SC Justice Velasco inhibits from Cybercrime law case
MANILA, Philippines - Denying accusations he is biased, Supreme Court Justice Presbitero Velasco decided to inhibit on Wednesday, October 17, from the cases challenging the constitutionality of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Velasco -- previously the assigned ponente (writer of the decision) of the case -- said he will recuse from handling the petitions "to erase any doubt or suspicion that preconception may influence or even taint the adjudication of said cases."
He maintained, however, that allegations of him being biased are "baseless and bereft of truth," adding that he even recommended the issuance of the temporary restraining order on October 9, stopping the implementation of Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime law.
Media groups moved for his inhibition on October 15 because he filed a libel case against Newsbreak founding editor and now Rappler editor-at-large Marites Danguilan-Vitug in 2010, which they said "indicated that he sees nothing inherently wrong about libel, in general, or cyberlibel, in particular."
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 National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, and the Philippine Press Institute said Velasco should inhibit because online libel is one of the provisions in the Cybercrime law which should be nullified.
"The suits were filed in connection with stories that ran online ― a question directly posed by the 15 petitions challenging the Cybercrimes Act," the media groups said.
The case will now have to be re-raffled to another magistrate. - Rappler.com
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