Walden Bello: Sara Duterte ‘opportunistic’, libel must be decriminalized

·2 min read
Former vice presidential candidate and Laban ng Masa chairp Walden Bello. (Photo: Walden Bello/Facebook)
Former vice presidential candidate and Laban ng Masa chairp Walden Bello. (Photo: Walden Bello/Facebook)

In an interview with ANC’s “Headstart” on Wednesday (August 10), former vice presidential candidate, professor, and Laban ng Masa chairperson Walden Bello called on for the decriminalization of libel.

This comes after Bello was arrested for two counts of cyberlibel on Monday (August 8). He was eventually released on bail yesterday, when he paid a total of P96,000 (P48,000 per count of cyberlibel).

According to Bello, libel laws “abridge freedom of speech” and is “used by opportunistic politicians like the Vice President.”

"Let's face it, we're not born yesterday. We know that the mayor running for Vice President at that point was in fact the moving force behind this allegation of cyber libel,” Bello said.

He added, "I feel that it's a good thing that my case is now in the public view and that it will take the legal process because what we intend to show is not only my innocence but the fact that this law is a grave nature to democracy.”

The call to decriminalize libel is also shared by groups such as the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Hold the Line Coalition.

In a statement, Sara Duterte replied to the professor, "Mr. Bello should focus on salvaging what remains of his dignity and self-respect, I am asking him to stop obsessing over me — and stop blaming me for his fall from grace."

Bello believes that Jefry Tupas filed the complaint under the orders of Sara Duterte. Tupas filed the cases last March at the height of the vice presidential campaign, after Bello called the former a “drug user” while highlighting the “shortcomings” of the Sara Duterte-led Davao City government.

The professor is not the only figure facing libel complaints. Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr. are also in the middle of a legal battle after businessman Wilfredo Keng sued them for cyber libel. The Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed the decision of the lower court that convicted Ressa and Santos. Rappler mentioned that the two are gunning for the complaint to reach the Supreme Court.

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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