Duterte defends Panelo’s referral of Sanchez clemency letter

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 04 2019 07:34 PM | Updated as of Sep 04 2019 09:04 PM

Salvador Panelo. File

Duterte: I have full faith in Panelo

MANILA (UPDATE) - President Rodrigo Duterte defended his spokesperson and legal adviser Salvador Panelo Wednesday, amid criticism of the latter’s referral of a letter on convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez’s family's plea for clemency for the former mayor.

Duterte said Panelo did not commit any wrongdoing in referring the Sanchez family's letter.

“He did what was right,” the President said. “I cannot sanction anybody around here especially for lawyering. Alam ko lawyer 'yan (I know he’s a lawyer).”

What would have been wrong was if Panelo handled Sanchez’s plea for the recommendation of their pardon application, the President explained.

“Tama ‘yung ginawa ni Panelo, just a referral. Ang masama nun kung hinandle niya. But you know, I know the guy,” Duterte said.

(Panelo did the right thing by doing a referral. What’s wrong is if he handled it.)

“I have full faith in Panelo.”

Panelo was one of Sanchez’s defense counsels in the high-profile 1993 rape-slay case, which ended in a 1995 conviction for the former mayor.

Sanchez was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years imprisonment for each term) for the rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of her companion Allan Gomez.

On Tuesday, the Board of Pardons and Parole revealed that Panelo, referred Sanchez’s application for executive clemency in a letter dated Feb. 26.

Panelo referred a Feb. 8 letter written by Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie, regarding the pardon application of her father.

The BPP in December 2018 dismissed Sanchez’s petition for executive clemency. It upheld the dismissal of Sanchez’s appeal in a decision dated Feb. 27, a day after Panelo wrote the letter to BPP.

Panelo had insisted that he did not intervene in Sanchez’s case in referring the letter.

“There is no part of this representation’s official communication asking for intervention. The referral letter speaks for itself,” Panelo told reporters Tuesday.

“I never recommended anything,” he said.