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  • Mar 09, 2020

Philippines Revives Perjury Charges for Artist-Activist Kiri Dalena


The Manila-based artist-activist Gabriela Krista “Kiri” Dalena is again facing perjury charges, along with nine fellow activists, following complaints filed against them by National Security Adviser, Hermogenes Esperon Jr. on March 4. Dalena and others are members of a coalition of activist groups seeking protection from the government, including human-rights group Karapatan Alliance Philippines, women’s group Gabriela, and church-based Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP), and have been engaged in a legal battle with the government for nearly ten months.

It began in May 2019, when Karapatan, the women's group Gabriela, and RMP filed a petition with the Supreme Court for a writ of amparo (a protection order) and habeas data (access to information) claiming “worsening attacks, terrorist-tagging by the Philippine military and the ongoing smear campaign against human rights defenders.” The groups intended to seek legal protection following numerous cases of “red-tagging”—the act of accusing activists of having links to communist armed groups, potentially endangering the safety of anyone critical of the administration—and various human rights violations against their groups.

The activists’ petition was denied by the Court of Appeals on June 28, 2019. Esperon, a respondent cited by the three groups, in turn filed perjury complaints alleging that false information was included in the petition, reportedly for telling the Securities and Exchange Commission that RMP was a registered NGO. He identified Dalena along with other officers and members of Karapatan, Gabriela, and RMP. In November 8, 2019, an assistant city prosecutor upheld the complaint against RMP’s Sister Elenita Belardo while the rest were dismissed for “lack of probable cause and/or insufficiency of evidence.”

But Esperon persisted in the government’s persecution of the activists. He filed a motion for reconsideration and on March 2, 2020, a Quezon City prosecutor sustained the motion. Among those again facing perjury charges are Dalena, Karapatan officers Elisa Tita Lubi, Cristina Palabay, Roneo Clamor, Jose Mari Callueng, and Edita Burgos, Gabriela officers Joan May Salvador and Getrudes Libang, RMP national coordinator Sr. Emma Cupin and Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol. Except for Palabay and Cupin who are both outside of Manila, the accused posted a bail of PHP 18,000 (USD 356) each on the morning of March 3.

Amnesty International, in a statement released on March 4, expressed deep concern over the case, saying, “Not only is the government preventing activists from doing their work, it is also depriving them of access to legal recourse.” Similarly, in a Facebook post dated March 3, Palabay said, “it seems that, instead of being provided with relief from these attacks by the judicial system, the judicial system itself is being abused as an instrument of our political persecution.”

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