PRESIDENT RODRIGO R. Duterte’s spokesman yesterday said he met twice with the family of a convict for whom he had lawyered to discuss a request for executive clemency.
Salvador S. Panelo, who is also the president’s chief lawyer, told CNN Philippines that former Calauan Mayor Antonio L. Sanchez’s family had visited him at the presidential palace two times early this year. He denied any wrongdoing.
“What to me is inappropriate is if I advised the president as chief presidential legal counsel to grant clemency,” Mr. Panelo said. “I just referred the matter to the appropriate agency and that’s for them to do whatever they want.”
At Tuesday’s Senate hearing, Reynaldo G. Bayang, who heads the Board of Pardons and Parole, told senators that Mr. Panelo had written a letter dated Feb. 26 referring the plea of Mr. Sanchez’s daughter to free her father.
Mr. Panelo, who lawyered for Mr. Sanchez in his rape-slay case for which he was sentenced to seven life terms in 1995, said he had never recommended his release.
He said a simple referral was “totally different from a recommendation or an endorsement.”
The parole board rejected Mr. Sanchez’s plea, Mr. Bayang earlier told senators.
Meanwhile, senators said Bureau of Corrections Director-General Nicanor E. Faeldon should take a leave, if not resign, pending an investigation of his agency’s procedures in inmates’ early release for good conduct.
“Prudence dictates maybe he should at least offer a leave of absence to the president to allow the president to conduct an investigation,” Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri told reporters yesterday.
Mr. Sanchez’s early release was canceled after public uproar. 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, according to prison data.
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 on Tuesday, Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III and Senators Richard J. Gordon and Panfilo M. Lacson said the law might be prejudicial to the victims and their relatives who had sought justice. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Charmaine A. Tadalan