On Rappler’s commentary

It is public knowledge that before I entered government service, I was a practicing private lawyer. It is also an open book that I served as one of the counsels of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez. I never hid this fact to our people nor did I deny the same.

In my present dealings as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson, I have served my posts with a high degree of professionalism and integrity as I comply with the order of the President to uphold transparency, good governance and immediate action on matters affecting the welfare of the people.

My intent to file a libel case against the reporter of Rappler is not a diversionary tactic but an act by one who feels aggrieved by a malicious imputation made against his honor and character.

Media has been called the Fourth Estate owing to its enormous power to inform and influence. Simply put, members of the press can build and destroy reputations. I therefore have to defend myself against baseless attacks, even insinuations, from irresponsible and sensational media.

Here are the facts that have been obfuscated and drowned by the political noise:

1. I did not endorse – neither did I recommend – the granting of an executive clemency in favor of Mr. Sanchez. According to the Collins Dictionary, an endorsement is “a statement or action which shows that you support or approve of something or someone.” A referral, according to the same authority, is “the act of officially sending someone to a person or authority that is qualified to deal with them.” The former implies undue influence or intervention while the latter does not. I performed the latter.

2. The official communication I sent to BPP is identical to the thousands of letters the Office of the Chief President Legal Counsel (OCPLC) has forwarded to various government agencies and instrumentalities. There is nothing peculiar about this action since this is similar to the thousands of communication my offices have made in the last three years.

My referral letter dated February 26, 2019 speaks for itself, it does not contain any recommendation or endorsement. It’s a perfunctory referral of a citizen’s request. My response to the letter dated March 19, 2019 of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), which informed me that the application for executive clemency of Mr. Sanchez had been denied, proves that I did not use the “power” of the Office of the President in forcing anything on the said board. My reply, which is contained in a letter dated April 11, 2019 and made public yesterday, simply acknowledged the receipt of the letter of BPP and thanked its prompt response to the referral we made in February. Res ipsa loquitur.

3. I have met with people who have governmental concerns in my office, regardless of their social, political, religious, and economic backgrounds. This current government has been entrusted to power for its compassion and empathy to people. To deny certain people from reaching the government henceforth runs counter to the clear mandate given by the sovereign people to the Duterte Administration. As for my practice in meeting them in my office, I listen to their sentiments, ask them to put in writing their request or complaint and refer their letters to appropriate agencies with a standard referral letter form. All my actions are documented. The thousands of people the OCPLC has entertained can attest to this fact.

4. Mr. Sanchez would have been released last week due to the erroneous interpretation of the law by the officials of the previous administration. We thank the people for being circumspect with respect to the affairs of the government. I wish to manifest, however, that it was me who informed the President of the legal basis for the exclusion of Mr. Sanchez from being granted the benefits of the good conduct time allowance (GCTA), being convicted of a heinous crime.

I wish to state as well that the current talks about the release of Mr. Sanchez is based on GCTA. The matter which reached my office early this year is with respect to a possible grant of executive clemency which is irrelevant to Republic Act No. 10592.

I have been upfront to our people ever since the Sanchez case has been in the news. I have no reason to fear or fret. Truth is my compass and I know that it will serve me well.

Salvador S. Panelo

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel

& Presidential Spokesperson

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