Tupas files cyberlibel complaint vs VP bet Walden Bello; seeks 10-M pesos for damages

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 07 March) – The chief of the Davao City Information Office whom Mayor Sara Duterte fired in November after she was “involved in a drug raid” filed on Monday a complaint for cyberlibel against Professor and Vice Presidential candidate Walden Bello, for allegedly besmirching her reputation. 

PNA photo

In her complaint, Jefry Tupas cited the cyberlibel provision of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in relation to Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal and alleged that Bello’s statements were “false, defamatory and malicious.” For allegedly causing her damage “not only on a national, but even international scale,” she wants Bello to be held liable for moral damages in the amount of “not less than10 million pesos.”

Tupas said Bello’s interview on March 1, aired live on the Facebook Page of the professor and former Akbayan party-list Representative, “shocked and hurt” her and left her feeling “distraught at the thought that he was so brazen in branding me as a criminal.” 

Bello was quoted as saying that “Mayor Duterte’s Press Information Officer, Jefry Tupas, was nabbed at a beach party where she and her friends were snorting 1.5 million pesos worth of drugs on November 6, 2021. Now, the Mayor’s excuse that she did not know that she was sheltering a drug dealer does not wash, it is not credible.”

Tupas added Bello’s Facebook profile later posted a social media quote card of the vice presidential bet’s earlier statement. 

In a statement released noon of November 9, 2021 via the city government’s Facebook page, the mayor referred to Tupas as “the former City Information Officer” who was “involved in a drug raid” in a beach resort in Mabini, Davao de Oro three days earlier. 

“The details of the raid are known only to the PDEA (Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency) officers in Davao de Oro and Ms. Tupas. Last Sunday, Jefry signified his resignation and on the same moment he was informed that he is terminated from work with the City Government of Davao,” the mayor said.  

Seventeen persons were arrested in that raid in a beach resort in Pindasan, Mabini, Davao de Oro during the “By Invitation Only. No Tag Along” birthday party of 33-year-old Revsan Ethelbert P. Elizalde. Seized during the buy-bust operation conducted by a joint team from the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and National Bureau of Investigation was 1.5 million pesos worth of party drugs.

Tupas was among the party-goers but was not on the list of arrested.  She deactivated her Facebook page hours after the raid, did not report to work and could not be reached by phone.  She later issued a statement to the City Hall reporters’ chat group, through a staff member: “I was there because like the other guests, I was invited. But I left right after dinner with my boyfriend and another friend.” 

The Davao City-based Newsline Philippines reported on November 9 that some of the detained party guests claimed Tupas was among the personalities called by authorities during the raid and that those who were called were the main targets. Another detainee claimed he heard Tupas telling the authorities: “Staff ko ni Inday Sara (I’m a staff of Mayor Inday Sara Duterte). Unsa ni? Unsa ni? (What’s this? What’s this?).”

Tupas filed her affidavit-complaint against Bello at the City Prosecutors Office on Monday, where she detailed her “continuing anguish.”

“So humiliated”

Tupas recalled that when she first watched Bello’s video and statement on his Facebook profile, “I was shocked and I was in emotional distress at the thought that I was so publicly and falsely maligned.”

She said she felt “so humiliated by the fact that he falsely branded me to be a drug addict and a drug dealer and in social media no less, where his false statements were accessible to all and sundry and from anywhere in the world.”

“Because of what he did, I have been suffering sleepless nights and untold mental anguish, not to mention the damage he has done to my good reputation,” Tupas added. 

She cited her history as a reporter for several news outfits, that “with all humility, I have worked my entire life from humble beginnings, starting out as a roving street reporter, striving to maintain a good reputation, particularly in the field of mass media where such a reputation for competence and integrity are crucial.”

Tupas’ complaint included screenshots of the social media card and a scanned photograph of a portable USB thumb drive submitted physically for evidence. 

Her friends Derf Hansel Maiz and Roger Simbajon Baay filed affidavits supporting her complaint. 

In a separate statement read to media, Tupas called Bello’s post “baseless, below-the-belt, hurtful, disparaging, and damaging.”  

“Everything that Mr. Walden Bello has said about me, and against me, were false, unfair, malicious, and downright unacceptable – causing me emotional distress as they irreparably damaged my name, my reputation, my future.”

Tupas said Bello’s online press conference last week had been viewed by over 6,000 people and shared around a hundred times. “The last time I checked, the social media card that he posted, screaming with graphics calling me a drug dealer, has been shared more than 270 times, and many of the 213 comments directed against me were unpleasant.”

Tupas added the post has led her to be attacked online. 

“People like Mr. Walden Bello must be taught a lesson – that they cannot, as they should not be allowed to, run away with their actions and words that destroy the lives of private citizens like me,” Tupas said. 

Smokescreen  

On Monday night, Bello accused Mayor Duterte of ordering Tupas to file the charges as a smokescreen for her missed debate attendance. 

“Sara should show up at the vice presidential debates, not command her druggie former press information officer to file a case against me for cyberlibel. Desperate people do desperate things. Tama na trying to derail attention from your being scared to show up at the debates! The lengths people will go to try to hide their misdeeds in power from the citizenry!” Bello said. 

Bello’s camp announced a press conference on Tuesday, 2 p.m. 

The filing of a complaint against Bello comes months after Tupas  laid low following her sacking by Mayor Duterte. 

In recent weeks, Tupas reappeared in City Hall chat groups to help communicate the messages of Vice Presidential candidate Duterte.

Tupas was also seen in photographs when Mayor Duterte was in Davao City with senatorial bets Harry Roque and Jinggoy Estrada on February 1. (Yas D. Ocampo / MindaNews)