Statements: Free Walden Bello!

Statements and news on the arrest of Walden Bello.

Socialist Alliance condemns the arrest of Walden Bello

Socialist Alliance condemns the politically motivated arrest of Walden Bello by the Marcos government in the Philippines.

Walden Bello is a renowned international scholar and political activist with a long history of involvement in the Filipino left and is the chairperson of socialist coalition Laban ng Masa.

On August 8, Walden Bello was arrested by the Quezon City Police District (QCPD) for two counts of cyber libel.

The cyber libel charges were filed against Walden Bello by the former aide of the current Vice President Sara Duterte at the height of the election campaign period earlier this year where Walden Bello ran as the candidate for Vice President under the ticket of the Party of Labouring Masses (PLM).

The persecution of Walden Bello through these charges is politically motivated because of his open criticism and stance against the Marcos government. The subsequent arrest of Walden Bello represents a fundamental attack on human rights and freedom of speech within the Philippines.

This arrest of Bello is another example of the authoritarian nature of the Macros-Duterte regime which has a track record of consistently putting restrictions on democratic rights and freedom of speech and has openly persecuted political opponents and criticism of the regime.

Socialist Alliance calls for the immediate release of Walden Bello and for all charges against him to be dropped.

[This statement was adopted by the Socialist Alliance national executive on August 9. Reposted from Socialist Alliance, August 9, 2022.]

Sign-on statement: Speaking truth to power is not a crime: Drop charges against Walden Bello, decriminalize libel & cyberlibel

We at Focus on the Global South condemn in the strongest terms the arrest of our founding director and co-chair of our Board, Dr. Walden Bello, over libel and cyberlibel charges filed by Jefry Tupas—former staff of current Vice President Sara Duterte—over statements made by Dr. Bello during the electoral campaign regarding Tupas’ reported involvement in a November 2021 drug raid conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in the Province of Davao de Oro.

Yesterday, August 8, the warrant was issued at around lunchtime in Davao and was electronically transferred through email to the Quezon City Police District (QCPD). The warrant was served a few minutes past 16:00 yesterday and Dr. Bello was arrested in his residence in Quezon City. Since the said arrest was done late afternoon, there was not enough time for Dr. Bello’s legal team to post bail as government offices have shortly closed down for the day. Consequently, Dr. Bello spent the night in detention within the Camp Karingal Police Headquarters.

Today, August 9, although Walden was temporarily released on bail, there have been reported delays in the signing of the order of his release (more information and updates about the arrest and detainment of Dr. Bello can be found here.)

It must be pointed out that we are still in the middle of the pandemic, daily cases are on the rise, and people are still vulnerable to being infected. Dr. Bello himself was only starting to recover from COVID-19 when the arrest warrant was served in his home. Overall, the timing of his arrest and the delays in the signing of the order of his release are all inconsiderate of vulnerabilities created by the pandemic and of Dr. Bello’s condition.

The charges and the consequent arrest of Dr. Bello are clear acts of political persecution intended to intimidate, humiliate, and repress dissenters. Libel and cyberlibel have on numerous occasions been weaponized by those in power to silence individuals asserting truth, justice, freedom, and human rights.

Dr. Bello himself has for many decades been a fearless advocate for democracy, social justice, and human rights. As an activist-scholar, he has been at the forefront of exposing the injustices engendered by the elite-dominated political and economic systems both in the Philippines and internationally. His call for transparency in the November 2021 PDEA drug raid allegedly involving Tupas, is consistent with his stance to push for justice and accountability in the so-called “war on drugs” initiated by the Duterte administration. Since 2016, Dr. Bello has asserted that the government’s violent approach that narrowly seeks to eliminate alleged drug users and pushers will not address the root cause of the drug problem. Simply for demanding the truth, Dr. Bello was unjustly arrested.

In light of this, we demand the dropping of charges against Dr. Bello. We also call for the decriminalization of libel and cyberlibel, as criminal libel has often been used to undermine freedom of expression and of the press and has been weaponized to go against political opponents. Authorities must well be reminded that these freedoms, being enshrined in the Philippine constitution, are fundamental and therefore should have primacy: Without them, other rights cannot be realized.

Finally, we call on civil society and social movements to continue exercising vigilance as we expect the ruling elites to adopt the same if not a more intensified and systematic approach to repressing ordinary peoples’ fundamental rights and freedoms. The libel and cyberlibel charges against Dr. Bello constitute not just a legal but more importantly a political battle, and it is one among many cases of repression that would have grave consequences on the state of our already fragile democracy. As such, we must continue to forge stronger solidarities in asserting ordinary Filipinos’ rights amidst these threats and reprisals. We also express gratitude to the international community that has outpoured their support for Dr. Bello and condemned his arrest.#

[Initiated by Focus on the Global South, August 9, 2022. To endorse this statement, please click the link and sign on using this form.]

Free Walden Bello!

The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) condemns the politically-motivated arrest of Walden Bello by the Philippine authorities. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of Walden Bello.

Walden Bello, former vice-presidential candidate and Chairperson of the Laban ng Masa, was arrested today (8th August 2022) by the police for two counts of cyber libel. The cyber libel charges were filed against Walden Bello by the former aide of the current Vice President Sara Duterte at the height of the election campaign period early this year. Walden Bello was the candidate for Vice President under the ticket of the Party of Laboring Masses (PLM) as the running mate of PLM’s presidential candidate Leody de Guzman. During the election campaign, Walden Bello was already facing life-threatening harassment from the Hugpong ng Pagbabago party led by Sara Duterte.

The latest arrest of Walden Bello is clearly a political persecution of political opponents under the authoritarian Marcos-Duterte regime. The cyber libel charges used against Walden Bello is a tactic that had been used by the previous Rodrigo Duterte administration targeting its critics. The current Marcos-Duterte government is continuing the legacy of Rodrigo Duterte in suppressing political opponents and curtailing democratic spaces.

We urge the Philippine authorities to immediately release Walden Bello and drop all charges against him.

Free Walden Bello now!

[Reposted from Think Left, August 8, 2022.]

Activist, former VP bet Walden Bello arrested for cyberlibel

Quezon City police served former vice-presidential candidate Walden Bello a warrant of arrest at around 4 p.m. on Monday in relation to the cyberlibel charges filed against him by a former Davao City employee.

Bello is facing two charges and his team said they plan on posting bail of P48,000 for each count. Speaking to the media present during his arrest, Bello said he is "innocent of the charge."

Press freedom and freedom of expression advocates have long called for the decriminalization of libel, which is often used to harass and silence journalists and dissenters.

In a Facebook post on Sunday, Bello recalled meeting a supporter at a neighborhood McDonald’s and called the encounter a "good omen to begin the week," just before he is served the "long-awaited warrant of arrest for cyberlibel."

Bello is facing charges filed by former Davao city information officer Jefry Tupas in March this year after Bello called her a "drug dealer."

Tupas was working under for Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio — since elected vice president — when she was relieved from her post at the local government. She was found attending a party in Davao de Oro in November last year, where P1.5-million worth of illegal drugs were later seized in the raid.

Tupas said she had already left the party when the arrests happened.

Meanwhile, Laban ng Masa — the socialist coalition that Bello leads — said the filing of charges and his arrest on Monday "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 coalition said in a statement.

Laban ng Masa said Vice President Duterte used her former aide as a front for her own actions. The coalition maintained that the cases filed against Bello is a form of harrassment by the vice president herself.

Espiritu: It was commentary on drug raid

Lawyer Luke Espiritu, a candidate under the Laban ng Masa slate led by labor leader Ka Leody De Guzman and by Bello, said in a tweet that the former vice-presidential candidate had merely commented on reports that Tupas was among those arrested in the raid but was allegedly released.

(That incident prompted the question of why — despite Sara Duterte's father's declarations that he hates drugs — a person close to Mayor Sara Duterte was linked to a drug issue and why it happened in the Dutertes' bailiwick)

Bello, a former congressman for Akbayan party-list, filed a counter affidavit in April and called the charges "politically motivated, frivolous, and inconsistent with facts."

He was recently declared "persona non grata" in Davao City for calling it a “drug center of the South.” In campaign debates this year, he constantly brought up the non-attendance in public debates of the winning presidential and vice presidential tandem of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Duterte.

On Monday, Bello was taken to the Quezon City Police Station 8, but was transferred to Camp Karingal on the instructions of Police Brig. Gen. Remus Medina, district director.

De Guzman, Bello's running mate in the May polls, went to Camp Karingal to support his former vice-presidential bet. The two ran under Partido Lakas ng Masa in the 2022 national elections.

[Reposted from PhilStar, August 8, 2022.]