On Monday, 8 August, the internationaly renowned scholar and political activist Walden Bello was arrested by the Philippine police and charged with cyber-libel in a move supporters are calling an act of political repression.
Walden Bello has been released on bail.
‘Defend Walden’: Bello’s legal team has issued a call for donations to cover ‘the expenses that would be incurred over the likely-protracted legal battle’ ahead.
In a statement, the think tank Focus on the Global South condemns the arrest of its founding director and co-chair of the Board, insisting that
‘[t]he 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.‘
The counts of libel and cyber libel were filed by Jefry Tupas. Tupas, former Davao City mayor Sara Duterte’s Public Information Officer, filed the complaints over statements made by Bello during his election campaign earlier this year. Bello was running for vice president in the Philippines’ 9 May national elections. Among his political opponents was Sara Duterte, the current Vice President.
Bello is co-founder of the think tank Focus on the Global South, winner of the Alternative Nobel Prize, and chairperson of the socialist platform Laban ng Masa (LnM).
LnM issued a statement, condemning ‘in the strongest terms the filing of the cyberlibel charges and the subsequent arrest […] This is obviously a case of a state-sponsored persecution and repression of the right to free expression.’
Some hours after his arrest, Bello published a short message on his Facebook account:
Arrested this afternoon for cyberlibel charge filed against me by the camp of Vice President Sara Duterte. I’ll have spend the night in jail since it’s too late to post bail. Pure political harassment and persecution. No way I will let these people intimidate me and suppress free speech.‘