On August 8, Chairperson of the progressive Laban ng Masa Party, Walden Bello, was arrested in Manila on cyberlibel charges instigated by a former staffer of now Vice-President Sarah Duterte. Bello was also Vice-Presidential candidate alongside Leody Guxmas. Together they ran the first openly socialist presidential campaign in Philippines history.
We publish below the Laban ng Masa statement protesting the arrest.
We also publish below the protest statement by Partido Manggagawa (Labor Party of the Philippines – PM) another socialist party in the Philippines. PM gave critical support to Leni Robredo who also stood as an opposition candidate to Ferdinand Marcos Jr and Sarah Duterte in the last elections.
We also publish the statement by the national democratic Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy on the University of Philippines campus.
Red Ant joins in protesting the arrest of Dr Bello.
Statement from Laban ng Masa:
Laban ng Masa (LnM) condemns in the strongest terms the filing of cyberlibel charges and the subsequent arrest today of its Chairperson, Dr. Walden Bello, by operatives of the Quezon City police. This is obviously a case of a state-sponsored persecution and repression of the right to free expression. That a highly-respected and world-renowned scholar-intellectual and activist like Dr. Bello has been victimized by this highhanded police operation speaks volumes on the state of democracy and freedom in the Philippines. It also serves as a warning to democracy and human rights advocates on what would befall them while standing up for the right to express one’s views and criticize wrongdoings by the rich and powerful.
The cyberlibel case against Dr. Bello is clearly a proxy harassment with no less than Vice President Sara Duterte as the real protagonist. She uses a former aide as a cover for her own vindictive behavior. Just as Ms. Duterte and her running mate and now President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. had repeatedly cowardly refused to participate in debates with other candidates, so she is now running true to form by putting up a dummy to file the charge against Dr. Bello.
Laban ng Masa is a socialist coalition dedicated to the real transformation of Philippine society from an elite-centered and billionaire-controlled one to a truly democratic and worker-led system. We call on all freedom-loving and democratic people in the country and internationally to denounce Dr. Bello’s unjust arrest and to demand that all charges against him be dropped.
Statement from Partido Manggagawa:
Free Walden, decriminalize cyberlibel!
We condemn in strongest term the arrest of former Akbayan Representative and Laban ng Masa Chair Walden Bello this afternoon by the Philippine National Police (PNP) based on a warrant issued by a regional trial court Judge of Davao City, in connection with the cyberlibel case filed against him by former Davao City information officer Jefry Tupas.
Although cyberlibel is a bailable offence and Walden can defend himself before the courts, the recurrent use of this law to silence critics under the previous administration is a major setback on freedom and human rights wherein government is mandated to protect, restore when broken, and uphold to the max.
We likewise believe this Tupas case was neither without colour nor political backing as Walden was a fierce critic of Mr. Duterte and his daughter, now Vice President Sara Duterte who was the complainant’s former boss.
Also, to recall, when opposition to the criminalization of libel on the internet was simply ignored by lawmakers, it was widely believed that the law shall benefit those in power rather than those in the margins. Indeed, its weaponization is most insidious from the highest levels of power.
We therefore call on the new administration to revisit this law and take corrective measure like introducing amendments to the law or the ultimate decriminalization of cyberlibel. Absent any initiative, it’s only right to assume that today’s rulers would utilize the same weapon thus everyone need to stay vigilant.
08 August 2022 Reference: Renato Magtubo, Partido Manggagawa Chairperson 09178532905
Statement also by Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy
Progressive teachers of CONTEND UP condemn the arrest of fellow academic and activist Walden Bello in his home at around 4pm this afternoon.
The unjust arrest was made in relation to a cyberlibel case filed by Jefry Tupas, former information officer of Davao City and aide of incumbent Vice President Sara Duterte.
We see this as another attempt to silence criticism and dissent against the state. Besides running for vice presidency, Bello has been a staunch critic of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s authoritarianism.
Academics, unite and stand for freedom of speech and thought!
For a mainstream news media report on the arrest in the Philippines, see https://www.rappler.com/nation/police-arrest-ex-vice-presidential-candidate-walden-bello-cyber-libel/