By DANIEL ASIDO
MANILA – Progressive groups denounced the arrest of activist and ex-vice presidential candidate Walden Bello, noting that it is an attack against free speech.
Bello, a staunch Marcos-Duterte critic, was arrested Monday night by the Quezon City police due to a cyber libel case filed by Jefry Tupas, former Davao City Information Officer and aide of Vice President Sara Duterte.
Laban ng Masa said that its chairperson, Bello, was victimized by Duterte through a proxy.
“This is obviously a case of a state-sponsored persecution and repression of the right to free expression,” Laban ng Masa said in a statement. “The cyber libel case against Dr. Bello is clearly a proxy harassment with no less than Vice President Sara Duterte as the real protagonist.”
The group also called for Bello’s release and the dropping of charges against him.
For the Congress of Teachers/Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND), on the other hand, Bello’s arrest is an attempt to stifle dissent.
“We see this as another attempt to silence criticism and dissent against the state. Besides running for the vice presidency, Bello has been a staunch critic of former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s authoritarianism,” the group said in a statement.
Bello was brought to the QCPD Station 8 in Quezon City for processing while awaiting his transfer to Camp Karingal. As of this writing, Laban ng Masa said that Bello will get legal assistance.
This case stems from a press conference where Bello accused Tupas of being involved in drugs during a beach party that was raided by authorities last year.
Bello was indicted on June 9 by the Office of the City Prosecutor in Davao City on two counts of cyber libel in a seven-page resolution.