Panelo threatens libel over reports on Sanchez family’s letter
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday said he would file libel and cyberlibel charges against Inquirer.net and Rappler for allegedly maliciously imputing that he recommended granting executive clemency to convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez.
Panelo said he would press charges in the coming days against the online news outlets over their reports that he had “endorsed” or “recommended” clemency for the former Calauan, Laguna province, mayor whose possible early release from multiple 40-year prison terms drew public outrage. (See related story on this page.)
In response to Panelo’s libel threat, the online news site of the Inquirer Group of Companies said: “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.”
Panelo, who is also President Duterte’s legal adviser said: “Those articles are reeking with not only irresponsibility but with malice, and it is libelous in nature because it tends, it imputes an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor.”
Broadcast journalist, too
“I think it’s about time that people like you, because me too, I was a broadcast journalist, I never wrote articles that will cast aspersion or impute any crime or defect or vice to any person whether natural or juridical. And it’s about time we put a stop to this. We should be writing accurately,” he said.
Panelo noted that he demanded a rectification from Inquirer.net and Rappler but this had not been acted upon.
Earlier on Tuesday morning, Reynaldo Bayang, Board of Pardons and Parole executive director, disclosed that Panelo sent him a letter on the Sanchez family’s request for help with their petition for clemency.
Meeting with family
Panelo told reporters he did not recommend clemency for Sanchez. He said he merely referred the letter of the Sanchez family to the parole board as part of his duties as chief presidential legal counsel.
He confirmed he met with the Sanchez family in February but maintained that that was not an act of intervention or endorsement for the release of the former mayor. There also was no conflict of interest on his part, he said.
“In the first place, it [appeal for clemency] is referred to the heads of the departments. They are responsible, competent and intelligent enough. Secondly, they know the policy of the President — no such influence whatsoever coming from anyone of us,” Panelo said.
“First of all, my conscience is clear. Second, that was 27 years ago, and I haven’t seen him [Sanchez]. So this is all ordinary to me, whoever approaches me, I respond to them,” he said.
Panelo said Rappler and Inquirer.net were “trying to make an innuendo about the Sanchez family coming here as if we’re that close.”
Rappler dismissed the libel threat as a “pure diversionary tactic,” pointing out that Panelo was a lawyer for Sanchez in the past.
“Instead of shooting the messenger, Panelo should instead answer questions about his possible conflicts of interest.”
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