Media group questions Duterte appointment of Ampatuan lawyer
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) on Thursday expressed “serious misgivings” about the prospective appointment of Salvador Panelo, former legal counsel of the Ampatuans in the 2009 Maguindanao Massacre case, as the spokesperson of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte.
In a statement, the NUJP said that while Panelo had withdrawn as counsel of Andal Ampatuan Jr., the lawyer’s appointment as presidential spokesperson could have implications on the trial of the former mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao province and his family.
Witnesses have testified that Ampatuan was present at the scene of the massacre of 58 people, including 32 media workers, in the single deadliest attack on the press in history and one of the worst incidents of electoral violence in the country.
The group said that while it recognized the right of any accused to a defense, it shared the sentiments of the relatives of the massacre victims.
NUJP chair Ryan Rosauro called on Duterte not to let political considerations get in the way of ensuring justice for the massacre victims.
“We assure everyone that the NUJP will remain committed to defending freedom of the press and of expression and will closely monitor the incoming administration’s adherence to these rights. This includes remaining vigilant about the progress of the trial of those accused of the single deadliest assault on media in history,” Rosauro said.
Panelo was quoted in 2014 as saying that charges against his client and other members of the Ampatuan clan were “fabricated.”
He said he believed in their innocence and that an injustice has been committed to them.
In an interview with Radyo Inquirer, Panelo said on Thursday he would be both spokesperson and press secretary in the Duterte administration, a departure from the regime of three spokespersons in the outgoing Aquino presidency.
He said he would be the “voice and the face” of Duterte. “We will be transparent.”
Panelo said that 10 years ago, he started calling for a Duterte presidency. He said he felt then that the country needed a constitutional dictator. With a report from Kristine Angeli Sabillo, INQUIRER.net