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NUJP: Panelo's threat to sue news sites shows how libel is used for revenge.

NUJP: Panelo's threat to sue news sites shows how libel is used for revenge !-- -- ( - September 4, 2019 - 12:46pm MANILA, Philippines Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo's threat to file libel raps against two news websites shows how libel in the Philippines can be used by those in power as a tool for revenge rather than a legal remedy, a journalists' group said Wednesday.

Panelo on Tuesday said he would sue and Rappler for libel and cyberlibel for what he said was a maliciously imputationthat he recommended granting executive clemency to convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez, his former client.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines said Wednesday that Panelo's threat shows that both libel and cyberlibel should be decriminalized. "Panelo is showing the Filipino people that this country's criminal libel and cyberlibel laws are, more often than not, used as weapons wielded by the powerful to exact revenge and to punish than a legal remedy for justice,"NUJP said.

Journalistss groups and rights advocates have repeatedly called for the decriminalization of libel, saying the outdated law can be used to silence critics and to restrict freedom of speech and of the press. RELATED:Suits by 'sensitive' senators threaten free speech Panelo's letter to parole board

Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal counsel, on Tuesday said he would press charges in the coming days over the reports and social media postsof Inquirer.

net and Rappler, which he described as "reeking with not only irresponsibility but also malice and it is libelous in nature because it imputes an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor." Earlier on Tuesday morning, Board of Pardons and Parole executive director Reynaldo Bayang disclosed that Panelo sent him a letter referring the request of the Sanchez family for executive clemency for the convicted rapist-murderer.

Panelo confirmed that he wrote a letter but stressed that he "never recommended anything." Sen.

Richard Gordon said Panelo exercised "bad judgment" in writing Bayan, considering his history with Sanchez and his current post in the Duterte administration. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon meanwhile said that while "on the surface it appeared that the letter is a plain endorsement," of the letter to the BPP, the fact that it was from the presidential spokesperson and on official stationery, "that letter, certainly, has some weight.

" Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Panelo should not have touched the letter at all.

"Whether or not his intervention was official or not, or in his official capacity, he knows that he is the former defense counsel and should have begged off on referring the letter from Antonio Sanchez's daughter," he said in a mix of English and Filipino. He said that if Panelo is simply the president's legal counsel, then the referral would not be an issue.

"But from the context of being the former defense counsel of Antonio Sanchez, that could mean other things. It depends.

" The BPP dismissed Sanchez's petition for executive clemency. It upheld the dismissal on February 27. Panelo on Tuesday also confirmed meeting with the family of Sanchez in his office at Malacaaang but he insisted that he never had "personal communication" with them.

class="twitter-tweet" .4503311258278 Elvira, the wife of rape-murder convict Antonio Sanchez, visited Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo twice in February while the family was seeking to overturn a decision by the Board of Pardons and Parole. | @xtinamen pic. Philstar.

com (@PhilstarNews) September 4, 2019 Asked why Panelo did not disclose that he talked to the Sanchezes, Panelo explained that he was only asked whether he had been in contact with former Mayor Sanchez himself. Panelo's 'honor'

NUJP called Panelo "balat-sibuyas" or onion-skinned for thinking the reports were meant to discredit him and tarnish his honor.

"Officials of Panelo's kind must at least admit that the reports are not all about them. 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," the group said.

"These reports informed the public that flawed laws are being abused by powerful people and that such laws beg revisiting. Those reports also serve to warn officials like Panelo to be careful in dispensing both duties and favors, even to old friends.

" In a statement, Rappler called Panelo's libel suit threat a "pure diversionary tactic." Inquirer.

net, for its part, said the company will refer the matter to its lawyer when Panelo files the complaint.
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Publication:Philippines Star (Manila, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Sep 4, 2019
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