In this Jan. 15, 2019 photo, presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo holds a press briefing at Malacañang.
The STAR/Joven Cagande, File
Panelo's referral letter on Sanchez release gave 'perception of pressure' — Drilon
( - September 6, 2019 - 11:54am

MANILA, Philippines — While presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo insisted that he did not intervene on the aborted release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez, Sen. Franklin Drilon said the Malacañang spokesman's letter gave pressure to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

Panelo, also presidential chief legal counsel, has been arguing that he only referred the appeal of the Sanchez family for executive clemency to the right agency.

Drilon agreed that what Panelo issued was only a referral letter but it bore the seal of Malacañang.

"The letterhead used was Malacañang, Office of the Presidential Legal Counsel... If you receive this letter, the perceptions of power would put pressure on you," Drilon told ANC's "Headstart" Friday.

The senator also pointed out that Panelo was the former legal counsel of Sanchez and that should have prevented him from making the referral letter.

According to Drilon, any assistant from Panelo's office could have signed the referral letter but the presidential chief legal counsel's signature gives the letter a "perception of pressure."

Asked if Panelo should be called to the Senate to explain his referral letter, Drilon said the Malacañang spokesman should go and also shed light on reports that he talked to the Sanchez family at least twice.

"I underscore the perception of impropriety because he was the lawyer of Sanchez. You cannot avoid that something was happening," Drilon said.

Earlier this week, Panelo confirmed that he met with the Sanchez family sometime in February, the same month that they asked for his help for the convict's executive clemency.

Panelo said he only told the Sanchez family that he would refer the letter and thay they would have to wait for the answer.

He made this admission after BPP executive director Reynaldo Bayang revealed in a Senate hearing that Panelo wrote a referral letter for the early release of the former Calauan mayor.

Despite the question of "conflict of interest" on Panelo, President Rodrigo Duterte cleared his spokesman and chief legal counsel, pointing out that the latter "just happened to become a lawyer."

"He was asked for help because he was the former lawyer. What’s wrong with that?" Duterte said in Filipino. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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