Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday said he would not resign amid allegations that he had a hand in the possible release of convicted rapist-murderer, former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Panelo was the lawyer of Sanchez when the mayor was charged with the murder of two University of the Philippines (UP) students in 1993.
Panelo made this remark after retired judge Harriet Demetriou, the judge who convicted Sanchez, called for Panelo’s resignation, refusing to believe that the spokesman had nothing to do with Sanchez’s possible freedom based on Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) or Republic Act No. 10592. President Rodrigo Duterte said earlier he would not allow the release of Sanchez.
Sanchez was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years imprisonment) for the rape and murder of UP-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her companion, Allan Gomez in 1993.
R.A. 10592 provides new guidelines on how to compute good conduct time, including a 20-day deduction for each month of good behavior during the first two years of imprisonment.
Panelo dismissed Demetriou’s call for him to resign as “silly, if not absurd”, noting that her opinion against him was made “on the basis of pure speculation”.
“I serve at the pleasure of the President, and as his alter ego, I will not be distraught nor derailed by any unfounded remark raised against me. I will instead continue to faithfully perform my duties in accordance with the law, the functions attached to my office as well as the directives given me by the President,” Panelo said in a statement.
“I hope that, being a practitioner of the law, Judge Demetriou will soon realize that expressing judgmental or condemnatory remarks based on a simple hunch has no place in a profession which values the rule of law.” he added.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, also insisted anew that he had no hand in the possible liberty any of the qualified inmates who may be freed under the GCTA.
“My office has nothing to do with the possible release of qualified inmates. That is the turf and the responsibility of the Department of Justice and the concerned offices under it. I do not intrude nor poke my finger into any matter that is not within the mandate of my office,” Panelo said in a statement.
He explained that when President Rodrigo Duterte asked for his opinion on whether Sanchez was covered by the benefit granted to inmates under the GCTA, he said the former mayor was ineligible.
“I categorically stated that by express provision of the law, Mr. Sanchez and those similarly situated, meaning inmates charged and convicted of heinous crimes, as well as those recidivists, habitual delinquents, and escapees, are excluded from the coverage of the law,” Panelo said.
“Dura lex sed lex. There is no way by which those expressly disqualified by law could be considered for release by reason of good behavior,” he added.
As for inmates who are qualified under the GCTA, Panelo said there is no need for any intervention from anybody in the government because they will be automatically processed in accordance with the law.
Panelo, meanwhile, defended his initial response to reporters saying that the government cannot oppose the law if it allows inmates to be released earlier from their prison cells based on good behavior while in service.
“Such pronouncement still stands as we will implement the law and we will implement it properly, that is to the exclusion of recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes,” Panelo said.
Panelo said he withdrew as the lawyer of Sanchez in 1995.(with PNA report)