By Jim Lloyd Dongiapon

Former vice presidential candidate Walden Bello will be arraigned in Davao City this Thursday, January 26, for the cyberlibel case filed against him by Vice President Sara Duterte’s aide and former Davao City information officer Jefry Tupas.

This follows the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10’s decision to deny the motion filed by Bello’s legal counsels to quash the indictment against him by the Davao City Prosecutor’s Office.

RTC Branch 10 Presiding Judge Retrina Fuentes cited Section 6, Rule 110 (Sufficiency of complaint or information) of the Rules of Criminal Procedure in her decision released on December 28 of last year.

“A complaint or information is sufficient if it states the name of the accused; the designation of the offense given by the statute; the acts or omissions complained of as constituting the offense; the name of the offended party; the approximate date of the commission of the offense; and the place where the offense was committed. When an offense is committed by more than one person, all of them shall be included in the complaint or information,” the section read.

To determine whether to grant or deny a motion to quash an information on the grounds that the facts charged do not constitute an offense, Fuentes stated in her decision that the allegations in the information should be taken into consideration.

“Contrary to the accused allegation, a careful reading of the two information (on the libel and cyber libel cases) will reveal that the essential charges were sufficiently alleged therein. Both information disclosed “willful imputation of a crime,” her decision read.

She also ruled that the evidence from both the prosecution and the defense may best be tested during the actual trial.

Former senatorial candidate and Bello’s legal counsel, Atty. Luke Espiritu expressed his dismay over the decision.

“We regret the decision of Judge Fuentes, but we are preparing for a long fight against the cyberlibel charge against Dr. Bello.   We remain confident that the courts will ultimately vindicate us,” Espiritu said.

“We highly appreciate that Judge Retrina Fuentes has been giving Professor Bello all the available remedies provided in the Rules of Court,” added Atty. Danilo Baculos, one of Bello’s defense lawyers, “Though disappointed with the dismissal of the Motion to Quash, we have high hopes that the courts will eventually rule in favor of the basic constitutional right of freedom of expression.”

The legal counsels also revealed that the petition for review filed before the office of Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin “Boying” Remulla on July 29, 2022, has remained pending until now.

It was initially dismissed by the Department of Justice on procedural grounds on August 30 last year, but their camp filed for a motion for reconsideration 15 days later.

It can be recalled that Jefry Tupas, who is now working as chief of the media and public relations division of the Office of the Vice President, filed the cyber libel charges against Bello on March 7 of last year, due to the latter’s allegation that she was a drug user and the subject of the drug raid in a beach resort in Mabini, Davao de Oro, on November 6, 2021.

In addition, she is also seeking ₱10-million in moral and exemplary damages from the defendant.

She has refuted the accusations leveled against her, which led to her termination from her position as the city information officer on November 7, 2021, the day following the raid. (Photo courtesy: Walden Bello Facebook page)

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