Panelo denies backing Sanchez early release

September 03, 2019
Salvador Panelo

PRESIDENTIAL spokesperson Salvador Panelo yesterday denied recommending the release of convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez from prison through executive clemency.

Panelo said at a news conference in Malacañang that he only referred to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) the request of Sanchez’s family for early release of the former Laguna mayor.

“There is no part of this representation’s official communication asking for intervention. The referral letter speaks for itself,” said Panelo, who is also the chief presidential legal counsel and previously served as Sanchez’s legal counsel.

“As I previously said, I have no contact with Mayor Sanchez.”

Panelo said he plans to file a libel complaint against two media outfits for claiming that he endorsed the application for executive clemency of convicted murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez.

Panelo told reporters that he will file charges against the Philippine Daily Inquirer and Rappler over what he believed were malicious reports on his referral of Sanchez family’s letter for clemency to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

Sanchez was convicted in 1995 for raping and killing University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and murdering her friend Allan Gomez.

The Palace spokesman added it was the policy of his office to respond to all letters received by it and refer them to the appropriate department or agency which has the authority to act on the concerns.

Panelo said he left it to the BPP, as contained in the referral letter dated February 26, 2019, to evaluate the Sanchez family’s request. The BPP denied Sanchez’s application for presidential pardon this year.

A recent Supreme Court decision gave a retroactive application to Republic Act 10592, which entitles select inmates reduced prison terms on account of good behavior.

It was earlier floated that among those who could have possibly benefited from the law was Sanchez, but Malacañang has since rejected this, saying convicts serving sentences for heinous crimes like the former mayor are not eligible for early release from prison.

Met with kin

Panelo confirmed that he had met with the family of Sanchez in his office in Malacañang but insists he never had “personal communication” with them.

Panelo made the admission after denying that his office “endorsed” to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) the grant of executive clemency to Sanchez.

Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duterte’s legal counsel, served as one of the lawyers of Sanchez in the 1993 rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta, and the murder of her friend, Allan Gomez.

“What is important is I told them exactly (that) the Bureau of Corrections would be the one to determine whether or not your application will be approved or not. We can’t do anything about it. We always have to follow the law,” Panelo said in a Palace briefing.

This was in stark contrast to Panelo’s earlier pronouncements when he denied any communication with the family of his former client.

But the Palace official insisted that “there’s nothing personal in communicating” with the family of the ex-Calauan mayor.