MANILA (UPDATE) - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Tuesday he would file libel complaints against news websites Rappler and Inquirer.net.
The complaints, Panelo said, stem from what he described were “malicious” reports of the 2 platforms about a letter he sent the Board of Pardons and Parole referring convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez’s family's plea for clemency for the former mayor.
"Those articles are reeking not only with irresponsibility but with malice," he told reporters.
"It imputes an act to discredit me in public and to tarnish my honor," he said.
Panelo said he had asked Inquirer.net to correct its article on the matter but has yet to receive word from the platform.
"They are saying that I recommended [clemency for Sanchez]. I did not," Panelo said.
The complaints will be filed "immediately," Panelo said, noting that the cyber-libel complaints would also be filed against the 2 news websites.
Inquirer.net, the news website of broadsheet Philippine Daily Inquirer, said in a statement that it "respects Secretary Panelo’s right to sue for libel if he feels aggrieved by the report."
"We shall refer the matter to our lawyers when he files the suit," it said.
Rappler, meanwhile, said the libel threat "is a pure diversionary tactic" on the part of Panelo.
"Instead of shooting the messenger, Panelo should instead answer questions about his possible conflicts of interest," Rappler said.
Panelo confirmed Tuesday referring the Sanchez family's letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole on Feb. 26, but clarified that he “never recommended anything.”
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years' imprisonment for each term) for the 1993 rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the death of companion Allan Gomez.
The BPP in December 2018 dismissed Sanchez’s petition for executive clemency. It upheld the dismissal of Sanchez’s appeal in a decision dated Feb. 27, a day after Panelo sent the letter.