Justice Velasco should inhibit from cybercrime case - media groups
MANILA, Philippines - Citing the libel cases he filed against a veteran journalist for her online articles, media groups on Monday, October 15, sought for the inhibition of Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr from a case questioning the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the Philippine Press Institute said Velasco - the assigned ponente (ponente refers to the justice who will pen the decision) - should recuse himself from the case because of the libel suit he filed in 2010 against Marites Dañguilan Vitug, founding editor of Newsbreak and now Rappler's editor-at-large.
Velasco filed 13 counts of libel against Vitug in 2010 for her story "SC Justice in Partisan Politics?" that was published on the websites of ABS-CBN news and Newsbreak.
In that story, Vitug wrote about Velasco's alleged role in the campaign of his son Lord Allan, for the lone congressional post of Marinduque. Vitug interviewed residents who said that the magistrate invited them to join his son’s ticket, with a promise that he would help fund their campaign.
The petitioners said that Velasco based the 13 counts of libel on the number of days that the article appeared on the websites, citing the "multiple publication" rule.
The media groups said that even if Velasco had withdrawn the libel cases in 2012, the fact that he filed them "indicated that he sees nothing inherently wrong about libel, in general, or cyberlibel, in particular."
Sec. 4 (c) 4, which covers online libel, is one of the provisions of Republic Act 10175, or the cybecrime law, that media groups and 14 other petitioners have asked the High Court to nullify due to its ambiguity.
"The suits were filed in connection with stories that ran online―a question that is directly posed by the fifteen petitions challenging the Cybercrimes Act," the media groups said.
Hence, they said that Velasco should choose to inhibit (inhibition is voluntary) and the case be raffled off to another magistrate.
The Court had stopped the government from implementing the law pending the resolution of the petitions filed against it. Oral arguments are scheduled in January next year. - Rappler.com
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