MANILA- Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Tuesday confirmed meeting the family of his former client, convicted rapist-killer Antonio Sanchez, in Malacañang earlier this year.
The meeting happened sometime in February, the same month that the Sanchez family asked Panelo’s help for the convicted mayor’s plea for executive clemency. Panelo is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel.
“Sabi ko, iri-refer ko itong letter ninyo and then maghintay na lang kayo ng sagot. Iyon lang,” Panelo said of the meeting Tuesday.
(I told them that I would refer their letter and they would just have to wait for the answer. That’s all.)
He made the admission after Board of Pardons and Parole executive director Reynaldo Bayang revealed in a Senate inquiry on Tuesday that Panelo, who served as Sanchez’s defense counsel in the high-profile 1993 rape-slay case, wrote the BPP regarding Sanchez's application for executive clemency in a letter dated Feb. 26.
He said he merely referred the Sanchez family's plea and did not intervene. He earlier denied having a hand in pushing for the early release of Sanchez, who was last month reported to be among possible beneficiaries of good conduct time allowance, which shortens a convict's sentence based on good behavior.
Panelo said the meeting happened after Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie, sent him an email on Feb. 8 asking him, President Rodrigo Duterte and former aide and now Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go, to vouch for the former mayor’s plea for pardon.
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years' imprisonment for each term) for the 1993 rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of her companion Allan Gomez.
The meeting was only an “official communication,” according to Panelo, as he explained that it is standard operating procedure of the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel to respond to all letters and refer these to the appropriate department.
“There is nothing personal in communicating with them (Sanchez family). It’s all official. It’s all recorded. There’s nothing there,” Panelo said.
Duterte was also aware of the said meeting, Panelo revealed. He however, said he did not inform the President of Sanchez’s plea for executive clemency.
“He was listening, I told him ‘nagpunta nga 'yan sa akin eh (they spoke with me),” Panelo said of his conversation with the President.
Duterte had rejected the possible release of Sanchez under a law that reduces an inmate's sentence due to good conduct.