Panelo says Inquirer.net apology 'unacceptable,' to pursue libel suit

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 06 2019 06:54 PM

MANILA - Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday turned down the apology of news website Inquirer.net, saying "it was unacceptable to me."

"You have to apologize because you committed a mistake. But when you apologize by prefacing it with the statement you apologize because I made already a clarification, then you are making it worse," Panelo said in an interview on ANC's Top Story.

On Friday, Inquirer.net issued a public apology to Panelo for its news break on its social media account Tuesday saying the official had recommended that rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez be granted clemency.

"Inquirer.net apologizes for reporting on its social media platform that Secretary Salvador Panelo wrote a letter to BPP (Board of Pardons and Parole) executive director Reynaldo Bayang recommending executive clemency for ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez. Inquirer.net posted Secretary Panelo’s clarification upon receipt of his statement on the matter," it said in a statement.

But Panelo said he is demanding a public apology because the news website "maliciously imputed to me an act I never performed."

In a hearing on Tuesday, Bayang had said Panelo referred through a letter the Sanchez family's plea for clemency for the former mayor, convicted for the 1993 rape-slay of Eileen Sarmenta and her companion Allan Gomez.

Panelo, who was among Sanchez's defense lawyers during trial on the case, said he merely forwarded the letter but did not intervene. The clemency plea was eventually rejected.

"They (Inquirer.net) are saying they are apologizing because I already made a clarification of what I meant, of course not," Panelo said adding "They knew what it meant and they twisted it."

The chief presidential legal counsel said he would take legal action against Inquirer.net and Rappler, another news website whose report he complained about, unless they make the correct apology.

Rappler, which reported that Panelo had endorsed the Sanchez family's letter, said it would not apologize as its story is "neither libelous nor defamatory."

"Before you file a libel case you have to write a demand letter to them to rectify whatever they've done. That's precisely [what] my letter told them so that unless they rectify I will push through legal remedies available to me under the law," he said.

Inquirer.net is the news website of influential broadsheet the Philippine Daily Inquirer, whose reporting the President had earlier criticized.

Inquirer.net's breaking news tweet had used the word "recommending" in reference to Panelo's action on the letter.

It said its updated reports already indicated that Panelo "merely referred the request of Sanchez’s family to Bayang."