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SC asked to void libel, cyber libel laws

FORMER presidential candidate Walden Bello yesterday asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional libel provisions in the Revised Penal Code and cyber libel provisions in the Cybercrime Prevention Act.

Bello said there is a need to void Articles 353 to 355 of the Revised Penal Code on libel and section 4(c)(4) of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act on cyber libel as they are now being used by politicians as a substitute for political assassination, and violate the freedom of expression clause under the 1987 Constitution.

He said this is prevalent at the local level.

“Cyber libel law allows a politician a method of silencing that does not involve too much risk on their part,” said Bello who is facing two cyber libel charges before a Davao City court filed by Jefrey Tupas, a former information officer of then Davao City mayor, now Vice President Sara Duterte.

Tupas sued Bello after he linked the former’s name to a drug raid conducted by operatives of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in a resort in Compostela Valley in 2021.

Bello stressed that the libel provisions in the RPC and the Cybercrime Prevention Act constitute an “overbreadth” as it “does not distinguish between defamation supposedly committed against private individuals and those committed against public officers, employees, celebrities, high profile personalities, or persons involved in matters of public interest.”

Bello said the libel and cyber libel provisions also runs counter to Manila’s commitment and obligations to international treaties such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Citing his own cyber libel case, Bello said his only fault was to discuss the alleged involvement of Tupas in the PDEA raid. He said this was in the context of Sara Duterte’s vice presidential candidacy in 2022.

“It was clearly an expression of dissent and criticism against an incumbent official who was running for the second highest office of the land. And yet, such expression of dissent gave rise to his indictment, arrest, incarceration, and ongoing trial for cyber libel,” he said.

He said his case is just one of the