cyberlibel in the Philippines

[OPINION] Walden Bello’s arrest won’t erase drug links of Duterte aide Tupas

Tonyo Cruz
[OPINION] Walden Bello’s arrest won’t erase drug links of Duterte aide Tupas
The arrest of Walden Bello connects the Dutertes to the drug problem that they have failed to solve

Former vice presidential candidate Walden Bello’s arrest and detention for cyber libel and libel may show the enduring power of Dutertes, but it also connects them to the drug problem they have failed to solve.

The complainant, Jefry Tupas, is not a random aggrieved party here. He was public information officer of Davao City under former mayor and now Vice President Sara Duterte, and had been a loyal Duterte acolyte since Rodrigo Duterte came to power.

Tupas’ complaint is connected with the raid conducted by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in Mabini, Davao de Oro, on November 6, 2021. Then-mayor Sara Duterte was quoted as saying that Tupas was in the party targeted by the raid. Her involvement was the reason why she fired Tupas as the city’s spokesperson.

It appears that Tupas or the Dutertes think that Bello’s arrest and detention is positive for them, by projecting their enduring power and relevance. But the opposite could be more true and more potent. Much as they could pretend to be slighted by Bello’s “defamation” and pull strings to pin him down through a criminal case, Tupas’s involvement connects the Duterte family to the drug syndicates in Davao. 

Tupas’ cyber libel and libel charge against Bello buries herself and the Dutertes in the mud of drug involvement in the eyes of the public. 

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Indeed, why was Tupas at a party where PDEA discovered 77 pieces of alleged LSD, 10 grams of alleged shabu, about 722 tablets and capsules of alleged party drugs, nine bottles and two vials of suspected liquid party drugs, and some 200 grams of marijuana? Was Revsan Ethelbert Papey Elizalde, the alleged PDEA target, a close friend of Tupas? Did she turn him in? 

What is the status of the PDEA investigation into Elizalde? Have charges been filed? How many among the 17 arrested have been released? More importantly, has the PDEA raiding team testified – under oath – that they did not see, or did not let Tupas and her partner flee from the raid?

Ordinary mortals who have been caught in the middle of other PDEA and police raids did not have the privilege and top-level connections Tupas once glamorously and proudly enjoyed. Some of them perished in a hail of gunfire or have rotted in jail.

It is not farfetched that Tupas will be an albatross around Vice President Duterte’s and even former president Duterte’s necks. Would the involvement of her former aide cost her the full trust of President Marcos and possible future appointments, especially after she humiliated herself by openly claiming the defense portfolio which Marcos never gave to her?

Tupas and Duterte should also know that Bello is no pushover. They cannot muzzle him. Bello could bring the matter to the attention of the International Criminal Court’s prosecutor. It is a symbol of the Dutertes’ unwitting or witting involvement in drugs in their bailiwick of Davao, and of how malleable the justice system is in attacking critics of the drug war, inasmuch as it denies justice to victims. 

Would Marcos want to have anything to do with this mess? How would this news of the arrest of one of his runningmates’ rival play out after talking “unity” throughout the campaign? 

Fact is, Bello was not in the resort in Mabini, Davao de Oro, on November 6, 2021. Tupas was there. Mayor-turned-vice president Duterte has said it. Tupas also admitted it. Should Bello or anyone be criminally charged for saying the exact same thing? – Rappler.com

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