Justice’s inhibition from cybercrime law cases approved-A A +A
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
THE Supreme Court (SC) approved Tuesday the decision of Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. to recuse from hearing the 15 petitions questioning the constitutionality of Republic Act (RA) 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
During their regular en banc session, SC magistrates did not pose any objection to Velasco's inhibition following the motion filed by a group of petitioners in the case who claimed that they cannot expect the associate justice to render an impartial judgment.
With Velasco's inhibition, the Court also ordered the re-raffle of the case to another justice since he was the designated ponente or member-in-charge of the case.
Only 11 magistrates were present during the full court session, as Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Jose Perez and Mariano del Castillo were on leave.
Last October 17, Velasco withdrew from the case after the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) pointed out that Velasco previously initiated the filing of libel cases against veteran journalist Maritess Vitug in 2010.
The NUJP, which was among the groups that filed a petition assailing RA 10175, pointed out that Velasco, although he had already withdrawn the libel charges against Vitug, had manifested his "pre-disposition" on the criminal prosecution of members of the press.
The group said that as an incumbent associate justice at the time the complaints were filed and as a former underscretary of the Department of Justice and a former court administrator, "(he) clearly enjoyed a position of ascendancy over judges as well as prosecutors, and the suits were filed in connection with stories that ran online — a question that is directly posed by the fifteen petitions challenging the Cybercrimes Act."
Velasco belied, however, NUJP's allegations, saying these were "baseless and bereft of truth as he, in fact, proposed the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) to bar the enforcement and effectivity of the assailed law."
Last October 9, the SC unanimously issued a temporary restraining order effective for 120 days, enjoining the government from implementing RA 10175, while justices deliberate on petitions questioning the constitutionality of the law.
The High Court likewise set oral arguments on the case on January 15. (JCV/Sunnex)