Walden Bello confident cyberlibel case filed by former Davao information chief will be dismissed

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 March) – The camp of vice presidential candidate Walden Bello is confident the complaint filed against him by dismissed city information chief Jefry Tupas for cyberlibel will be dismissed by the City Prosecutor’s Office, claiming there was “nothing malicious” in what he said, Bello’s lawyer, Aaron Pedrosa said in a press conference on Tuesday. 

Pedrosa and senatorial candidate Luke Espiritu flanked Bello during the hour-long press conference attended face to face by media and aired live over Facebook. 

The complaint stemmed from a statement made by Bello of the Partido ng Lakas ng Masa on March 1 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.”

Jefry Tupas shows her complaint affidavit. PNA Photo

“Mas magandang pag-usapan ulit ano nga ba ‘yung nangyari roon? Bakit umabot sa ganoon?” (It is best if we discuss what really happened then),” Pedrosa said.

The lawyer added that Mayor Sara Duterte’s influence should be examined in the entire equation. 

“Anong role ni Sara Duterte sa pangyayaring ‘yun? Nasan ito sa buong equation ng war on drugs ni Duterte? (What was Sara Duterte’s role there? Where was she in this entire equation on the war on drugs of [President Rodrigo] Duterte?)” 

“There is nothing malicious from asking questions,” he said. “There is nothing ill-motived doon sa ginagawang paghihikayat na sagutin sa debate o magharap sa debate (about our call for her to face her opponents in a debate),” said Pedrosa.

Mayor Duterte and Rep. Lito Atienza did not attend the CNN vice presidential debate on February 26.

Atienza earlier confirmed attendance but begged off due to a knee replacement surgery.

Bello, meanwhile, added that the attacks were politically motivated. 

Partido ng Lakas ng Masa partymate and senatorial candidate Luke Espiritu said the attacks on Bello were also an attack on presidential candidate Ka Leody de Guzman.

Vice presidential candidate Walden Bello. Photo from his Facebook page

Espiritu said De Guzman’s party backed Bello’s claims, adding Duterte should be courageous enough to attend debates to face Bello. 

If she (Duterte) wants to confront Walden, it must be in the political arena, Espiritu said. 

In her complaint, Tupas cited the cyberlibel provision of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 in relation to Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal Code 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 than 10 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.” 

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. 

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 raid 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 persons.  

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 Prosecutor’s Office on Monday, where she detailed her “continuing anguish.”

Tupas called Bello’s post “false, defamatory, and malicious.”

She said Bello’s post has all the elements of a libelous imputation, under Art. 353 of the Revised Penal Code. 

She said she was clearly identifiable as the one being referred to by Bello. 

Last 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 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 on his personal Facebook profile.  (Yas D. Ocampo / MindaNews)