SC justice Velasco inhibits self from cyberlaw case
Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. announced Wednesday he was inhibiting himself from hearing petitions questioning the inclusion of libel provisions in the recently signed cybercrime law.
Velasco’s announcement comes two days after journalists led by the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) filed a petition seeking the “voluntary recusation” of Velasco. The journalists said Velasco’s previous act of filing a libel suit against veteran journalist Marites Danguilan-Vitug, which he has since withdrawn, “does not sit with the cold neutrality of a dispassionate judge.”
In a statement, Velasco’s office dismissed as “totally baseless and bereft of truth” any insinuation that he favored stronger libel laws.
The high court justice mentioned that he was even the one who proposed the issuance of a temporary restraining order “to bar the enforcement and effectivity of the assailed law.”
“(H)e will nevertheless recuse from the consolidated petitions to erase any doubt or suspicion that preconception may influence or even taint the adjudication of said cases,” Velasco’s statement said.
The court’s spokesperson, Gleo Guerra, said Velasco will be inhibiting himself from taking part in the deliberations as well as voting on the case.
Guerra did not confirm NUJP’s claim that Velasco had been named the “ponente” of the case.
“If he was the ponente, (he’s) not anymore because he has inhibited,” Guerra said in a text message.
The cybercrime law has sparked protests from netizens, journalists, academics and social activists because of its controversial provision criminalizing online libel.
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