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MANILA, Philippines - Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. has decided to inhibit himself from the 15 petitions against Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.
Velasco, reportedly the one assigned to write the decision on the petitions, informed the high tribunal's Public Information Office (PIO) of his decision to grant the motion of journalists for the associate justice not to take part in the deliberations on the 15 petitions against the Cybercrime Law.
"While the allegation of bias on the part of Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr. in favor of the Cybercrime Prevention Act is totally baseless and bereft of truth as he in fact proposed the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) to bar the enforcement and effectivity of the assailed law, he 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," the associate justice's memorandum addressed to acting PIO chief Gleo Guerra.
On Tuesday, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and the Philippine Press Institute sought Velasco's inhibition from the petitions.
NUJP and PPI said Velasco's earlier move to file a libel case against journalist Marites Danguilan-Vitug "does not sit with the cold neutrality of a dispassionate judge."
On October 9, the high court suspended the implementation of Cybrecrime Law through a 120-day temporary restraining order.
Most petitions question the law's Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 12 and 19, or the so-called “take-down” provisions that most constitutionalists deem the most dangerous to civil rights. Even without a court order, the law grants the Department of Justice the power to block access to data, and potentially shut down web sites on a mere prima facie finding of a violation of R.A. 10175.
Dubbed by critics as "e-Martial Law," the act was signed by President Benigno Aquino III last September 12 days before the commemoration of the 40th year of the September 21, 1972 imposition of Martial Law by President Ferdinand Marcos.