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On Panelo’s ‘honor’

Presidential legal counsel and spokesperson Salvador Panelo again proved that both libel and cyberlibel should be decriminalized when he threatened both Rappler and the Inquirer.net with legal charges for simply reporting on an important and raging public issue. 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.

In a press briefing in Malacañan Palace Tuesday, Panelo said his office is drafting the libel complaints, against both media outfits for being “irresponsible” and “malicious.” To his mind, reports about his February 26, 2019 letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole forwarding Antonio Sanchez’s family’s request for executive clemency were meant to discredit him in public and to tarnish his honor.

“Balat-sibuyas” is what we Filipinos call officials who are incapable of thinking beyond their imagined hurt and fail to see 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. Those reports informed the public that flawed laws are being abused by powerful people and that such laws beggars 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. #

The National Directorate

NATIONAL UNION OF JOURNALISTS OF THE PHILIPPINES

September 4, 2019

UP Regent: Rapist and murderer Sanchez does not deserve release

An official of the University of the Philippines (UP) opposed the possible early release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez who, earlier announcements said, may be eligible for parole next month.

A statement posted by the office of UP Student Regent John Isaac Punzalan said it condemns plans for Sanchez’s early release from prison.

“We are one with the families of the victims, the rest of the UP community, and the people in demanding full justice for Eileen and Allan and not allowing the release of the rapist and murderer Sanchez. He does not deserve the early release as evident in the violations he committed inside the prison,” the statement reads.

The former Calauan, Laguna mayor was convicted in 1995 for the abduction, rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and the torture and murder of her boyfriend Allan Gomez, both UP Los Baños students as well as the earlier murder of father and son Nelson and Rickson Peñalosa in 1996.

Sanchez was sentenced with a total of nine counts of reclusion perpetua, which is equivalent to up to 40 years in prison each.

He has only served 25 years.

Sanchez’s remaining time in prison may be “recomputed” after displaying “good conduct,” an earlier government announcement said.

But the UP official said Sanchez was found to be in possession of P1.5 million worth of shabu and reported to have violated other prison regulations such as keeping a flat screen television set and an airconditioning unit while in jail.

Public outcry against Sanchez’s possible early release heightened after Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said that his former client’s inclusion among the roughly 11,000 inmates to benefit from the 2013 Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law and a Supreme Court ruling that made the law retroactive is “automatic.”

Senator Ronald dela Rosa also invited widespread opposition to the planned move when he said that Sanchez “deserves a second chance.”

Seemingly reacting to the outcry, Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon, however, said Thursday that Sanchez’s early release is not yet a done deal.

The UP Student Regent’s office said Sanchez’s planned early release is proof that the justice system in the country is “rotting as ever, only seeking to side with the oppressors and those in power.”

“They’re criminalizing human rights advocates and activists but they’re letting rapists, murderers, and plunderers walk free,” the Regent’s statement says. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NUJP: Malacañang’s ‘new’ matrix ‘a badly-concocted fiction’

The new “matrix” presented by presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo linking the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) as among those involved in the “deliberate attempt to discredit” the Rodrigo Duterte administration is nothing but “a piece of unadulterated crap,” the media group said.

Dismissing Malacañang Palace’s new latest accusation, the NUJP said the new diagram is another badly-concocted fiction meant to scare the administration’s perceived enemies, including independent journalists.

In his briefing Wednesday, Panelo presented diagrams showing the NUJP as involved in an alleged destabilization and link with political groups such as the Liberal Party and the rightist Magdalo Party.

Screengrab of RTVM’s video of presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo’s briefing Wednesday morning.

“The Office of the President, the President himself, has received intelligence information that has been validated and appears to show that there is deliberate attempt to discredit this administration as well as to boost the candidacies of the opposition—senatorial candidates. And it appears that there are certain groups who are working together to achieve this goal,” Panelo said.

“This group appeas to be the Liberal Party, some personalities identified as advocates who are very active on social media dishing out anti-Duterte statements and sentiments, and validated to be allied with the Liberal Party. Also, working together with groups in the matrix presented to you the other week,” Panelo said.

The NUJP said that Panelo’s statement linking the group to Rodel Jayme, arrested last week for uploading videos accusing members of the first family as well as senatorial candidate Christopher “Bong” Go, as having links with the illegal drug trade is criminal endangerment of people “without an iota of evidence.”

“But we say let them try their worst. They cannot scare the community of independent Filipino journalists into silence,” the NUJP said. (Raymund B. Villanueva)

Media groups warn against publication of Duterte’s narco-list without verification

Media groups cautioned journalists and editors against publishing Malacañan’s list of public officials allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade.

In a joint statement, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines; Philippine Press Institute; Center for Community Journalism and Development; Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism; Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility; Mindanews and the Freedom for Media, Freedom for All Network said that both the government and the media can not play fast and loose with due process and rule of law.

The groups said that, without verification, the publication of the so-called narco-politicians list including 82 candidates in the May elections is a denial of due process and presumption of innocence for those on the list.

The groups added that the hasty publication of the list is a violation of the journalistic values of fairness, accuracy, and independence.

“Instead of rushing to print or air, we now urge all our colleagues to exercise utter prudence and fastidious judgment in evaluating this ‘story,’” the groups said.

The media organizations said publication of the government’s list redounds to mere trial by publicity of political rivals, and a publicity stunt for the public and the news media’s transient amusement without convincing proof or cases filed in the courts.

“Such naming and shaming calls attention to the possible invasion of privacy, as well as denial of due process and presumption of innocence, for those on the list,” the groups explained.

“Once published or broadcast, the travesty will be magnified as a collective disregard for the rule of law, and a clear breach of the time-honored traditions of fair, accurate, and independent journalism, by the news media,” they explained.

’82 candidates’

Duterte’s list, based on still to be verified intelligence reports and wiretapped information received from foreign governments, reportedly includes 82 candidates.

Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Aaron Aquino, however, said he is against the release of the list, adding that his agency has yet to re-validate it.

“As of now, there is an instruction for PDEA to disclose list. [But] I can’t do it right now because we have not finished the re-validation of the narco-politicians,” Aquino said.

Commission on Elections spokesperson James Jimenez also said the government must “convict first” before those on the list could be disqualified as candidates.

The media groups urged the National Bureau of Investigation to validate the list’s contents before the authorities could build cases and file the appropriate charges against the alleged narco-politicians.

“Rather than seek publicity for its unverified ‘narco list’ story, the Duterte Administration should waste no time to build cases, file charges, prosecute, and send to jail the guilty, if indeed it had proof and evidence on hand,” the media groups said.

‘Verify, verify, verify’ 

The media groups said publishing Duterte’s list may open news outfits to libel suits should those named choose to file charges as Panelo suggested.

They said that taking Malacañan’s word at face value, reporting its claims uncritically, and rushing to print or broadcast just a list that tags people without proof are not without serious consequences.

“All these could put the life and liberty of persons in serious peril; all these could put the ethics and credibility of the journalism profession in serious doubt,” they said.

“Verify, verify, verify. And do so independently. That is the first thing that the news media can and should do, before running a list that tags and links people to hateful crimes, on the mere say-so of the President and his political lieutenants,” they added.

“We, journalists and media organizations can, at the very least, refuse to play along when the government and those who are supposed to lead the nation play fast and loose with due process and the rule of law,” the groups said. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)

NDFP to Panelo: It is gov’t that is committing crimes against the people

Leaders of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) peace panel took turns lambasting new Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, calling him “amnesiac,” “befuddled,” and, worse, “cheap shyster.”

Reacting from Panelo’s challenge to NDFP chief political consultant Jose Maria Sison to “walk the talk” and support President Rodrigo Duterte’s “call for conciliation and peace,” the Left’s chief peace negotiator Fidel Agcaoili said the new Malacañan mouthpiece conveniently suffers from amnesia.

Agcaoili reminded Panelo it was Duterte who terminated the peace negotiations four times since May 2017 and foiled every attempt to resume these through back channel talks.

“At any rate, during the third termination in November 2017, President Duterte issued Proclamation 360, ending the peace negotiations,” Agcaoili said.

Duterte has not revoked his proclamation even after committees under the NDFP and Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) negotiators worked out a number of “unprecedented agreements” on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development and National Industrialization and Economic Development, which constitute the bedrock sections of the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER).

Also hammered out was an Amnesty Proclamation for all NDFP-listed political prisoners to be signed and certified by President Duterte as urgent to obtain the concurrence of Congress in order to effect their expeditious release.

Agcaoili added there was an agreement for a Coordinated Unilateral Ceasefire (CUC) which would have taken effect upon signing by the Negotiating Panels.

The CUC was conceptualized to evolve into a bilateral ceasefire.

“Together, these three agreements would have constituted the Interim Peace Agreement to be signed at the scheduled resumption of formal talks in Oslo last June 28 to 30,” Agcaoili said.

“Never have the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations advanced to this level. But for his own vile reasons, President Duterte has chosen to terminate the talks right at the brink of all these breakthroughs,” he added.

The NDFP chief negotiator said Duterte wasted time and squandered efforts by both NDFP and GRP negotiators, not to mention the lives that could have been saved on both sides of the armed conflict.

Agcaoili paid little significance to Duterte’s latest speech in Davao City that “merely mentioned surrender talks, and enticements to individual NPA guerrillas who capitulate.”

“Nowhere does he mention the meaningful reforms that should be in place to address the roots of the armed conflict,” he said.

Who is committing crimes?

In a statement issued over the weekend, Panelo also said the Duterte government cannot sit with Communist leaders in the same negotiating table while the latter’s armed comrades continue fighting.

“These include the ambushing of our armed forces and innocent civilians while enforcing their so-called revolutionary taxes and destroying the properties of individuals or entities who refuse to give in to their orders,” Panelo said.

Agcaoili replied that contrary to Panelo’s lies, it is the government that are “fraudulently committing criminal acts and bringing harm to our people.”

He cited the massacre of nine farm workers in Sagay City, Negoris Occidental last Saturday as a worsening of “the festering social problems that feed the fires of armed conflict.”

“As a testament to the utter failure of the GRP to effect social justice, the land remains undistributed 18 years after the sugar workers first petitioned the DAR for the estate to be placed under land reform coverage,” he said.

Sison for his part said Panelo exposed himself as “a cheap shyster who engages in outright lying and shouting in a futile attempt to deny or cast doubt on the truth of the Duterte-style massacre of the nine in Sagay.” # (Raymund B. Villanueva)