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Timeline belies ‘endorsement’

Kristina Maralit

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Presumption of regularity is with Panelo.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo is ready to share inputs to the ongoing probes in Congress regarding the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law even as he recounted a timeline proving he did not endorse the release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

“Just like what I told the MPC (Malacañang Press Corps), everything is transparent. The records are there; I showed them everything,” he said.

Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Richard Gordon, however, said there was no need to invite Panelo to a Senate hearing.

“It is very clear to me that he could not say no. There was no attempt to influence the Board of Pardons and Parole and besides, the petition was rejected,” he said.

An 8 February 2019 letter from Sanchez’s daughter, Marie Antonelvie, which sought pardon for his father, was received by Panelo’s office through email.

The spokesman insisted he was just heeding the directive of the Office of the President to act on every letter request he receives and that whatever correspondence he exchanged with the Sanchez family was all “professional communication.”

Panelo said the letter also sought recommendations from other individuals close to the President and from Mr. Duterte himself.

“Now, did I accede to the request, did I recommend? I did not. I referred the letter to the appropriate agency,” Panelo indicated.

Actions not irregular

“Did I respond positively to the request to get recommendations? I did not. I did not approach anybody about it, I did not ask or write anybody about it,” according to the President’s spokesman.

“The other request,” he said, “was to ask a recommendation coming from the President. I did not ask the President, I did not write the President,” he indicated.

Panelo produced different letters processed by the Palace, showing a template on replies to requests for government action.

“In fact, all letter requests we respond to. We have a template for that, only the name changes. That’s the policy of the President, for us to be transparent and to respond to complaints,” he maintained.

Conscience clear

Sanchez, who was convicted in 1995, is serving seven life terms for the rape-slay of Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her companion, Allan Gomez, in 1993.

He was among those recommended for early release from incarceration under the GCTA Law. It was aborted, however, following strong objection from the public.

At the second Senate hearing on the GCTA issue earlier this week, Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP) chief Reynaldo Bayang bared that Panelo sent a letter to him last 26 February referring to the letter sent by Sanchez’s daughter.

The BPP has earlier junked Sanchez’s application for executive petition filed on December 2018. It, however, upheld its decision to dismiss the latter’s appeal on 27 February, a day after Panelo sent a referral letter.

Panelo maintained his conscience is clear and that what he did was not an intervention on behalf of his former client, but merely a referral.

Different issues

In a separate interview, Panelo clarified that his referral to the BPP regarding Sanchez’s application for executive clemency and his botched release under the GCTA are two separate matters.

“This request from them has nothing to do with the present controversy, Republic Act 10592. Because that’s where I’m being linked. I said this is a different case,” Panelo stressed to a news network.

“Now with respect to Sanchez, they feel that he is entitled to clemency. that’s why precisely they were asking recommendation from me and from the President. But I didn’t do that. Now with respect to (RA) 10592, they never asked me about that. There is no connection,” he added.

As for his earlier remarks that those already freed from the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) via the GCTA Law must be brought back behind bars, Panelo said he and Malacañang would leave it up to the Department of Justice (DoJ) to do the necessary review and action.

“I will leave it to the DoJ. That’s not my turf. That’s on the DoJ. Secretary of Justice Meynard Guevarra knows what he will do,” he concluded.

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