MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said Thursday his chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo is a “good match” for a debate against international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney.
Clooney has joined the legal team of Maria Ressa, chief of news website Rappler which has repeatedly clashed with the Duterte administration.
“Kaya naman ni Panelo ‘yan (Panelo can handle it. Panelo, he’s a good match,” Duterte told reporters.
Panelo earlier said he is not threatened and is even "excited" to debate with Clooney, whom he described as "beautiful" and "sexy."
"Palagay ko naghahanap lang sila ng katapat ko. Eh kasi pag kaming 2 nagdedebate ni Maria medyo kawawa naman kasi hindi naman siya abogado. Kailangan may abogado rin siya. Ayun, maganda pa, sexy pa," he told reporters.
(I think they were just looking for my counterpart. Because when Maria and I debate, she's at a disadvantage because she's not a lawyer. She needs a lawyer. There, she has a beautiful, sexy lawyer.)
Ressa, who was named a Time Magazine "Person of the Year" in 2018 for her journalism, faces several criminal charges along with her website Rappler, in what press freedom advocates have branded an act of "persecution."
"Maria Ressa is a courageous journalist who is being persecuted for reporting the news and standing up to human rights abuses," Clooney said in a statement issued by London's Doughty Street Chambers, where she works, on Monday.
"We will pursue all available legal remedies to vindicate her rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the Philippines," added the British-Lebanese lawyer.
Clooney will work with a team of international lawyers as counsel to Ressa and coordinate with attorneys in Manila.