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Walden Bello renews struggle for free speech, presents reinvigorated legal team 

MANILA – Right after receiving a prestigious award from Amnesty International Philippines,  globally renowned academic and activist Walden Bello proudly unveiled his revitalized legal  team and renewed his commitment to free speech in a press conference in Manila. 

Walden received the “Most Distinguished Human Rights Defender” award, a prestigious  designation awarded to Sen. Leila de Lima, the face of victims of state-sponsored persecution. The award is given to “individuals whose contributions to the  advancement of human rights in the Philippines have resulted in immensely improved lives  of those who will otherwise be marginalized or oppressed.” This year’s theme was “Protect  the Protest,” an acknowledgment of the difficulties, legal or otherwise, that human rights  defenders often face. 

Gearing up for the upcoming trial, The Walden Bello Legal Defense Committee also presented a reinvigorated legal team, especially with the entry of Atty Estrella Elamparo as  lead counsel (Manila). Atty Elamparo, thrice awarded as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the  Philippines by Asia Business Law Journal, was a former senior VP and chief legal counsel of  GSIS, senior partner of Divina Law, and a former state prosecutor of the Department of  Justice. She joins public interest lawyers Atty Danilo Balucos and Arvin Dexter Lopoz, lead  counsels based in Davao. 

The press conference came on the eve of the filing of a manifestation before the Department of Justice condemning the Department’s failure to act on the merits of the  Petition to Review filed by the legal team. 

“The Secretary of Justice’s failure to act on the merits of the petition, dismissing it on procedural grounds that have been shown to be false constitutes gross negligence—which in effect robbed Dr. Bello of one of the legal remedies that every citizen deserves,” said Atty. Elamparo. 

“The Department of Justice’s failure to act is patently unacceptable given Secretary  Remulla’s grandstanding about the supposed efficiency of his department and further issuing circulars which highlight the respondents’ remedy of review by the Secretary. He should walk the walk and act on this important public interest case immediately,” adds Atty.  Balucos. 

The manifestation included an urgent prayer for the Department to resolve the petition on its merits. 

The Walden Bello Legal Defense Committee expressed their dedication to protecting Walden  Bello’s rights, especially in the context of lawfare and state persecution. They reiterate their commitment to protecting free speech and dissent as crucial rights granted to all citizens,  especially in raising important questions against public officials. 

Messages of support were also read during the Press Conference, including from the camp of  Senator Leila de Lima and the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG). In a statement signed by  Manuel P Quibod, regional coordinator of FLAG-Southern Mindanao, the organization  wrote, “We stand with Dr. Bello for fearlessly confronting the cyberlibel case filed against  him, which stems from his exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of expression.”


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