Bello’s Motion to Quash for libel cases denied by RTC

The Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 10 in Davao City denied activist Walden Bello’s Motion to Quash the cyber libel and libel cases filed against him by former Davao City Information officer Jefry Tupas.

A 20-page order signed by Presiding Judge Retrina Fuentes dated December 28, 2022, denied the Motion to Quash stating that “the main purpose of the information is to ensure that an accused is formally informed on the facts and the acts constituting the offense charged. Where insufficient, an accused in a criminal case can file a motion to have the information against him quashed and/or dismissed before he enters his plea.”

The order added “a Motion to Quash challenges the efficacy of information and compels the court to determine whether the Information suffices to require an accused to endure the rigors of trial. Where the information is insufficient and thus cannot be the basis of any valid conviction, the court must drop the case immediately and save an accused from the anxiety and convenience of a useless trial.”

In October last year, lawyers of Bello,
who ran for the vice presidency against eventual winner Sara Duterte, filed a Motion to Quash for the indictment against Bello by the City Prosecutor’s Office for his alleged malicious statement against Tupas who was allegedly involved in a drug raid in Mabini, Davao de Oro in November 2021.

In a 15-page motion filed before the RTC Branch 10 in Davao City on October 24, 2022, Bello’s lawyers maintained that the facts in the criminal information did not constitute an offense because Tupas was a public officer and that the complained online post was a “commentary or criticisms” on her “official conduct.”

RTC’s latest order states that a motion to quash information on the ground that the facts charged do not constitute an offense should be resolved based on the allegations in the information whose truth and veracity are hypothetically admitted. It said that the question must be answered whether such allegations are sufficient to establish the elements of the crime charged without considering matters aliunde.

“The accused claimed that private complainant Tupas is a public official falling within the definition of Republic Act No. 6713 and the alleged online communications respectively pertained to the latter’s official conduct as Davao City PIO. Given such and for the libel charges to stick, the accused maintained that inclusion of special averments that (a) the supposed imputations were false and, (b) done with the knowledge of falsity or reckless disregard as to truth or falsity must be duly stated. Yet, these matters were totally absent in the recitals of the information,” it said.

In an interview last year, lawyer Caesar Europa, legal counsel of Tupas, wanted the RTC Branch 10 in Davao City to deny the Motion to Quash and proceed with the arraignment and pre-trial for two counts of cyber libel against Bello.

As part of his final averments, Europa stated that the grounds and arguments raised are inapplicable to the cases at the bar as there is absolutely no basis to argue that the defamatory statements subject of this case are protected speech and, similarly, the claim that the accused herein was subjected to persecution is founded on thin air.

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