Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Wednesday denied he had a hand in the impending release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez who was sentenced to life in prison for the rape and murder of two University of the Philippines students.
Panelo was one of the seven lawyers of Sanchez in the 1993 rape-murder case of UP Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the death of her companion Allan Gomez.
Sanchez was found guilty and sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua in 1995.
“That was too long ago. I was his lawyer 27 years ago. I withdrew even before the appeal [of the mayor in his case],” Panelo told reporters in a phone call.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra also said the intervention of any person, including Panelo, would not be necessary in Sanchez’s release. The approval of President Rodrigo Duterte was also not needed.
Guevarra said the Duterte administration was merely implementing a law and a Supreme Court ruling ordering the retroactive application of the number of days credited to prisoners for their good conduct time allowance, study, teaching, mentoring and loyalty.
“The GCTA law was enacted by Congress and interpreted by the Supreme Court. The Executive department through the Department of Justice/Bureau of Corrections merely implements. We don’t have discretionary intervention of any sort, Guevarra said.
The former Laguna mayor might be released soon because of Republic Act 10592 expanding the good conduct time allowance and a Supreme Court decision in June applying the law retroactively, Guevarra said.
The GCTA provides additional time to be deducted from an inmate’s prison sentence as a reward for his or her good behavior.
“As correctly pointed out by Secretary Guevarra, there is no need for the intervention of anyone because there is a law granting freedom [to inmates],” Panelo said.
Sanchez will just be one of the thousands to benefit from the implementation of the law, according to Guevarra.
“We repeatedly say there is a rule of law. We have to abide by the rule of law,” Panelo said.
He also said he had no communication with Sanchez but wished him well in life if the authorities would grant him freedom.
“I wish him well. Like other lawyers who have imprisoned clients, of course, you will be happy for them because they can start a new life after their release,” Panelo said. With Rey E. Requejo