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Walden Bello seeks DOJ review of cyber libel case, deferral of arraignment

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Walden Bello seeks DOJ review of cyber libel case, deferral of arraignment
Former vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello was arrested on August 8, 2022 on cyber libel charges filed by former Davao City employee Jefrey Tupas.
Leomar Doctolero

MANILA, Philippines — Longtime activist and former vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello is asking the Davao City court to defer his arraignment on a case of cyber libel that has been brought to the justice secretary for review.

In a filing with Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 10, lawyers Luke Espiritu and Danilo Balucos entered their appearance as counsel for Bello and informed the court that a petition for review of the case had been filed before Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin "Boying" Remulla on July 29.

"Consequently, the accused respectfully asks for deferral of the arraignment and further proceedings, while the petition is being reviewed by the Honorable Secretary," Bello's lawyers said.

Bello, who was arrested last Monday but is now out on bail, is scheduled to be arraigned on two counts of cyber libel on September 8.

The complaints were filed by Jefry Tupas, a former Davao City employee now working with the office of Vice President Sara Duterte, whom Bello had referred to as a "drug dealer."

Tupas was working for then Davao City Mayor Duterte — elected vice president in May — when she was relieved from her post at city hall in November 2021.

She had attended a party in Davao de Oro where P1.5-million worth of illegal drugs were later seized in the raid. Tupas said she had already left the party when the arrests happened.

Vice President Duterte has distanced herself from the complaints that Tupas filed. "I have never filed a libel case in my life. Criticisms do not deserve even a backward glance because the accomplishments of Davao City under my leadership are already set in stone," she said last week.

Bello's arrest has raised concerns over freedom of expression and dissent in the Philippines, where libel has historically been used to silence and harass critical voices.

CYBER LIBEL

DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

JESUS CRISPIN REMULLA

WALDEN BELLO

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