DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 9 Aug) – Vice President Sara Duterte has denied any involvement in the two counts of cyber libel that were filed against her critic, Dr. Walden Bello, who accused her of being the “force behind this brazen effort” to subvert his freedom of speech.
Bello, meanwhile, was released on bail Tuesday afternoon as posted on his Facebook page at exactly 5:23 p.m., which showed a picture of him being interviewed by reporters outside the gate of Camp Tomas Karingal, headquarters of the Quezon City Police Department. The photo was accompanied by a one-liner message: “UPDATE: Walden has been released on bail!”
The same picture was tweeted by the Laban ng Masa about the same time.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Duterte said she has never filed a libel case in her life despite being the subject of “offensives” launched against her by Bello, her former opponent in the vice presidential race who was arrested by authorities in Quezon City on Monday.
Duterte said Bello “should focus on salvaging what remains of his dignity and self-respect” instead of obsessing and blaming her for “his fall from grace.”
Duterte said that criticisms do not deserve “even a backward glance because the accomplishments of Davao City under my leadership are already set in stone.”
She said that her father, former President Rodrigo R. Duterte, taught her not to listen to attacks against their family.
“Instead of deflecting blame, playing the victim of an imaginary case of political persecution, and dragging me into his legal woes, I suggest that Mr. Bello be reminded of the fact that a civilized and democratic society does not respect hubris,” she said.
The arrest warrant, issued by Judge Retrina Espe of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10, came nearly two months after the Office of the City Prosecutor found “defamatory” Bello’s statement, delivered during a live interview and later posted on his verified Facebook account last March 1, 2022, alleging that former city information officer Jefry Tupas and her friends were “snorting P1.5 million worth of drugs” and describing him as a “drug dealer.”
Bello’s post that led to his indictment read in part: “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.”
Bello, in a statement, said that the cyberlibel charge against him was a “vindictive response to questions” he raised about Duterte’s performance as mayor of Davao that she was expected to answer as a candidate for higher office.
“Instead of engaging in democratic exchange,” he said, “her camp weaponized the law by filing a cyberlibel case against me, declared me persona non grata in Davao, and branded me a narcopolitician.”
Bello added this is not “the behavior of a democratic personality but of one who has little respect for freedom of speech and knows only the art of intimidation.”
“Flowery rhetoric will not disguise Sara Duterte’s assault on a fundamental democratic right. She should act in a manner that befits a vice president and cease disgracing herself and her office by her futile defense of an indefensible act,” he said.
Duterte said that the “right to freedom of speech and expression does not protect anyone from defiling the name and reputation of others.”
“Mr. Bello – supposedly a respected international educator and a human rights activist – took it so low and displayed a disgraceful version of himself, making him the perfect poster boy of someone we hope our children will not become when they grow up,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)