Panelo withdraws as lawyer for Pastor family
MANILA, Philippines — High-profile lawyer Salvador Panelo will no longer represent the family of slain racing champion Enzo Pastor, in the murder case currently pending in the Department of Justice (DOJ).
In a phone interview Tuesday noon, Panelo said he was “uncomfortable” being a lawyer in the case as he has been friends with both the victim, Pastor, and one of the suspects, Pastor’s widow, Dahlia Guerrero-Pastor, who remained at large, as of Tuesday.
“The couple has been close to me for the last five years,” Panelo said. “In view of my personal and professional relationship with the couple, I feel I’m no longer comfortable representing the Pastor family,” Panelo said.
Panelo, who spoke to the Philippine Daily Inquirer as he was on his way to the DOJ to file his withdrawal, said that his interactions with the Pastor family began around five years ago when Pastor’s parents, Thomas and Remy, hired him as their lawyer for a corporate-related civil suit in Mandaluyong city.
A year after that, he represented Dahlia when she filed an acts lasciviousness complaint, which was eventually settled.
Since then, Panelo has become a family friend, joining the Pastors abroad to support Enzo in racing competitions, and being invited to birthdays and weddings within the family.
“I share the sentiments of the Pastor family: I am also saddened, shocked, praying and hoping it’s not true [that Dahlia was involved in the killing]. But we are deferring to the knowledge and expertise of the investigators and have no choice but to abide by the investigation’s results,” Panelo said. “When I took this case, I didn’t know Dahlia would be involved,” he added.
But the lawyer maintained there was no “conflict of interest” save for “in his conscience:” “Would you prosecute your own friend?” he asked, rhetorically.
Panelo said he already discussed the matter with the Pastor family, and they have given him their blessing. “The family understands,” he said.
He said he did not know as yet who would take his place as the family’s lawyer in the case, but said the Ponce Enrile Reyes and Manalastas (Pecabar) law firm has offered their help, as Pastor’s sister, Vanessa, used to work for the firm.
“I’ll just be an interested watcher, hoping that truth and justice will prevail,” Panelo said.
Meanwhile, Panelo said it would be “premature” to talk of who should take custody of Pastor’s children, aged five and seven, if Dahlia was arrested.
“There is no warrant of arrest for her yet. The preliminary investigation hasn’t even started,” the lawyer pointed out.
Panelo maintained that the Pastor family has had no contact with Dahlia since the marking of the 40th day of Pastor’s death.
Earlier, Panelo said the family believed the couple’s two sons were with their mother.
On August 28, the Quezon City Police District filed murder and frustrated murder complaints against the self-confessed gunman, Pasay policeman Edgar Angel, and the suspected mastermind, car businessman Domingo “Sandy” de Guzman, both of whom have been placed under the custody of the Quezon City Police District.
Police also filed parricide and frustrated murder complaints against Dahlia, alleging she had an affair with De Guzman and that she was in on the plot to kill Pastor. This was based on an extrajudicial affidavit Angel executed, saying De Guzman hired him for P100,000 to kill Pastor, and that De Guzman told him it was because Dahlia had suffered domestic abuse at Pastor’s hands.
On the evening of June 12, Pastor was driving a truck carrying a race car in Quezon City, when he and his helper Paolo Salazar were ambushed at a red light at the corner of Congressional and Visayas Avenues.
Pastor died of a bullet to the head, while his helper survived a shot in the abdomen, as the gunman fled on a motorcycle.
Meanwhile, Tomas Pastor, who attended Tuesday’s preliminary investigation refused to be interviewed.
On Tuesday, Police Officer Edgar Angel appeared before the Department of Justice for a preliminary investigation. However, his submission of counter-affidavit was postponed.
He was given up to Sept. 8 to submit his counter-affidavit. With a report from Tetch Torres-Tupas
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