Esperon perjury suit vs. 9 militant leaders to proceed: QC court

By Benjamin Pulta / Philippine News Agency

National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (File photo)

MANILA – The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) dismissed a petition filed by individuals allegedly linked to communist terrorist groups (CTG)-run schools seeking to junk a perjury complaint filed against them by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.


In his March 19, 2021 decision, RTC Branch 92 Judge Eleuterio L. Bathan dismissed the petition for certiorari denying the application for preliminary injunction filed by the individuals represented by the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL).


“All told the respondent judge did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying petitioners’ motion to quash information and the motion for reconsideration thereto,” Bathan said.


The petition before the RTC had questioned the proceedings before Metropolitan Trial Court (MeTC) Branch 139 Judge Aimee Marie Alcera, who is hearing the perjury complaint filed by Esperon.


In denying the suit, the court said the “orders issued by the respondent (MTC) judge were issued per the existing laws and jurisprudence,” and noted that “pursuant to the revised guidelines for the continuous trial of criminal cases, the information should not be quashed if the ground is insufficiency of the allegation (since) the remedy is to order the amendments of the same”.


In the said hearing for the provisional remedy, petitioners waived their application for a temporary restraining order (TRO) after the respondents presented to the court a certificate of the arraignment of all the petitioners.


In February last year, the QC MTC began hearing Esperon's perjury complaint against an official of a group that allegedly has links to the communist movement.


Alcera heard the case where accused Elenita Belardo, national coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), pleaded not guilty to the charge.


In an information dated Nov. 8, 2019, Senior Assistant City Prosecutor Nilo Peñaflor ordered the filing of the charges against Belardo.


Esperon claimed that RMP officials and others lied under oath in the petition for writs of Amparo and habeas corpus filed against the government, including him, before the Court of Appeals (CA).


The petition for Amparo was subsequently dismissed by the appellate court.


The writ of Amparo is a remedy available to any person whose right to life, liberty, and security is violated or threatened with violation by an unlawful act or omission of a public official or employee or a private individual or entity.


A writ of habeas corpus is used to bring a prisoner or other detainee before the court to determine if the person's imprisonment or detention is lawful.


Peñaflor said in the petition filed before the CA by alleged known front groups of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People's Army (CPP-NPA) that Belardo "knowingly made untruthful statements under oath" when she said the RMP is a "duly registered non-stock, non-profit organization."


"(I)n fact the accused very well knew that said allegations were false and untruthful as the certificate of registration of RMP was already revoked effective September 29, 2003. At best, the aforesaid defense of good faith is purely evidentiary which may be threshed out in a full-blown trial,” he added.


Peñaflor said he decided not to charge other members of other groups responsible since "although embodied in one petition (filed before the CA), (the other) respondents' overt acts of verifying the same are separate and distinct from one another and could certainly refer only to factual circumstances pertaining to… the organization which said (other) respondents were representing."


Aside from Belardo, also charged were Joan May E. Salvador and Gertrudes Libang as representatives of Gabriela and Reylan Vergara, Cristina Palabay, Ronco Clamor, Edita Burgos, Gabriela Krista Dalena, Jose Marie Callueng and Wilfredo Ruazol of Karapatan.


Esperon alleged that the RMP collected donations from international organizations to run 55 Salugpungan Ta’tanu Igkanugon Community Learning Center Inc. (Salugpungan) whose operations were earlier ordered suspended by the Department of Education.


Citing reports of the military and police on the ground and the testimonies of the Mindanao Indigenous People's Counsel elders and leaders, Esperon said there was an unmistakable pattern of training anti-government armed rebels by these schools.


As an example, Esperon said these schools have a different "national" anthem that they teach to students.


Students are also taught assembly and disassembly of firearms and learn the alphabets with different anti-government slogans starting with "A for armas (weapon)".


Esperon said these schools do not issue credentials to students, allowing their wards to take further studies in government-recognized schools.


The CPP-NPA has been listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (PNA)

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