MANILA — The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) and the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), through human rights lawyer Ted Fe, filed a motion Oct. 15 asking Justice Presbitero to inhibit himself from participating in the deliberations on the consolidated petition questioning the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012 (RA 10175). Te is a former vice president for legal affairs of the University of the Philippines.
The motion was filed on behalf of the 273 journalists, and media and freedom of expression advocacy groups who signed the first e-petion submitted before the Supreme Court on Oct. 3, to preclude the possibility of Velasco’s alleged prejudice against the media affecting the decision on the petition.
Velasco had previously filed two libel suits against Maritess Vitug for an online article posted in ABS-CBNnews.com/Newsbreak (13 counts, one for each day it remained on the website) and for her book “Shadow of Doubt”, which is about corruption in the judiciary.
Although Vitug told NUJP Velasco withdrew the cases in June and July 2012 respectively, both media groups believe Velasco’s impartiality will remain in question.
The consolidated petition, containing 15 petitions questioning parts or the whole of the Cybercrime Law, were raffled to Velasco on the same day, October 9, the TRO was issued.
The petition filed by the media groups led by NUJP, PPI and the Center for Media Freedom of Responsibility, questions several provisions in the law which violate free speech and free press, due process, equal protection from the laws, and privacy of communication, and asks that the whole statute be declared unconstitutional.
The TRO, which suspends the implementation of the cybercrime law, will remain in effect until Jan. 15, 2013, when the high court has scheduled oral arguments.