Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo reportedly endorsed the executive clemency application for rapist and murderer former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, his former client.
During the continuation of the joint Senate hearing on controversies regarding the Good Conduct Time Allowance law (GCTA) on Tusday, Sept. 3, Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Reynaldo Bayang revealed that Panelo, through the the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, had formally corresponded with his board regarding Sanchez.
Reading the letter, Bayang said that Panelo had referred Sanchez’s request for executive clemency to his office “for evaluation and whatever appropriate action he may want to undertake.”
Earlier, Panelo issued a statement denying involvement in the release of Sanchez, who he represented during the rape-slay case, for supposed good conduct.
When asked if he had a hand in the release of Sanchez, Panelo replied, “Definitely not. I have withdrawn as his counsel years ago.”
Panelo, currently legal counsel and spokesman of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, was among Sanchez’s defense lawyers in the 1993 rape-slay cases of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.
Last week, Former Pasig Regional Trial Court Judge Harriet Demetriou, who convicted Sanchez in 1995, accused Panelo of intentionally twisting the GCTA law in favor of Sanchez’s early release and asked for Panelo’s resignation.
Demetriou added that it is impossible for Panelo, given his position and influence in the Duterte administration, not to meddle in the decision to free Sanchez .
“Hindi siya makakapagsabi na wala siyang alam sa pagpapalaya kay Sanchez, that is impossible. Presidential legal counsel siya,” she said.
The retired judge said that Panelo is “very loyal” to Sanchez and should be disbarred.
“Mag-resign ka na lang, Panelo,” she said.
Earlier, Panelo distanced President Rodrigo Duterte from controversies surrounding the release of prisoners, including those convicted with heinous crimes, under the GCTA law.
He added that it is “unfair” to blame the President for the implementation of the GCTA law.
“We stress that the granting of GCTA is not a form of executive clemency, the awarding of which belongs to the Office of the President. The buck, in this case, stops with the Bureau of Corrections,” Panelo said.
The passage of GCTA in 2013 was under the term of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.