In this undated screengrab, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo holds a press briefing at Malacañang.
Facebook screengrab/Presidential Communications, File
Panelo denies hand in looming release of Sanchez, his former client convicted of rape and murder
Alexis Romero ( - August 21, 2019 - 3:58pm

MANILA, Philippines — Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo Wednesday denied having a hand in the impending release of his former client ex-Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez as he stressed that rule of law, not emotion, must prevail in the case of the convicted rapist and murderer. 

Panelo said he had withdrawn from the case before the conviction was appealed. 

"I withdrew 27 years ago," Panelo said in a phone patch interview. 

"I think that (claim) is far-fetched because... I had withdrawn even before the appeal was made," he added.

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Panelo said there is no need for anyone to intervene to release Sanchez if the former mayor is qualified for parole under the law. 

"If the law as it is crafted says that all the inmates are qualified to be released, then that's what the law says... there is the rule of law and we have to abide by the rule of law," the presidential spokesman said. 

"That's the law. We cannot rely on emotion or whatever. We have to follow the law. As the president said, just follow the law and everything will be in place." 

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Sanchez was convicted for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her boyfriend UP student Allan Gomez in 1993. The former mayor was sentenced to seven life terms of up to 40 years each in 1995.

On Tuesday, the Justice department said Sanchez and about 11,000 other inmates may be released from prison within the next two months because of a new law increasing good conduct time allowance and a Supreme Court ruling applying it retroactively.

No need for president's approval

Panelo said those who have issues against the law should relay their concerns to Congress. The release of Sanchez does not require the approval of the president, he added. 

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the New Bilibid Prison and the Bureau of Corrections would review Sanchez's good conduct time allowances if there are any. If the mayor has served the reduced sentence, he would walk free.

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While he denied involvement, Panelo said he is happy that his former client would be released.

"Any lawyer would feel happy if his former client is released to have a new life," Panelo said, adding that he no longer communicates with Sanchez.  

"As a lawyer, I'm not attached to any of my cases I have emotionally. Whatever the court says, that's it. Lawyers are not supposed to be emotionally attached (to their cases)."

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In an interview years after he was convicted, Sanchez said he would run for mayor again if he is released from prison.  

But Panelo thinks Sanchez's conviction may bar him from seeking public office.  

"I think he cannot run unless he seeks absolute pardon... otherwise, he cannot run," he added.

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