Panelo denies endorsing Sanchez family’s application for clemency

MANILA Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday denied malicious reports that he recommended to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) the granting of executive clemency for convicted rapist-murderer, former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, explained that he merely wrote a referral letter to the BPP to act on the February 8, 2019 request of Sanchez's daughter, Marie Antonelvie, to grant her father pardon.

We find it unfortunate that this representations' referral letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Reynaldo G. Bayang, dated February 16, 2019 is unwittingly and erroneously and even maliciously being reported as a recommendation letter for the executive clemency for former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

I never recommended anything. In other words, the office just physically acts on referring the same to the appropriate agencies, we don't do anything about it. And if they respond to us, we acknowledge the receipt of their response and thank them for taking action on the matter. That is the job of this office with respect to all letters received by it, he added.

Panelo described reports published by Inquirer.net and Rappler as far from the truth and defamatory in nature, stressing that he never endorsed or recommended Sanchez's release and merely wrote a referral letter to the appropriate agency involved.

He said he will soon be filing libel complaints against the two online news outlets.

There is no part of this representations' official communication asking for interventionthe referral letter speaks for itself, Panelo said.

Panelo emphasized that he left it to the discretion of the BPP and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to evaluate the Sanchez family's request for his pardon.

I told them exactly the Bureau of Corrections will be the one to determine whether or not your application will be approved or not, we can't do anything. We always follow the law, he added.

According to Panelo, it was standard operating procedure of his office to respond to all letters, including Sanchez's daughter's letter, and refer them to the appropriate department or agency.

The referral letter of Mrs. Marie Antonelvie J. Sanchez, who happened to be the daughter of former Mayor Sanchez, to the Board of Pardons and Parole is just one of the thousands of referrals this office has made to various government instrumentalities, Panelo said.

Panelo further explained that all letters addressed to the BuCor have the same content with the exception of the name of the letter writer.

During the briefing, Panelo also provided media with copies of the email of Sanchez's daughter appealing for pardon; a letter from his office referring the Sanchez letter to the BPP; and the BPP's reply to the Sanchez appeal denying the appeal for clemency.

No need to inhibit

Panelo, meanwhile, said he did not see the need to inhibit himself from writing a referral letter to the BPP since he was just carrying out his official function.

He said he has withdrawn as Sanchez's lawyer in 1995 and has no communication with his former client.

I was just referring the matter to the appropriate authority. And I refer all kinds of letters, the same. I don't want to be accused by anyone that just because I'm a lawyer I would be not doing anything for an official communication, which as a matter of policy by the Office of the President is for me or this office to respond immediately, Panelo said.

He admitted that he met the Sanchez family members when they approached him after one of his Palace briefings but maintained that it was part of official and not personal communication with them.

Walang (There was no) personal communication. But official, pumunta sila (they came). As you can see the my letter speaks for themselves. There's nothing there that will even remotely be viewed as an intervention or as a recommendation, Panelo said.

I respond to the same letters of all kinds. There's nothing personal in communicating with them; it's all official, he added.

Asked if he saw the need to be more transparent in baring details about his referral letter, Panelo said that all details have been placed on record for the public to see.

This is recorded, anybody can look over the record. It's there, anybody can see. It's open. When you record the visit, when you record the request, when you record the response that is transparency, Panelo said.

Meanwhile, Panelo reiterated that under the GCTA law, Sanchez is not eligible for release.

The law provides new guidelines on how to compute good conduct time, including a 20-day deduction for each month of good behavior during the first two years of imprisonment.

When the President asked my opinion on the matter, I immediately told him that as far as Republic Act 10592 is concerned, those who are recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees as well as those convicted with heinous crimes are not covered by Republic Act 10592 by express provision and hence the conclusion is ex-Mayor Sanchez was not covered by it, Panelo said.

Sanchez was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years imprisonment) for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los BaAos student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her companion, Allan Gomez, in 1993. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency