MANILA - Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Thursday his conscience was "clear" and that there was no conflict of interest when he endorsed to jail authorities a letter from the family of his former client who was convicted of murder and rape.
By referring the letter of former Mayor Antonio Sanchez to the Board of Pardons and Parole, Panelo said it "takes away" the case from his office.
"Yun na nga yung ginawa ko kasi nga ayaw kong mapulaan," Panelo told ANC's Headstart.
(That's precisely what I did because I did not want to get criticized.)
"There is no conflict of interest. For one, my conscience is clear," said Panelo, who is also Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.
Panelo said he could not remember the exact circumstances of his meeting with the Sanchez family and was reminded about it by his staff.
"Humihingi sila ng tulong dahil nag-apply nga ng executive clemency. Sabi ko naman sulatan n'yo ako ng pormal, official, para I can respond officially," he replied.
(They were asking for help since they were applying for executive clemency. I told them to write to me formally so I could respond officially.)
"Neither any of this did I grant. I was referring a letter addressed to me requesting for certain recommendations. I referred the case to an asec (assistant secretary), the asec drafted the letter and I signed it," he said.
Panelo earlier said that he had not been personally in touch with his former client since his conviction in 1995. The former mayor, he said, was not the only inmate for whom his office wrote a referral letter.
"I gave the same letter, the same tone exactly except the names and the dates to more than hundreds of inmates the last three years and I gave the reporters in Malacanang lahat ng mga letters," he said.
He also clarified that he did not intervene in the plea for executive clemency of Sanchez.
"We have no authority to grant whatever request they have. It has to be referred to a specific office that has the authority and the mandate to take action on whatever request, complain, grievance or whatever," he stressed.
He added that as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, it would be improper to advice the president to grant the clemency.
"There is no such animal in this administration as influencing the president. Nobody, everybody cannot influence this president," he said.