Bello asks SC to declare libel, cyberlibel laws void

By Benjamin Pulta

December 5, 2023, 5:18 pm

<p>Vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello <em>(File photo) </em></p>

Vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello (File photo) 

MANILA – Erstwhile vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello on Tuesday filed a petition before the Supreme Court (SC) asking the tribunal to void the country's laws on criminal cyberlibel.

In his petition, the 76-year-old sociologist who was arrested in August last year following libel charges filed against him by a former senior aide of Vice President Sara Duterte, asked the high court to declare Art. 353 to 355 on libel under the Revised Penal Code unconstitutional as well as Sec. 4(c)(4) of RA 10175 on cyberlibel.

Bello claims that these laws are unconstitutional and in violation of the Bill of Rights .

"(T)he growing number of libel and cyberlibel cases aimed at persecuting perceived enemies of the state and suppressing dissent against the government or the powers-that-be necessitate a reexamination of the validity of these libel statues," Bello said in his petition.

The libel charges against Bello before the Davao regional trial court (RTC Br. 10) are linked to statements he allegedly made during the election campaign about a reported drug raid on a beach party in Davao province that was attended by Duterte's former aide, Jefry Tupas.

Tupas later filed libel and cyberlibel charges against Bello .

Elements of cyberlibel, based on Section 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175, in relation to Articles 353 and 355 of the Revised Penal Code:

a. There must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance.

b. The imputation must be made publicly, which requires that at least one other person must have seen the libelous post, in addition to the author and the person defamed or alluded to in the post.

c. The imputation must be malicious, which means that the author of the libelous post made such a post with knowledge that it was false, or with reckless disregard as to the truth or falsity thereof. (Yuchengco vs. The Manila Chronicle Publishing Corporation, G.R. No. 184315, 25 November 2009.)

d. The imputation must be directed at a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead, which requires that the post must identify the person defamed, or at the very least, the person defamed is identifiable by a third person.

e. The imputation must tend to cause the dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed. (Reyes, Luis B., Revised Penal Code, Fifteenth Edition, 2001, page 932.)

f. The imputation was done through the use of a computer system or any other similar means which may be devised in the future. (Sec. 4(c)(4) of R.A. 10175). (PNA)