Panelo admits meeting Sanchez family in Malacañang

Pia Ranada
Panelo admits meeting Sanchez family in Malacañang

Robinson Ninal

The convict's former lawyer, who is now spokesperson of President Rodrigo Duterte, does not see anything wrong with it

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo admitted he met with the family of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez as they were requesting for executive clemency for the inmate.

“They came to the office. It was an email then they came. I told them exactly, ‘We will refer the same as we refer all,’” said Panelo on Tuesday, September 3 in a Malacañang press conference.

The meeting took place in his Palace office in February or around the time he wrote a letter to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole (BPP) about their request for executive clemency.

In previous press conferences, Panelo said he never had any contact with the Sanchez family since 1995 when he quit as their legal counsel.

But on Tuesday, Panelo said he thought he had been asked about communicating with Sanchez himself.

“My understanding of the question is it was in reference to Sanchez himself,” said the spokesman.

Panelo denied there was a conflict of interest in his referring the Sanchez family’s request for executive clemency, despite the fact that he had been one of Sanchez’ lawyers in the rape-murder case. For this reason, he did not inhibit from referring their letter to the BPP.

“No, because in the first place, it was 27 years ago. Another thing, I was just one of the lawyers. I was not even the lead counsel,” he said. 

He said his referral letter to BPP on the Sanchez’ request was not tantamount to “intervention.”

“No intervention. The letter speaks for itself. The application was referred to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole for its evaluation in accordance with law,” he told Rappler in a text message on Tuesday.

The email from Sanchez’ daughter Marie Antonelvie was sent on February 8, based on a hardcopy version of the email Panelo showed to reporters. 

He acted on the email in less than 3 weeks because his letter to the BPP was dated February 26.


He said it is “standard operating procedure” for his office to respond to letters about prisoners since it is the “policy of the President to respond to all letters addressed to the Office of the President.”

The referral letter was supposedly one of “hundreds” of similar requests from relatives of prison inmates sent to his office, 23 of which he brought to the press conference to show to reporters.

“We have hundred similar requests and we refer the same to BPP with standard referral letter,” said Panelo.

He read out two of the letters during the press conference.

“One is addressed to, letter dated January 21 from Mrs Nora Basher. December 18, 2018 coming from Mr Jason Hernandez…. ‘We write in reference to the letter dated November 29, 2016 from Mr Jason Hernandez regarding his application for executive clemency,” read out Panelo. 

The letter about Hernandez supposedly contained the same lines as in the letter about Sanchez.

“In line with the President’s commitment for good governance, transparency, and immediate action on the matters that affect the welfare of the people, we are referring this matter to your good office for your evaluation and whatever appropriate action you may want to undertake under the premises,” read Panelo. 

Panelo said his office receives letters about health matters of prisoners, requests for commutation of sentence, aside from executive clemency requests.

He reiterated that, despite the existence of his referral letter, he supported the legal view that heinous crime convicts like Sanchez should not benefit from the Good Conduct Time Allowance law. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at