The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Davao City has ordered Prof. Walden F. Bello and former Davao City information officer Jefry Tupas to attend mediation proceedings in the hopes of settling their disputes before proceeding with trials next year.
Bello is facing two counts of cyber libel based on the complaints filed by Tupas, and is temporarily out of jail after posting bail of P48,000 for each count on August 9.
In a pre-trial order dated November 16 but a copy of which was released to media on Monday, RTC Branch 10 presiding judge Retrina Fuentes referred their case to the Philippine Mediation Center (PMC) in an attempt to resolve it without going to trial.
This order was issued after parties appeared before the trial court for a pre-trial conference last November 16 in Davao.
Both parties are ordered to “immediately proceed and personally appear at the Philippine Mediation on December 15, 2023 at 10 a.m., with or without his counsel for mediation proceedings,” according to the pre-trial order.
The mediator is also directed to submit a report to the court on the results of the mediation “based on the factual and legal issues to be resolved within non-extendible period of 30 days from the date of the court’s referral of this case to the PMC unit.”
If the mediation is unsuccessful after the lapse of 30 days, the court will proceed with the trials scheduled for next year.
The hearing dates, including the presentation of evidence, are scheduled as follows: February 1 and 26, April 17, May 30, and June 20 at 8:30 a.m. for the prosecution and July 29, August 7 and 22, September 4 and 18, and October 7 and 21 for the defense.
In June 2022, the Office of the City Prosecutor in Davao City found “defamatory” Bello’s statement, delivered during a live interview and later posted on his verified Facebook account on March 1, alleging that Tupas and her friends were “snorting P1.5 million worth of drugs” and describing him as a “drug dealer.”
Bello’s post that led to his indictment reads in part: “Mayor (Sara) Duterte’s Press Information Officer, Jefry Tupas, was nabbed at a beach party where she and her friends were snorting 1.5 million pesos worth of drugs on November 6, 2021. Now, the Mayor’s excuse that she did not know that she was sheltering a drug dealer does not wash, it is not credible.” (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)