PRESIDENTIAL Spokesperson Salvador Panelo vehemently denied Wednesday, August 21, that he had a hand in the impending release from jail of former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, a rape and murder convict.
Sanchez was convicted for the 1993 rape-slay of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her boyfriend Allan Gomez. The pretty Sarmenta was given to the mayor as a "gift", court documents showed.
Panelo was one of the lawyers of Sanchez, who was sentenced on March 11, 1995 to seven terms of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years imprisonment for each case.
"Mukhang masyadong malayo naman 'yun. Twenty seven years ago pa ako abugado noon. Dati nag-withdraw na ako. Even before the appeal, nag-withdraw na ako (It's impossible. I was his legal counsel 27 years ago. I already withdrew handling his case. Even before the appeal, I withdrew.)," Panelo said in a phone patch interview with Palace reporters.
"Hindi na kailangan ng guidance ng sinong tao na mag-intervene o lumakad sa release kasi merong batas na nag-benefit si Mr. Sanchez at saka 'yung 11,000 pa (There is no need for guidance of any person to intervene for an inmate's release since Sanchez and 11,000 others benefitted from the law)," he added.
Sanchez, along with at least 11,000 inmates, is expected to be set free in the next two months because of a new law raising good conduct time allowance and a Supreme Court decision implementing it.
Republic Act 10592 expands the application of good conduct time allowance for prisoners even during preventive imprisonment, as well as the the number of days that may be credited for good conduct.
The law also grants additional deduction of 15 days for each month of study, teaching, or mentoring service.
It also raises the special time allowance for loyalty and applies it to preventive imprisonment.
In June this year, the high court unanimously voted to allow retroactive application of the law.
Panelo said President Rodrigo Duterte's administration is merely implementing the law, regardless of the status of inmates who will be granted early release.
"Kung ano ang batas, sundin natin. 'Di ba sabi ni Presidente, just follow the law and everything will be in place (Let's follow the law. As what the President said, just follow the law and everything will be in place)," he said.
Asked if Sanchez deserves to be freed, Panelo said: "Well, kung (if) the law, as it is crafted, says that all the inmates who are qualified to be released, then that's what the law says and we have to, as we always repeatedly say, there's a rule of law and we always have to abide by the rule of law."
The Palace official nevertheless said that as a former lawyer of Sanchez, he was "happy" that the latter will soon be out of jail.
He also wished Sanchez well, as the former mayor will be given the chance to have a new life.
"Well, gaya ng sinumang dating nag-abugado, matutuwa ang isang abugado na ang kliyente niya 27 years ago ay makakalaya na, magkakaroon na ng bagong buhay (Any lawyer whose client 27 years ago will be released will be happy as his client will have a new life)," Panelo said. (SunStar Philippines)