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THE lawyers representing 2022 vice presidential candidate Walden Bello said on Monday, July 3, that they are still waiting for a response from the Department of Justice (DOJ) regarding their petition to review the cyber libel case filed against the activist. of the former information office chief of Vice President Sara Duterte.
However, Bello’s legal team expressed readiness for a pre-trial in the cyber libel case next month, while they await the justice department’s review of the case based on its merits.
During the online press conference, lawyer Danny Balucos announced that the pre-trial is scheduled for August 24.
The lawyers representing Bello praised Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla for issuing DOJ Circular 1008, which raised the department’s standards for making resolutions from “probable cause” to “reasonable certainty.”
Remulla issued the circular in February, instructing prosecutors to only pursue criminal cases if there is a reasonable possibility of conviction, especially those supported by prima facie evidence. This move aims to address the backlog and overcrowding in the courts.
The circular applies to cases under the jurisdiction of Municipal Trial Courts, Municipal Trial Courts in Cities, and Metropolitan Trial Courts.
“This shows that Remulla is serious about decongesting the courts. But we have not yet received (the department’s response) to our petition to the DOJ secretary,” said Balucos.
Balucos said that they are continuing the petition for review by the justice department, not because they have no other legal recourse, but to insist on the proper judicial process. He said they hope the DOJ will “correct this mistake.”
Estrella Elamparo, another member of Bello’s legal team and a former state prosecutor, acknowledged the need to filter cases that the prosecution does not believe will succeed in court.
“This is a waste of government resources,” the lawyer said.
He also said that the court imposed an “impossible” requirement on Bello to submit a motion to defer arraignment if no arrest warrant was issued at that time.
“Although the submission of the appeal is timely, no action has been taken on the appeal by the DOJ within 60 days. This is an impossible requirement,” said Elamparo.
However, he expressed confidence in the readiness of Bello’s legal team for the upcoming pre-trial next month.
“The burden of proof is on the prosecution,” Elamparo said, adding that the complaint was “flimsy.”
In response, Bello declared his willingness to go to jail in the fight against the suppression of freedom of speech.
Bello, who recently received the Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender award from Nobel laureate Amnesty International during the Ignite Awards for Human Rights, Season 3, argued that the cyber libel case filed against him by Jefry Tupas is an attempt to silencing his right to freedom of speech.
“There are more people in worse situations than me. The people who were (extra-judicially killed) and those who were red-tagged. I felt their solidarity with me. It gives me more strength to fight this injustice. We cannot allow our rights to be trampled on,” said Bello.
Bello was arrested on August 8, 2022, on two counts of cyber libel. The case is the result of a complaint filed by the former Davao City information officer on March 7, 2022, who alleged that Bello defamed and slandered him when Bello made a Facebook post mentioning Tupas being involved in a drug raid in Davao. de Oro on November 6, 2021.
“This is a political case. Tupas is not even part of the contention,” said Bello.
Bello, who was a candidate for vice president at the time, said he only brought up a valid issue, stressing that voters should know the individuals surrounding the candidates.
“That is part of political, democratic debates. I am confident that political persecution has no place in our judicial system,” he said.
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