Panelo denies hand in early release of former mayor in rape-slay case
MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Wednesday denied having a hand in the impending release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was convicted for rape and murder.
Panelo served as one of the lawyers of Sanchez in the 1993 rape of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her companion Allan Gomez.
“That is far-fetched,” Panelo told reporters in a phone interview, referring to speculations the he had a hand in the impending release of Sanchez.
He said has withdrawn as Sanchez’ legal counsel even before the former mayor had appealed his case.
Panelo, who is also President Rodrigo Duerte’s chief legal counsel, echoed Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s statement, citing Republic Act 10592 or the law that increased the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.
“As correctly pointed out by Secretary Guevarra, di na kailangan kahit sinong tao mag-intervene o lumakad sa release kasi merong batas na,” he said.
The GCTA provides additional time to be deducted from an inmate’s prison sentence as a reward for his or her good behavior.
In June, the Supreme ruled to apply the law retroactively.
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 and was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua.
Asked if Sanchez deserves to be freed even when convicted of a heinous crime, Panelo said, “If the law as it is crafted says that all the inmates who are qualified to be released, then that’s what the law says and we have to as we always repeatedly say, there is the rule of law and we have to abide by the rule of law.”
Panelo said he no longer has communication with Sanchez as he admitted being happy with his former client’s release.
“Well, gaya ng mafi-feel ng sinumang dati nag-abogado, matutuwa isang abogado na yung kliyente niya 27 years ago makakalaya na, magkakaroon na ng kanyang bagong buhay,” he said.
In a text message, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Sanchez’ release no longer needed Duterte’s approval.
‘Hindi kailangan ng approval ni PRRD. NBP/BUCOR will review Sanchez’s good conduct time allowances, kung meron. Kung na-serve na niya yung reduced sentence, laya na siya,” he said. /muf
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