Panelo to sue INQUIRER.net, Rappler for libel over Sanchez’s clemency plea
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo announced Tuesday that he will file libel complaints against online news outlets Rappler and INQUIRER.net over what he believed were malicious reports on his alleged referral of the Sanchez family’s letter on the clemency request of ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).
Panelo said the online news outlets reported that he “endorsed” and “recommended” the early release of the former Laguna mayor, which he has already denied in a Palace briefing, noting that he merely “referred” the letter to BPP.
Panelo was among Sanchez’s lawyers in the 1993 rape and murder of the University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta, and the murder of her friend, Allan Gomez.
“As I earlier said in the press briefing this morning, those articles are reeking with malice and it’s libelous in nature because it tends to impute an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor,” Panelo told Palace reporters.
“In view of this, I’m filing a libel case against net Inquirer and Rappler for publishing these malicious articles,” he added.
Panelo cited Rappler’s story titled “Panelo endorsed Sanchez’s letter for executive clemency,” and an Inquirer.net tweet on the same issue.
Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said that his office is already drafting the complaints and will be filed “immediately.”
In a statement, INQUIRER.net said it is well within Panelo’s right to file a libel complaint if he feels “aggrieved” to the report.
“Inquirer.net respects Secretary Panelo’s right to sue for libel if he feels aggrieved by the report. We shall refer the matter to our lawyers when he files the suit,” INQUIRER.net said.
Meanwhile, Rappler called Panelo’s threat a “pure diversionary tactic.”
“Instead of shooting the messenger, Panelo should instead answer questions about his possible conflicts of interest,” said the news site.
At the second Senate hearing on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law on Tuesday, BPP Executive Director Reynaldo Bayang revealed that Panelo wrote to him on February 26 this year, referring a letter written by Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie, regarding the pardon application of her father.
READ: BPP: Panelo referred Sanchez’s bid for clemency
In December 2018, BPP dismissed Sanchez’s petition for executive clemency.
BPP also upheld the dismissal of Sanchez’s appeal in a decision dated February 27, a day after Panelo wrote to the bureau. /kga
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