Bello: Duterte-Carpio behind cyberlibel raps

DAVAO. (From left) Former Davao City Information Officer Jefry Tupas, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and vice presidential candidate Walden Bello. (File photos)
DAVAO. (From left) Former Davao City Information Officer Jefry Tupas, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio and vice presidential candidate Walden Bello. (File photos)

VICE presidential candidate Walden Bello claimed on Tuesday, March 8, that Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio could be behind the recent filing of the latter's former aide of cyberlibel complaint against him.

In a Facebook post, Bello said the recent filing of a P10-million cyberlibel complaint by former Davao City Information Officer Jefry Tupas was a "politically motivated move."

He suspected the mayor's involvement after the former criticized the latter for refusing to attend debates.

"Was Tupas instructed by Sara Duterte to take away attention from her refusal to participate in the vice presidential debate? This strategy has one goal in mind: harassment," Bello said.

He added that the case was meant to provide "inconvenience... in legal bureaucracy while failing to address the concerns" that his camp would want to raise about Duterte-Carpio's "tainted" records in her mayorship.

Tupas, in a press conference on Monday, March 7, the same day she filed the case at the Davao City Prosecutor's Office, denied Bello's post online accusing her of being involved in a drug trade.

"Everything that Mr. Walden Bello has said about me, and against me, were false, unfair, malicious, and downright unacceptable -- causing me emotional distress as they irreparably damaged my name, my reputation, my future," Tupas said.

Lawyer Caesar S. Europa, Tupas's lawyer, said there is a need to correct Bello's statement. He added his client was never indicted and was never arrested in relation to the case.

In a press conference streamed live on his official Facebook page, Bello stood by his statement.

"The facts are very clear in this case that she was indeed using drugs and this was the reason for her arrest, but it was not very clear what happened afterwards despite her being arrested and it came out was she was freed by the Mayor's office whereas the others who were arrested were not," the vice presidential candidate said.

He also emphasized the mayor's involvement in Tupas's filing of a case against him.

"Why I believe she has moved against me. I do not think, I'm very sure that this was at the orders of Mayor Sara Duterte," Bello said.

He said the mayor had already turned down two debate invitations -- organized by SMNI and CNN Philippines. Her camp also announced that she will not be attending future debates, including the one organized by the Commission on Elections.

Bello said he would have asked Duterte-Carpio about her records in her almost nine-year mayorship.

"They're afraid of the fact that we will raise their records as politicians, and records which are very, very questionable," he said.

He added, "I would, in fact, raise the questionable record of Sara Duterte as mayor of Davao, not only questioning why she had a drug user like Miss Tupas as her press information officer, but also why, under her reign, Davao [City] has become the main drug smuggling point in the south, and how Davao has become the main jump-off point for criminals wanting to escape the long hand of the law -- like two of those people na nasangkot sa (who were involved in the issue of) Pharmally, which are friends of the Duterte family.”

Bello also said he will raise the question as to why a Duterte member “controls the drug trade” in the city. He did not identify who he meant.

The recent libel case, he said, is a "smokescreen" to distract the public's attention on the mayor's "cowardice" in skipping debates.

"If you look at it, it's very silly on the face of it, is to draw the attention away from the cowardice ni (of) Sara Duterte not to appear in the debates because she has nothing to show or [...] answer for a questionable record," he said.

"Please stop this silly game that you're playing and just show up and explain in the debates," he added.

Bello said they will not be "deterred" by the recent cyberlibel case, which he said is only being used against them.

He said the cybercrime law, which he claimed was being used against Rappler, is being used against the media.

"I'm raising this. Is this used against me, something that the media and all of us should worry about, is this sort of a precursor of what a Marcos-Duterte administration might look like if they win," Bello said, referring to Marcos as Duterte-Carpio's runningmate, Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

SunStar Davao reached out to Tupas for comments, but she declined to comment, and that her camp will be issuing a statement once available.

SunStar also reached out to Duterte-Carpio's spokesperson, Lilion, Cebu Mayor Christina Frasco, but she has not yet responded as of writing.

Frasco refuted, however, Bello's statement calling the mayor "coward" for not showing up in the debates.

“Matud pa ni Walden Bello, talawan kuno si Mayor Sara. Pero kinsa nila ang nagtago sa mga tawo karong kampanya? (According to Walden Bello, Mayor Sara is a coward. But look who’s hiding from the public during the campaign period?)," Frasco said in a previous statement.


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