Panelo: Mere referral letters on public concerns require use of office letterhead
MANILA, Philippines — Mere referral letters on public concerns to agencies require the use of the Malacañang office letterhead, Presidential Spokesperson and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Saturday in response to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
“We take note of the comments of Senator Franklin Dillon, but we assume that the good Senator knows that official correspondence to a government office requires nothing less than an official response thereto and an official action thereon,” Panelo said in a statement.
“Even mere referral letters on public concerns to agencies with appropriate jurisdiction over the matter require the use of the office’s official letterhead,” he added.
Drilon said Friday that Panelo’s use of the Malacañang Office of the Legal Counsel letterhead for the referral on Antonio Sanchez’s bid for executive clemency may have given the perception of power and would have put pressure on the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).
This comes after BPP Executive Director Reynaldo Bayang revealed that Panelo, on behalf of Sanchez’s family, was among those who wrote a letter to his office. Bayang made the revelation during the Senate hearing on the early release of heinous crimes convicts.
However, the BPP rejected the bid for executive clemency a day after receiving the letter referred by Panelo.
“There could be no room for interpretation that the referral letters of this representation to the BPP could have “pressured” Executive Director Reynaldo Bayang,” the presidential spokesperson said.
Panelo said that his office’s correspondence to Bayang “clearly and uniformly states that we leave the evaluation of applications for executive clemency to his discretion.”
“Second, our office has never encroached upon the prerogative of [Bayang] nor insinuated upon him what to do,” Panelo said. “[A]nd third, Bayang knows that the President has banned the use of any sort of political influence or ascendancy in government transactions.”
Panelo added that Drilon appears to suggest that the presidential spokesperson should have referred the matter in his personal capacity.
“That would not only be different from our standard practice of officially referring citizens’ concerns to an appropriate instrumentality of the government but it would also imply that I may still be lawyering for Mr. Sanchez despite the known fact that I am already serving the Office of the President as the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Presidential Spokesperson,” Panelo said.
“To opine that a government official should correspond casually with another official on a matter that concerns the latter’s official function or mandate would not only be unprofessional, it would smack of impropriety as well,” Panelo added. /muf
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