Sara Duterte’s ex-info officer sues Bello for cyberlibel

Philippine congressman and senatorial candidate Walden Bello holds a document seeking to stop the planned boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, at the Commission of Elections (COC) office in Manila on February 22, 2016. The Philippines' election commission said on February 22 it would consider a complaint accusing boxing champion and Philippine senatorial candidate Manny Pacquiao of violating election regulations by promoting his upcoming fight in the thick of the campaign. The former information officer of Sara Duterte filed a cyberlibel complaint against Bello. (Photo credit should read NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)
FILE PHOTO: Walden Bello holds a document seeking to stop the planned boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley, at the Commission of Elections (COC) office in Manila on February 22, 2016. The former information officer of Sara Duterte filed a cyberlibel complaint against Bello. (Photo: NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Jefry Tupas, the former Davao City Information Officer (CIO) of vice presidential aspirant Sara Duterte, filed a complaint against Walden Bello for accusing her of being a “drug user”, who also happens to compete for the same post.

Bello insisted that the facts he presented “were clear” and is already publicly known.

“The facts are very clear in this case that she was indeed using drugs, and this was the reason for her arrest, but it's not very clear what happened afterwards despite her being arrested,” he said. “What came out is that she was freed by the mayor's office, whereas the others who were arrested were not.”

Bello highlighted the timing of the cyber libel suit, connecting it to him challenging Sara Duterte’s to show up in electoral debates.

“What is very puzzling about this case is that none of the media that have reported it, and there were so many, were filed cases against. It was just me,” Bello said. “I'm very sure that this was at the orders of Mayor Sara Duterte and it comes in the context of my challenge, consistently challenging Sara Duterte to show up for the debates.”

Resonating with his sentiments last week, he mentioned that Sara Duterte and her running mate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. were “afraid to be questioned.”

“They are afraid of the fact that they have no program to offer. They are afraid that we will raise their records as politicians,” he said, just before reiterating his points on Sara Duterte’s “shortcomings” during her tenure as Davao City mayor.

“This is to draw attention away, because she has nothing to show or answer for her questionable record,” he added. “Parang smokescreen (It’s like a smokescreen). We're not going to be deterred by this, come on, don't use this cyberlibel thing on us, instead of using legal means against us, why don't you just show up in the debate?”

Furthermore, Bello warned members of the media that Tupas’ cyberlibel case could set a precedent, should the Marcos-Duterte tandem win the 2022 elections.

“I want to warn people that this could be a test case for the media. To tell you right now, they are watching you. Whatever you write about them could be subject to the arbitrary views of the cybercrime law,” he said. “I think this is a warning that is fired by the Bongbong and Sara Duterte game if they come to power. This is a precursor on how they would like to act.”

He called on the media to not “allow yourselves to be muzzled.”

Ito yung larger issues that are involved here (These are the larger issues that are involved here). This isn't only about me, this is about other people running in the campaign, it's about the media in their rights, and the rights of the Filipino people. You will see that if these people came into power, they will use it against you,” he said.

Mark Ernest Famatigan is a news writer who focuses on Philippine politics. He is an advocate for press freedom and regularly follows developments in the Philippine economy. The views expressed are his own.

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