MANILA - Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo should explain before the Senate his letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole referring the clemency plea of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez, his former client.
"He should come around and explain this especially there was news and media reports that he talked to the Sanchez family twice. At least he should explain ano ba pinag-usapan (what did they talk about)?" Senator Franklin Drilon said.
During Tuesday's Senate inquiry into the release of heinous crime convicts freed under the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law, BPP executive director Reynaldo Bayang revealed that Panelo wrote them regarding Sanchez's application for executive clemency in a letter dated Feb. 26.
Bayang said Panelo merely “referred” the BPP to a Feb. 8 letter written by Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie, regarding the executive clemency application of her father.
The plea was eventually denied.
Panelo, in an interview on Thursday, said there was no conflict of interest when he endorsed the letter. He stressed "it takes away" the case from his office.
But Drilon thinks otherwise.
He said the fact that Panelo served as Sanchez’s defense counsel in the high-profile 1993 rape-slay case, "this peculiar circumstance of Secretary Panelo should have prevented him out of delicadeza, from making the referral."
"But the fact that he signed it gives the perception of pressure. Because it was Malacañang letterhead and Panelo was the lawyer of [former] Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez," he pointed out.
He added: "You cannot avoid the thought that something was happening. In government, perception is very important. Perceptions of impropriety [are] seen with the admitted meetings of Secretary Panelo with the Sanchez family."
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 of the rape-slay of college student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of her companion Allan Gomez. He was sentenced to 7 reclusion perpetua terms (40 years each.)
Last month, reports surfaced that apart from his clemency plea, he was among convicts eligible for early release under the good conduct time allowance law. His release order was initially signed and then junked amid uproar.