Malacañang welcomes Amal joining Ressa’s legal team; Panelo excited to debate with her

Published July 9, 2019, 3:00 PM

by Martin Sadongdong & Antonio Colina

By Genalyn Kabiling 

Prominent human rights lawyer Amal Clooney is welcome to defend Rappler chief Maria Ressa, but she may have been deceived into joining her legal team, Malacañang said Tuesday.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo (OPS / MANILA BULLETIN)
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo claimed that Clooney was “misinformed” about the cases of Ressa, and offered to “educate” her in case they meet.

“I don’t think so baka nabola lang niya si Atty. Amal. Misinformed kasi si Atty. Amal [I don’t think so. It looks like she deceived Atty. Amal. She is misinformed],” Panelo said during a Palace press briefing when asked to comment on the international interest on Ressa’s case.

“Siguro kapag nagkita kami [Maybe when we meet], I can, to use the word of the President, educate her,” he added.

Clooney earlier announced that she will join the legal team defending Ressa, who is supposedly being persecuted for reporting the news especially about alleged rights abuses. The British-Lebanese lawyer said they would pursue legal remedies to vindicate Ressa’s rights and defend press freedom and the rule of law in the country.

At the Palace press conference, Panelo appeared thrilled with Clooney’s decision to join Ressa’s legal team, saying she is “beautiful and sexy.”

He said Clooney could defend Ressa as mere consultant or spokesperson but could not practice law in the country.

“Palagay ko naghahanap lang sila ng katapat ko [I think they were looking for my match]” he said when asked to comment about Clooney joining Ressa’s legal camp.

“Eh kasi kapag kami dalawa nagdedebate ni Maria medyo kawawa naman kasi hindi siya abogado. Kailangan may abogado siya, kaya ayun si.. Maganda na, sexy pa [Because when I debate with Maria, I pity her because she’s not a lawyer. She needs a lawyer and now she has one – she’s not only beautiful but also sexy],” he said.

Panelo further said: “I’m excited to debate with her.”

Ressa, currently out on bail, is facing a string of cases such as tax deficiency and cyber libel. The Rappler CEO has cried foul over the government’s alleged harassment.

The Palace repeatedly argued that Ressa’s cases were not related with the issue of press freedom, saying she could not escape liabilities just because of her profession or politics.