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Walden Bello asks SC to decriminalize libel

Ian Laqui - Philstar.com
Walden Bello asks SC to decriminalize libel
This photo shows former lawmaker Walden Bello (middle), and his lawyers Estrella Elamparo and Danilo Balucos.
Martin Ramos / Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — Former vice presidential bet Walden Bello filed a petition for Certiorari and Prohibition asking the Supreme Court to decriminalize libel in the Philippines.

In a 26-page filed before the SC on Tuesday, Bello asked to void Articles 353 to 355 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) on libel and section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act on cyber libel.

He was accompanied by his lawyers Estrella Elamparo and Danilo Balucos.

“Petitioner respectfully prays that the present Petition be granted declaring unconstitutional Articles 353 to 355 of the Revised Penal Code as well and Section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act No. 10175 on Cyberlibel for being violative of Section 4, Article III of the Bill of Rights and nullifying and permanently enjoining the prosecution of petitioner under the said laws,” the petition read.

Libel, covered under the RPC, is “defined as a public and malicious imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead.”

Aside from criminal prosecution, there is still a distinct civil action that can be filed for libel. 

Under the Cybercrime Prevention Act, which Bello also asked the high court to review, the penalty for the offense is one degree higher than the defined penalty mentioned in the RPC. 

“Indeed, it is high time, after a decade of the Disini doctrine, for the Honorable Court to strike down as unconstitutional the libel statutes and permanently prohibit and enjoin the prosecution of the case with the respondent court,” the petition read. 

In the Disini vs. Secretary of Justice case in February 2014, the Supreme Court declared that the provision concerning cyber libel mentioned in the Cybercrime Prevention Act is lawful and constitutional when applied to the original author of a post. 

However, it was deemed unconstitutional when applied to individuals who merely receive or respond to a post.

Bello also asked the SC to stop prosecuting individuals charged with libel. 

“Said laws have not achieved their legislative intents but instead have been weaponized to suppress fundamental Constitutional rights,” the petition read.

Bello is currently confronting two cyberlibel raps in a Davao City court after former Davao City information officer for Vice President Sara Duterte, Jefry Tupas, filed charges against the former lawmaker.

This was after Bello claimed that Duterte’s former aide was involved in an alleged drug raid in Davao.

Bello’s lawyers, however, said that the petition is not just about Bello’s case but about libel in general.

“The mere existence of these criminal laws in our law books already causes chilling effect,” Estrella Alamparo said in an interview with the reporters. 

“It already stifles freedom of expression and freedom of the press,” she added.

vuukle comment

DAVAO

LIBEL

PETITION

SARA DUTERTE

SUPREME COURT

WALDEN BELLO

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