A lower court in Quezon City court on Monday acquitted activists and members of progressive groups of perjury charges filed by then National Security adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. under the Duterte administration.
Branch 139 Judge Aimee Alcera of the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court absolved the 10 accused for reasonable doubt.
The prosecution failed to establish “beyond reasonable doubt that all accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood,” she said.
Those cleared of the charged were Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) national coordinator Elenita Belardo, Gabriela chairperson Gertrudes Libang, Gabriela secretary general Joan Salvador, and Karapatan national council members Cristina Palabay, Elisa Lubi, Roneo Clamor, Edita Burgos, Wilfredo Ruazol, Gabriela Krista Dalena, and Jose Mari Callueng.
In 2019, Esperon Jr. accused the RMP of falsely claiming to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
RMP is a missionary religious group working with farmers, indigenous peoples, and other minority groups.
Amid the petition filed by the groups against the government’s red-tagging and violence on them, Esperon filed the perjury case.
Alcera, in a Jan. 9 decision, said the Supreme Court (SC) recognizes that perjury strikes at the very administration of the laws, “at the heart of every criminal proceeding is that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt.”