Bello asks court to defer arraignment for libel, cyberlibel cases

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 15 2022 09:58 PM

MANILA — Activist and former vice presidential candidate Walden Bello has asked a Davao City court to defer his arraignment and other proceedings in the libel and cyber libel cases he is facing.

Bello is set to be arraigned on September 8 in connection with the cases filed by former Davao City information officer Jefry Tupas.

In Facebook posts and Zoom statements, Bello allegedly accused Tupas of being involved in the illegal drug trade.

Tupas has denied the allegations and filed the libel and cyber libel charges instead.

In a three-page entry of appearance with motion dated Monday, Davao-based lawyer Danilo Balucos entered his appearance as Bello’s counsel and asked the court to suspend the proceedings in the case, citing an appeal he filed with the Justice department.

“On 29 July 2022, the accused has timely filed a Petition for Review with the Office of the Honorable Secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ),” the motion said.

“Consequently, the accused respectfully asks for deferral of the arraignment and further proceedings, while the petition is being reviewed by the Honorable Secretary,” it added.

Under the DOJ’s rules, the Justice secretary has 60 days to resolve pending petitions for review (or more commonly called appeals).

In turn, the court is allowed under the Rules of Court to suspend arraignment for 60 days while an appeal is pending with the DOJ or Office of the President.

BACKGROUND

The controversy between Bello and Tupas stemmed from a November 2021 drug raid in Davao de Oro. 

There were claims by some of those arrested that Tupas was allowed to leave during drug raid.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency was mum on whether Tupas was allowed to leave during the raid. 

Tupas was subsequently fired as Davao City information officer for allegedly being “involved” in a drug raid, based on a statement of then-Davao City Mayor and now Vice President Sara Duterte.

She confirmed that she was present during the party but left early. 

In her complaint against Bello, she claimed she was never arrested for drugs.

In his defense, Bello said he made the statements in the context of challenging Duterte to attend the election debates and answer questions surrounding her stint as Davao City mayor, including Tupas’ alleged involvement in the drug raid and allegations she protected her former city information officer.

Bello was arrested on August 8 in his home in Quezon City, on the same day a Davao City judge issued an arrest warrant against her.

He has since posted bail.