By Jairo Bolledo of Rappler in Manila
Former Philippines vice-presidential candidate and Laban ng Masa chairperson Walden Bello has been arrested for two counts of alleged cyber libel by the police.
Bello, 76, is a globally renowned environmental and social justice activist and academic.
Bello’s arrest yesterday was confirmed by his executive secretary and Laban ng Masa spokesperson Leomar Doctolero.
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The former VP candidate was brought to the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) Station 8 in Project 4, Quezon City.
“Walden has just been arrested for cyber libel by officers of the QCPD. He is currently being taken to QC Police Station 8, P. Tuazon,” Doctolero said.
It was Davao City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10 Judge Retrina Espe Fuentes who issued the arrest warrant yesterday. Bello’s counsels said they will move for the suspension of proceedings at RTC 10 after Bello posts bail.
Two counts of cyber libel
Bello faces two counts of cyber libel for which bail has been set at P48,000 (NZ$4000) each.
Police Lieutenant-Colonel Gilmore Wasin confirmed Bello’s arrest to Rappler. He added Bello would be transferred to Camp Karingal in Quezon City, QCPD’s headquarters.
Doctolero said they had been anticipating the arrest because Bello had already been indicted for the cases last month.
“We have been anticipating the arrest warrant because of the indictment of the Davao Prosecutor. It’s a bailable offence and counsel is on the way to assist him.”
Bello’s camp filed a motion for reconsideration before the Davao prosecutor’s office but it was denied, Doctolero explained.
“The resolution for his indictment was released last June 9. We filed for a motion for reconsideration with the Prosecutors’ Office which was subsequently denied.”
Under the Philippine laws, cyber libel is a bailable offence. Based on the guidelines for bail for cybercrime offences, the bail for cyber libel is typically set at P10,000 (NZ$790).
In a message to reporters, Leody de Guzman’s team said the ex-presidential candidate and Bello’s running mate was headed to QCPD Station 8 to show support for Bello.
At the height of the campaign period early this year, Jefry Tupas, Vice-President Sara Duterte’s former information officer, filed a cyber libel complaint against Bello.
She is seeking P10 million (NZ$790,000) in damages after Bello allegedly accused her on social media of being a drug addict and dealer.
Bello earlier labeled Tupas’ act as “clearly a politically-motivated move”.
In a petition for review filed on July 29, Bello’s camp argued that the position of Tupas in government “is very relevant” as the Facebook post would not have highlighted the drug raid if it weren’t for her being a public official.
Infringement on free speech
The prosecutor’s dismissal of their argument that the post merely poses a question sets “a dangerous precedent,” the petition also pointed out.
“Just imagine the severe infringement on free speech that would ensue if our jurisdiction would limit what questions people can ask!” the petition said.
Bello’s camp also argued that the post was written by his communications team, not by the former vice-presidential candidate himself, and that there is still no proof that he personally published it on Facebook.
“[Bello] does not even have administrator or moderator status in the said Facebook page,” it said.
Pacific Media Watch reports: Walden Bello posted this on his Facebook page from detention at Camp Karingal:
Seventy seven years ago today, Aug 9, 1945, the second atom bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, three days after the first blasted Hiroshima. Up to 80,000 people were killed in an act of genocide that had absolutely no military value and merely served to warn the Soviet Union of the US’ capacity to blast it to bits. The world must never forget Hiroshima and Nagasaki, especially now that the war in the Ukraine drags on, with the constant possibility of uncontrolled escalation, and Washington provokes China on Taiwan.
By Jairo Bolledo is a Rappler journalist. Republished with permission.