PRESIDENT RODRIGO ROA Duterte’s spokesman referred the application of a convicted former mayor for executive clemency, according to the chief of the countrys’ parole board.

Salvador S. Panelo, who is also the president’s chief lawyer, had written a letter dated Feb. 26 referring the plea of former Calauan Mayor Antonio L. Sanchez’s daughter to free her father, Reynaldo G. Bayang, who heads the Board of Pardons and Parole, told senators yesterday.

“We are referring this matter to your good office for your evaluation and whatever appropriate action you may want to undertake under the premises,” according to a copy of the letter.

The board had rejected the ex-politician’s application, Mr. Bayan said at a hearing investigating the early release plan for Mr. Sanchez and thousands of other convicts for good conduct.

Mr. Panelo, who lawyered for Mr. Sanchez in his rape-slay case for which he was sentenced to seven life terms in 1995, yesterday told a briefing he never recommended his release.

The presidential spokesman also said he had met with the ex-mayor’s family about their clemency request at the presidential palace in February, where he promised to “refer the same as we refer all.”

He also did not see anything wrong about dealing with the Sanchez family. “It was 27 years ago. Another thing, I was only one of the lawyers. I was not even the lead counsel,” he said.

In a separate statement, Mr. Panelo said the president has asked the Justice department to study if authorities could rearrest about 2,000 heinous crime convicts released for good conduct.

Of the 22,049 inmates released for good conduct since 2013, 1,914 had been convicted of heinous crimes, according to data from the Bureau of Corrections.

Meanwhile, three senators have filed a bill seeking to repeal the law allowing the early release of a convict for good conduct.

In a joint statement, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senators Richard J. Gordon and Panfilo M. Lacson said “there’s a logical reason to abandon the grant of good conduct time allowance if the magnitudes of its aftermath are prejudicial for many of the victims and their relatives who are seeking justice.”

About 2,000 inmates convicted of heinous crimes have been released since the start of the decade even if they were not supposed to be covered by the law.

At the hearing yesterday, senators asked Bureau of Corrections Director-General Nicanor E. Faeldon why he approved Mr. Sanchez’s release. The prison chief earlier said he postponed his release pending a review.

Lawmaker learned at the hearing that the Sanchez family had also sought the help of former Laguna Governor Emilio Ramon P. Ejercito III and former Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda R. Marcos for his early release.

His wife Elvira also admitted meeting with Mr. Faeldon at his office on Aug. 21, a holiday. “We went to his office to clarify the things that we heard about the news that my husband was about to be released,” she told the hearing.

Also yesterday, Party-list Rep. Jericho B. Nograles said officials who approved the release of felons convicted of heinous crimes should be charged criminally and administratively.

For his part, Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman said the release of the convicts was a “massive jailbreak.” “Since their improvident release is errant and illegal, they must be reincarcerated as virtual fugitives to serve their full sentences.” — Charmaine A. Tadalan, Vince Angelo C. Ferreras and Arjay L. Balinbin