President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday night defended Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo following the spokesman’s action on the request of the family of convicted murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez to give a favorable recommendation on his former client’s plea for executive clemency.
In a Palace press briefing, Duterte stressed that Panelo did not violate the law when he referred to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) in February this year the letter of Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie, for its evaluation.
“He referred it to the proper entity that is, the board. Panelo did not commit any infraction of the law,” Duterte said, adding Panelo only did the “right thing.”
The President also said Panelo did not commit conflict of interest for referring the request to the BPP and meeting the Sanchez family twice in his office in Malacañang.
“He has no decision at all. Why is there a conflict of interest when he is not called upon to decide?” Duterte said. “I can vouch for his character. I will have to stand by him because it is really the truth and he did what is right.”
To recall, Sanchez was sentenced to lengthy jail terms in 1995 for raping and killing University of the Philippines-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and murdering her friend and fellow UPLB student Allan Gomez in 1993 and Panelo served as one of Sanchez’s lawyers during the trial.
Earlier, the Palace spokesman explained that his office merely fulfilled the commitment of the President “to lend an ear to all those who require assistance.”
“And this is what the OCPLC (Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel) performed when it referred the letter of the daughter of Mr. Sanchez to the BPP. Failing otherwise would mean that we have resorted to discrimination and inaction, which may then subject us from punitive sanction,” said Panelo.
“My entertaining them in my office and referring their concern to the appropriate body denote that everything is aboveboard and there was nothing clandestine.”
Panelo also said he has served his posts as Duterte’s spokesperson and chief legal counsel “with a high degree of professionalism and integrity.”