MANILA - The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) has formally sought the voluntary inhibition of Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., the justice in charge of the 15 petitions against Republic Act (RA) No. 10175, also known as the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
In a 4-page manifestation filed with the high court on Monday afternoon, the NUJP, one of the petitioners in the case, pointed out that Velasco is the lone justice of the Supreme Court to have filed a libel suit against a member of the media, and may not be expected to exercise cold neutrality in the case, as expected of a jurist.
Velasco had filed libel charges against Marites Daguilan-Vitug, former editor-in-chief of abs-cbnnews.com, who is now editor-at-large of Rappler.com.
Two informations were filed in court, stemming from 13 counts of libel Velasco slapped against Vitug, based on 2 publications on the ABS-CBN News online portal (www.abs-cbnnews.com), NUJP said, which, they claimed, raises doubts on Velasco's neutrality in as far as provisions of Sec. 4 (c) (4) of RA No. 10175 which criminalizes libel on the internet, vis a vis Sec. 6 of the same law.
"Under the circumstances... Velasco, Jr., who is the assigned ponente, does not sit with the cold neutrality of a dispassionate judge in relation to the provisions... as shown by his previous acts filing libel complaints against a member of the press arising from content arising from an online publication.
"That Justice Velasco has sued Ms. Danguilan-Vitug for libel clearly shows his pre-disposition on this issue. By availing himself of the remedy of criminal prosecution for libel against a member of the press for an online publication, Justice Velasco has indicated that he sees nothing inherently wrong about libel, in general, or cyberlibel, in particular," NUJP said.
(Editor's note: The libel cases against Vitug were dropped in mid-2012 following a meeting between Velasco and Vitug with their respective lawyers.)
Apart from NUJP, those who filed petitions against RA No. 10175 are the following: Louis Biraogo, ALAM party-list, Disini, et al., Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Adonis, et al., Rep. Palatino, et al., Bayan, et al., Sta. Maria, et al., NUJP, et al., Castillo, et al., Cruz, et al., the Philippine Bar Association (PBA), and Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares, Pifa, et al., and the National Press Club.