Former vice presidential candidate Walden Bello on Tuesday slammed the camp of Vice President Sara Duterte in connection with a cyber libel case filed against him by a former Davao City office employee.
Duterte however said Bello should “stop blaming [her] for his fall from grace.”
“Arrested late afternoon Monday on silly charge of cyberlibel posted by the camp of Sara Duterte. These people are mistaken if they think they can silence me and suppress my exercise of free speech,” Bello said in a tweet.
Bello was apprehended at his residence on Monday. He is facing two counts of violation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cyber Crime Prevention Act of 2012.
Former Davao City chief information officer Jefry Tupas filed a suit against Bello.
Arrested late afternoon Monday on silly charge of cyberlibel posted by the camp of Sarah Duterte. These people are mistaken if they think they can silence me and suppress my exercise of free speech.— Walden Bello (@WaldenBello) August 8, 2022
Tupas in March filed cyber libel complaints against Bello after the then-vice presidential candidate accused the city official of being involved in illegal drugs after she was seen attending a beach party where agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency seized some P1.5 million worth of party drugs.
Tupas admitted to attending the event but said she left after eating and before the raid happened.
'Stop blaming, obsessing'
Duterte said her father, former President Rodrigo Duterte' advised her as a child "never to listen to attacks hurled against our family."
"And I took it to heart during my VP campaign. I never shared my spotlight with Walden Bello despite the offensives he launched against me. I was focused on drilling my education platform in all the rallies that I could muster. In fact, I have never filed a libel case in my life. Criticisms do not deserve even a backward glance because the accomplishments of Davao City under my leadership are already set in stone," she said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“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,” Duterte said.
“The right to freedom of speech and expression does not protect anyone from defiling the name and reputation of others,” she added.
"I expected him to know that Filipinos have a distaste for those who commit crimes and commit crimes with impunity," the vice president said.
Duterte said his calling the charges “silly” speaks volumes of his character.
“[I]t was clearly derision of and an insult to the Prosecutors and the time and effort they put in to uphold the rule of law,” she said.
"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," Duterte added.
"Mr. Bello should focus on salvaging what remains of his dignity and self-respect, I am asking him to stop obsessing over me — and stop blaming me for his fall from grace," she said.
In a separate Facebook post, Bello maintained that Duterte is the “moving force” behind the case, saying her response evades the central issue.
“The cyber libel charge against me was a vindictive response to questions I raised about Vice President Duterte's performance as mayor of Davao that she was expected to answer as a candidate for higher office,” he said.
“Instead of engaging in democratic exchange, her camp weaponized the law by filing a cyber libel case against me, declared me persona non grata in Davao, and branded me a narco politician,” he added.
Bello said this was the behavior of someone 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.
GMA News Online has contacted the office of Duterte to get the vice president's comment about Bello's Facebook post but has yet to receive a reply. —With a report from Giselle Ombay/KG, GMA News