of the skeletal remains are full of inconsistencies, highly unbelievable, and clearly perjured.”

In August 2022, Bulatlat won a preliminary injunction against the blocking of its news website, ordered by the government’s National Telecommunications Commission and the National Security Council. Judge Dolly Bolante-Prado’s decision, which clearly upheld press freedom, wrote that “To the Court, any limitation or restriction in the exercise of one’s right, no matter the extent, is a form of deprivation and clearly a violation of such right.” 

Migrante Canada stands in solidarity with the human rights defenders to affirm the acquittal decision by Judge Alcera. They are Sr. Elenita Belardo, Rev. Wilfredo Ruazol, and Dr. Edith Burgos; Karapatan’s Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, and Roneo Clamor and Gabriela’s Krista Dalena, Jose Mari Callueng, Gertrudes Ranjo Libang, and Joan May Salvador.

We laud presiding Judge Alcera for standing firm against the prosecution in the exercise of law and justice, and under these dark and challenging times under the Marcos Jr.-Duterte regime, this is an act of courage.

When the many who are unjustly accused refuse to be silenced and back down but instead push back, these are demonstrations of courage that are required repeatedly. The state retaliations never stop. The continuing attacks by the regime with the support of the US are attempts to silence and repress the people’s growing unrest in these worsening socioeconomic and political conditions.    

Migrante Canada knows the strength and the power of the people will prevail despite all odds. ###

Affirm the acquittal, Defend the Defenders!

Esperon, NTF-ELCAC – sinungaling, berdugo!

#QC MeTC | #DefendFilipinoWomen | #DefendTheDefenders