NUJP: Panelo's threat shows libel laws are weapons, not remedies
MANILA, Philippines – The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo's threat to sue Rappler and Inquirer.Net shows that criminal libel and cyberlibel laws are "used as weapons wielded by the powerful to exact revenge and to punish than a legal remedy for justice."
In a statement released on Wednesday, September 4, the NUJP also described Panelo as thin-skinned, likening him to Filipino government officials who are "incapable of thinking beyond their imagined hurt and fail to see that the reports are not all about them."
The statement comes a day after Panelo said that his office was already drafting libel complaints against Rappler and Inquirer.net for their articles on his letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole on the executive clemency application of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.
Panelo said that the articles, which said that he "recommended" and "endorsed" Sanchez's letter for executive clemency, were irresponsible, malicious, and sought to discredit him and tarnish his honor.
Panelo was among Sanchez's defense lawyers in the 1993 rape-slay of student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of Allan Gomez. Both were students at the UP-Los Baños at that time.
"Those articles are reeking 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 in an interview with reporters in Malacañang on Tuesday.
The NUJP said: "Officials of Panelo’s kind must at least admit that, in this case, those reports helped avert the travesty of the convicted rapist and murderer’s early release. Those reports informed the public that flawed laws are being abused by powerful people and that such laws begs revisiting. Those reports also serve to warn officials like Panelo to be careful in dispensing both duties and favors, even to old friends."
"If protecting his honor is what Panelo is really after, he should refrain from carrying out his threat against Rappler and Inquirer.net. Magnanimity is key. Honor is, after all, like a nice shirt seen by others on the wearer, not a sword wielded harshly by the bearer."
Sanchez is among the 11,000 inmates granted early release due to good conduct, as prescribed by the retroactive application of the Good Conduct Time Allowance.
The eventual public outrage which erupted after news of Sanchez's impending release stopped this from happening. – Rappler.com