PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, September 4, said cleared his spokesperson and chief legal counsel of allegations of conflict of interest, saying Salvador Panelo was right to refer to the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) the request of rape-murder convict Antonio Sanchez for executive clemency.
"Tama ‘yung ginawa ni Panelo (Panelo did the right thing), just a referral. Ang masama nun kung hinandle (handle) niya (What would have been wrong is if he handled that). But you know, I know the guy. Nobody but nobody dito sa kanila would dare talk to me about any problem," Duterte said.
"Everything is always referred to. ‘Yung kay Panelo (on Panelo's case)... The only correct way to do it is to refer it to the proper authority," he added.
Panelo served as one of the lawyers of Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape-slay of Mary Eileen Sarmenta and killing of Allan Gomez, both students of University of the Philippines Los Baños.
Duterte stressed that he still believes in Panelo's integrity.
"I have full faith in Panelo. Hindi ganyan 'yung tao. Nagkamali kayo. He has a thriving law practice. Lawyer 'yan. Kumikita 'yan nang malaki at hindi 'yan makiusap nang ganun, lalo na [para kay] Sanchez (He's a guy different from what you think about him. He earns huge sum of money and he would not favor anyone, especially Sanchez)," Duterte said.
"I can vouch for his character. I will have to stand by him because it is really the truth and he did what was or what is right," he added.
The Palace official denied hand in the possible early release of Sanchez, but on Tuesday, September 3, it was revealed during the Senate hearing on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) system that he referred to the BPP on February 19 the letter of Sanchez's daughter in relation to her father's request for executive clemency.
Panelo said that as Duterte's chief legal counsel, it was "standard operating procedure" for him to refer to appropriate government agencies the letters sent to his office.
Duterte defended Panelo shortly after he said he was demanding the immediate resignation of Bureau of Corrections Director General Nicanor Faeldon following the early release of convicts of heinous crimes for good behavior.
The President also ordered all 1,914 heinous crime convicts released since 2014 to surrender within 15 days.
If they fail to surrender within the period, Duterte said he was considering a P1-million bounty on each freed convict "dead or alive". (SunStar Philippines)