By Joey Natividad
CITY OF NAGA, Bicol Region, 20May2016 (BicolToday.com) – Bicolano lawyer Salvador Panelo gets flak from journalists and Ampatauan massacre victims’ kin over his designation as Duterte’s spokesperson.
Appointment of Panelo as spokesperson has caused chill among kin of Ampatuan massacre victims amid fear that his influential position now might steer the Ampatuan massacre case away from reaching justice, online new BicolToday.com was informed Thursday.
Lawyer Panelo has been the legal counsel of the Ampatuans, and report says he has been key to legal maneuverings that has led the Ampatuan massacre case still on the trial stage, still far from any conviction.
“I am not comfortable. This is not right,” said Mary Grace Morales whose husband Rosell, circulation manager of the community paper, News Focus, died in the massacre.
Speaking on behalf of the families of the media victims of the Ampatuan Massacre, Morales expressed her disappointment over news that Attorney Panelo will serve as spokesperson of incoming president Duterte.
“Parang alam na namin saan patungo ang kaso (We know where the case is headed),” Morales, said relating her fear that the Ampatuan massacre may lead into watered down case.
“If Panelo is really appointed, I will no longer hope for progress in this case,” she added.
While it is on record that Panelo withdrew as counsel for Andal Ampatuan Jr. in early December last year, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) expresses serious misgivings about his potential appointment as presidential spokesman, and its possible implications on the trial of those accused of what is acknowledged as the single deadliest attack on the press in history and one of the worst incidents of electoral violence in the country.
Although the NUJP recognizes the right of any accused to a defense, the group shares the sentiments of the relatives of the Ampatuan massacre victims.
“We urge the incoming government not to let political considerations get in the way of ensuring justice for the victims of the Ampatuan massacre,” NUJP chairperson Ryan Rosauro said.
“We assure everyone that the NUJP will remain committed to defending freedom of the press and of expression and will closely monitor the incoming administration’s adherence to these rights. This includes remaining vigilant about the progress of the trial of those accused of the single deadliest assault on media in history,” Rosauro added. [BicolToday.com]