Tuesday, 9 August 2022
On Monday, 8 August 2022, our founding director and co-chair of our Board, Dr. Walden Bello was arrested on two counts of libel and cyber libel filed by a former staff of Vice President Sara Duterte over statements made by Bello during the electoral campaign. Bello had initially been taken to the Quezon City Police District – Police Station 8 but was later transferred to Camp Karingal, where he spent the night in detention. After some reported bureaucratic delays, Bello was temporarily released on bail at around 17:30 Manila this afternoon.
Following the arrest, there has been an outpouring support for Bello, with the hashtags #FreeWaldenBello and #HandsOffWaldenBello trended on Twitter and gained over 7,000 tweets overnight, with Walden Bello also still trending as of the moment with over 28,000 tweets. Various social movements, civil society organizations, and progressive groups and individuals have released statements of condemnation, support, and demand for Walden’s immediate release. We are collating these solidarity statements on our #DefendingRights microsite on this link here.
From Laban ng Masa (Struggle of the Masses): 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.
From Partido Manggagawa (Labor Party): Although cyber libel is a bailable offense 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.
From Sentro (Center of United and Progressive Workers): Bello’s case is an excellent example of the double standard that plagues the justice system in the Philippines. Prominent progressives like Walden, who have for decades been part of movements pushing for social justice, economic democracy, and political freedom have often been the target of state-sanctioned harassment. Under the pretext of libel and cyberlibel, Philippine authorities have intimidated activists, academics, as well as other individuals that are vocal against the many injustices in Philippine society.
From Australians for Philippine Human Rights Network: Bello’s arrest is the first instance of post-election human rights violation. In the name of human rights, we call on the Australian Government to protest the arrest of Dr Walden Bello.
From Global Justice Now: Bello’s arrest is a clear act of political persecution meant to sow fear amongst all those who might speak out against the vice president and the current government. The Philippines government is weaponising the new cyber libel law to harass political opposition in the country. This latest case is similar to the ongoing high-profile cyber libel charge against the CEO of Rappler and Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa. What is at stake in both cases are the most fundamental democratic rights – freedom of expression and the right to criticise politicians.
For Focus on the Global South statement on Bello’s arrest, please visit here. We are also collecting endorsements for our statement, and we will update the statement with the list of endorsements as we received them. The link for endorsement is here.
Joseph Purugganan (Head of Philippine Office)