Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. has inhibited himself from deliberations on the controversial cybercrime law, a day after a group of journalists asked for it through a petition filed with the high court. A letter
sent by Velasco's office to Supreme Court public information office chief Gleo Guerra said Velasco inhibited from the case "to erase any doubt or suspicion that preconception may influence or even taint the adjudication of said case." Velasco's inhibition from the consolidated motion against the cybercrime law was the subject of a petition
filed Tuesday by journalists, who claimed the justice's libel case against Marites Dañguilan-Vitug, editor-at-large of Rappler.com, showed his “pre-disposition” on the issue. The petitioners explained that the 15 petitions against Republic Act 10175, or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012, objected to Section 4 of the law, which criminalizes libel as a cybercrime and, which taken together with Section 6, increases the penalty provided by the Revised Penal Code by one degree. However, the October 17 letter from Velasco's office described the accusation as "totally baseless and bereft of truth." It also pointed out that it was Velasco who proposed the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) to bar the enforcement and effectivity of RA 10175. In 2010, Velasco filed 13 counts of libel against Vitug for her article titled “SC Justice in partisan politics?” which was published on abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak. Of the 13, two cases were filed in court while two other complaints were withdrawn. The petitioners were National Union of journalists of the Philippines, Philippine Press Institute, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, Melinda Quintos-De Jesus, Rowena Carranza Paraan, Alwyn Alburo, Ariel Sebellino and signatories in the e-petition.
A total of 15 petitions contested the constitutionality of RA 10175, claiming it violates the people's rights to free speech and expression. The petitioners also claimed the law violates the right to due process and equal protection of the law, as well as the right to be protected from double jeopardy or being sued more than once for the same offense.
The petitions were later consolidated and raffled off to Velasco, and on the same day, October 9, the TRO was issued, suspending the law's implementation until January next year.
In a text message to reporters, Guerra said she has not yet received any information on whether the consolidated petition will have to be reraffled in light of Velasco's inhibition. — with Mark D. Merueñas/KBK, GMA News