Davao City

Court orders mediation for Walden Bello, Sara Duterte aide in cyber libel case

Herbie Gomez

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Court orders mediation for Walden Bello, Sara Duterte aide in cyber libel case

WALDEN BELLO. File photo of former congressman Walden Bello


The trial will proceed unless Walden Bello and Jefry Tupas reach an out-of-court settlement

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – A regional court in Davao has ordered Vice President Sara Duterte’s media and public relations chief and 2022 vice presidential candidate Walden Bello to go to a mediator and explore the possibility of an out-of-court settlement in connection with a cyber libel case.

Bello has been charged with maligning former Davao City information officer Jefry Tupas when he made a reference to her in his criticism of Duterte during the election period.

According to the November 16, 2023 court order, Tupas is currently Duterte’s media and public relations division head.

On Facebook, Bello alleged that 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.” He said Duterte’s claim that she was unaware of Tupas’ activities was not credible.

Tupas supposedly left the party before the raid was carried out. 

Judge Retrina Fuentes of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 10 in Davao City, ordered Bello and Tupas to go to a mediator on December 15 to see if they could settle.

Fuentes also ordered the mediator to submit a report within a month. If the parties fail to agree, the trial will proceed.

The court also set the hearing dates for the prosecution on February 1 and 26, April 17, May 8 and 30, and June 20, 2024.

For the defense, the hearing dates are set on July 29, August 7 and 22, September 4 and 18, and October 7 and 21, 2024.

The court cautioned against using motions for postponement to intentionally cause delays. It added that if granted in exceptional cases, any extension would reduce the time allotted for presenting evidence by the party who submitted the motion.

Bello’s lawyer, Danny Balucos, said the referral to the Philippine Mediation Center was procedural. He said the court must include it in the pre-trial order as court rules provide because it is a “mediatable” offense. 

Balucos said Fuentes has been encouraging the parties to explore the possibility of an amicable settlement of the civil aspect of the case. 

“Through [the] Davao counsels, we have been exchanging offers and counter-offers,” he said. – Rappler.com

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Herbie Gomez

Herbie Salvosa Gomez is coordinator of Rappler’s bureau in Mindanao, where he has practiced journalism for over three decades. He writes a column called “Pastilan,” after a familiar expression in Cagayan de Oro, tackling issues in the Southern Philippines.