Panelo: Ampatuans also sought my help
Another former client—a member of the Ampatuan clan—had also sought his assistance in recent months, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said on Thursday.
“They are asking the intercession of President (Duterte),” he said of the Ampatuan clan member whom he initially did not name.
“Not to intervene, but they were asking for help… on what they should do,” Panelo later clarified in an interview.
The revelation came days after Panelo admitted to meeting members of the Sanchez family in Malacañang when they sought his endorsement of their plea for executive clemency for former Calauan, Laguna, Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven life terms for the gang rape-slaying of student Eileen Sarmenta, and the killing of fellow UP student Allan Gomez in 1993.
Panelo served as Sanchez’s lawyer in the 1994-1996 trial of the case.
The official said the family of one of the Ampatuans sought his help as the clan member was at large despite facing charges for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre of scores of journalists and relatives of a local politician.
Panelo said the wife of the Ampatuan clan member happened to be at an event of the Chinese Embassy in Davao City where the President was also present.
He said Mr. Duterte told them that the matter was already pending before the courts, though the Office of the President later sent him a note referring the Ampatuans’ request to him.
The Ampatuans reportedly visited him more than two weeks ago, the Palace official said, during which he advised them to just turn in the accused to the authorities.
“The fact that the President referred that to me, that means that my advice will be the same. Just make your husband surrender and face trial. They said, ‘What if he gets jailed?’ That’s the risk there,” Panelo said.
A photograph of the July 17 note of the Office of the President’s Appointments Office to Panelo showed that the request came from lawyer Jehan-Jehan Ampatuan-Lepail and Bai Soraida Biruar-Ampatuan, who were seeking an audience with the President.
Soraida is the mother of Datu Saudi Ampatuan Jr. Jehan-Jehan Lepail is Saudi’s wife.
Saudi is among the Ampatuans charged for the Maguindanao massacre that left
58 people, mostly women, lawyers and media practitioners dead.
A security logbook from the New Executive Building in Malacañang where Panelo’s office is located showed that Soraida paid a visit to Panelo’s office on Aug. 13.
Panelo also said that he wants the Presidential Security Group to investigate how Sanchez’s family managed to visit his office, saying that he and his staff were unaware that they were coming to see him in February.
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