MANILA- (UPDATE) Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Wednesday he had nothing to do with the impending release of his former client, convicted rapist and murderer former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Panelo, now President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal counsel, was one of Sanchez's defense lawyers in the 1993 rape-murder case of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the death of companion Allan Gomez.
Asked on whether he had a hand in the looming release of the former mayor, Panelo said: "Definitely not. I have withdrawn as his counsel...years ago."
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years' imprisonment for each term).
Panelo also noted that he was just one of Sanchez's 7 lawyers and that he withdrew as the former mayor's counsel after the conviction.
"He (Sanchez) hoped that he would be free when the time comes," Panelo said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday also allayed concerns that Panelo had a hand in the case's development.
“I have no reason to believe that the intervention of any person, including Sec. Panelo, will be necessary,” he said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.
Guevarra explained that prison records on good conduct of inmates had been in existence before the Supreme Court issued its ruling on retroactivity of GCTAs (good conduct time allowances) last June.
"The matter of computation of GCTAs is therefore purely ministerial,” he said.
He clarified Sanchez will just be one of thousands to benefit from the implementation of the law.
"As correctly pointed out by Sec. Guevarra, no one need not intervene in that case because there is a law that obviously benefited Mr. Sanchez and 11,000 others," Panelo said.
Guevarra said BuCor is processing cases starting 1993.
BuCor Director General Nicanor Faeldon said around 200 inmates could be released per day.
They also said they are looking at thousands of inmates who might be released in the next 2 months.