Panelo won’t resign; insists innocence on early freedom for Sanchez
Updated @ 8:33 p.m., Aug. 28, 2019
MANILA, Philippines—Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo would not resign even if there were allegations that he had a hand in the possible release of rapist-murderer and former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, insisted that he does “not intrude nor poke my finger into any matter that’s not within the mandate of my office.”
Retired judge Harriet Demetriou, the judge who convicted former mayor Sanchez, has called for Panelo’s resignation, saying it was “impossible” that the Palace official had nothing to do with Sanchez’s possible release.
“It is unfortunate that former Judge Demetriou has expressed an opinion on the basis of speculation,” Panelo said in a text message.
“When the President asked for my opinion as whether or not Sanchez was covered by the benefit granted to inmates under R.A. 10592, I categorically stated that by express provision of the law, Sanchez and those similarly situated, meaning inmate charged and convicted of heinous crimes as well as those recidivists, habitual delinquents, and escapists, are excluded from the coverage of the law,” he added. “I thereafter issued an official statement on the matter expressing such a view. Dura lex sed lex.”
But Panelo earlier admitted he was not aware of the law and even said that Malacañang could not oppose the law if it states that Sanchez could be released from jail due to good behavior.
Asked if he will heed calls for his resignation amid this controversy, he said: “That goes without saying.”
Panelo served as one of Sanchez’s legal counsels when the former mayor was being tried and eventually convicted in 1995 for the 1993 rape-slay of UP-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in Laguna.
“There is no way by which those expressly disqualified by law could be considered for release by reason of good behavior,” Panelo said.
“As to those who are qualified, there is no need for any intervention from anybody in the government because those qualified inmates will be automatically processed in accordance with R.A. 10592,” he added.
Despite persistent accusations linking him to the possible release of Sanchez, Panelo insisted that “my office has nothing to do with the 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’s not within the mandate of my office,” he said.
In a belated statement sent to reporters, Panelo said: “Demetriou’s call for me to resign is silly, if not absurd.”
“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,” he said.
He said he would “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 that “at the inception of my being part of this Administration, I have made it a point to provide legal advice to the President based solely on what the law provides and allows.”
“In my capacity as the President’s Spokesperson, I also ensure that my response to various issues find validation in legal precepts as I know that the President, being a stickler for the rule of law, will share the same view,” he said.
“Hence, responding to a question raised by a reporter from the Malacañang Press Corps during a press briefing, I said that we cannot oppose the law if the same allows inmates to be released earlier from their prison cells based on good behavior while in service,” he added.
He said “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.”
“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.
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