Panelo to file libel charges versus Rappler, Inquirer.net

Luchi de Guzman, CNN Philippines

Presidential Spokesperson Sal Panelo said he will file libel and cyber libel complaints against two online news publications for their stories about his referral of  the request of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez for executive clemency

In an ambush interview Tuesday, Panelo said he will file libel charges against Rappler and Inquirer.net for how they wrote the story on his referral of a letter from Sanchez’s family to the Board of Pardons and Parole.

READ: Panelo referred Sanchez’s executive clemency application – official

“Those articles are reeking with, not only with irresponsibility, but with malice and it is libelous in nature because it imputes an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor,” Panelo said, adding that the articles imply that he had recommended, not referred, the release of Sanchez.

The articles were initially published before Panelo’s media briefing early Tuesday afternoon, and were based on statements from a Senate hearing on the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

Panelo said he had “demanded rectification” from Inquirer.net but has yet to get a reply.

He added that he texted a Rappler reporter to explain his side, but didn’t get a reply other than “got this.”

Panelo said that people are now saying he had something to do with the release of the former Calauan mayor whom he defended in court 27 years ago.

He said he only referred the letter of Elvira Sanchez, the former mayor’s wife, to proper authorities.

“We always refer. We do not have the authority (to recommend). Our job is to refer it to the proper agencies for their action in accordance to law,” Panelo said in an earlier media briefing.

READ: Panelo denies hand in looming release of ex-mayor convicted of students’ murder, rape

He added that he never read Elvira’s entire letter and that his conscience is clear.

“I didn’t read the entire letter because if you will go to my office you will see so many letters pile up. I have no time to read everything,” Panelo said in the ambush interview.

Panelo said he met with the Sanchez family. While he could not remember the exact the date, he said that the date was recorded.

“We have to check the records. I remember we were having a press briefing tapos andun sila sa labas(and then they were waiting outside),” Panelo said, adding that the date was on the record because the visit happened in his office in Malacañang.

He sent Elvira Sanchez’s letter to the Bureau of Corrections on February 26, and received a response on March 19 that Sanchez’s request for release was denied.

He said he had forwarded this response to the Sanchez family on April 11 and that he had no communication with the Sanchez family since then.

In a statement, Rappler stood by their story and said that this is a diversionary tactic from Panelo.

“Instead of shooting the messenger, Panelo should instead answer questions about his possible conflicts of interest,” Rappler said in a statement.

Inquirer.net said that it will refer the case, once filed, to their lawyers.

“Inquirer.net respects Secretary Panelo’s right to sue for libel if he feels aggrieved by the report. We shall refer the matter it our lawyers when he files the suit,” the publication said in a statement.

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