PRESIDENTIAL COMMUNICATIONS OPERATION OFFICE
News and Information Bureau
PRESS BRIEFING OF PRESIDENTIAL SPOKESPERSON SALVADOR PANELO
September 3, 2019/12:42-1:29 PM
SEC. PANELO: Good afternoon, MPC. I have a statement, I just read it.
We find it unfortunate that this representations’ referral letter to the Board of Pardons and Parole Executive Director Reynaldo G. Bayang, dated February 16, 2019 is unwittingly and erroneously and even maliciously being reported as a recommendation letter for the executive clemency for former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez as written by Inquirer.net.
This report is far from the truth and we find it defamatory in nature. There is no part of this representations’ official communication asking for intervention as texted by Pia of Rappler. I said no intervention; the referral letter speaks for itself.
On the contrary, this representation left it to the discretion of the Board of Pardons and Parole to evaluate the case of Mr. Sanchez.
I was listening to Senator Gordon earlier, his exact words were “ah so ni-refer pala, ni-refer lang pala.”
It has been the standard operating procedure of the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel to respond to all and I mean ‘all letters’ received by it and refer them to the appropriate department or agency which has the authority to act on the writers concern.
Everyday, we receive letters coming from all walks of life. Some of them are request for finances, for hospitalization; so many others from the inmates asking for clemency, asking for pardon, asking commutation. All of them, we respond because the policy of the President is to respond to all letters addressed to the Office of the President.
In fact, as I have been telling you before, this is the only administration that responds to all letters received by it; no other previous administration did that or will perhaps ever do that. That it’s precisely why I never leave my office until I refer the same to the appropriate agency everyday.
And sometimes when you go abroad or on an official activity outside of Malacañang, so the letters pile up in my table just right now.
So, the referral letter of Mrs. Marie Antonelvie J.Sanchez, who happened to be the daughter of former Mayor Sanchez, to the Board of Pardons and Parole is just one of the thousands of referrals this office has made to various government instrumentalities.
In fact, I have here so many letters with a standard form. All letters addressed to the BUCOR have the same content, exactly the same content with the exception of the name of the letter writer. There are hundreds of them.
As I previously said, I have no contact with Mayor Sanchez. And I even thought that the letter came from the wife of Mr. Sanchez. It can be seen in my instructions to my subordinate; when apparently it came from the daughter.
In other words, the news article of Inquirer.net – and in fact, I just texted them and I demanded rectification for that because it’s wreaking with irresponsibility in news reporting by saying that I recommend it. I never recommended anything. In other words, the office just physically act on referring the same to the appropriate agencies, we don’t do anything about it. And if they respond to us, we acknowledge the receipt of their response and thank them for taking action on the matter. That is the job of this office with respect to all letters received by it.
And when the President asked my opinion on the matter, I immediately told him that as far as Republic Act 10592 is concerned, those who are recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees as well as those convicted with heinous crimes are not covered by Republic Act 10592 by express provision and hence the conclusion is ex-Mayor Sanchez was not covered by it. And precisely, I issued a statement to that effect.
I am ready for your questions.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Sir, nagkaroon po kayo ng pagkakataon na makaharap ng personal at makausap ang pamilya Sanchez?
SEC. PANELO: Well, they came to the office and—was it personal received? Ah it was an email and then they came and I told them exactly we will refer the same, as we all refer all. We can’t do anything about it.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Iyon lang po ang pagkakataon na nakaharap n’yo sila?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Kelan daw ho, sir?
SEC. PANELO: We have to look at the record, because we have a record.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Iyon po iyong panahon na nagbigay sila ng sulat?
SEC. PANELO: I think so. Yes, more or less about that time.
ROSE NOVENARIO/HATAW: Isang beses lang po kayo nagkita?
SEC. PANELO: Do you remember? [talks to staff]
Basta what is important is I told them exactly the Bureau of Corrections will be the one to determine whether or not your application will be approved or not, we can’t do anything. We always follow the law.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Secretary, you were saying that letter of the Sanchez family is just one of the many letters being given to you or being sent to your office, is that right, Secretary?
SEC. PANELO: Yes, in fact, I have here. I have all letters have the same tenor/content, except—
HENRY URI/DZRH: So aside from the request of the Sanchez’s, meron po bang nag-request sa inyo na nakakulong sa Muntinlupa na iba pa na humihingi ng inyong referral para sila ay makasali doon sa posibleng pag-kwalipika sa GCTA?
SEC. PANELO: No, but not in reference with Republic Act 10592, it’s a general statement that ‘nakakulong po kami dito ng matagal, baka puwede na kaming ma-commute ng service namin.’ Puro ganoon, walang binabanggit about the—
HENRY URI/DZRH: Yeah, meron pong iba pa, maliban sa—
SEC. PANELO: Marami, in fact, I brought—
HENRY URI/DZRH: Can you name us one, para meron lang kaming—
SEC. PANELO: One is addressed to… letter dated January 21, from Mrs. Nora Basier. Another one December 18, 2018, coming from Mr. Jayson Hernandez.
HENRY URI/DZRH: Ano pong mga nakalagay riyan?
SEC. PANELO: Pare-pareho nga eh, the same—
HENRY URI/DZRH: Can you read that, for the record, Secretary.
SEC. PANELO: Na alin?
HENRY URI/DZRH: Iyong nakasulat diyan sa iba pang request, maliban doon sa request ng mga Sanchez?
SEC. PANELO: It’s the same nga eh: “We write in reference to the letter dated November 29, 2016 from Mr. Jayson Hernandez regarding his application for executive clemency. For ready reference attached is a copy of the said letter.
“In line with the President’s commitment for good governance, transparency and immediate action on 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.
“We request your good office to update us of any development with respect to the same for record purposes and for whatever action this office may want to undertake consistent – please take note – ‘consistent with law and the policy of the President for good governance.’ Thank you for your prompt attention. I remain very truly yours.” This is the exact letter that we sent to Mayor Sanchez. The only difference is the name and the date.
HENRY URI/DZRH: So after you wrote a letter to that agency, the BuCor. Ano ang naging sagot sa sa inyo ng BuCor?
SEC. PANELO: There was a response… on February 26, 2019, this is my letter addressed to the Executive Director Bayang, we write in reference so forth and so on. And then—nasaan iyon? The response of the BuCor. On March 19, the response was, addressed to this representation, “Sir, this refers to your letter dated 26 February 2019, forwarding for appropriate action the request for executive clemency of Mrs. Marie Antonelvie Sanchez in behalf of her father, person deprived of liberty, Antonio Sanchez y Leyza, prison number N95P-0481 who is presently confined at the New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City. In this connection, please be informed that in its meeting of February 27, 2019, the Board resolved to deny the motion for reconsideration filed by PDL Sanchez in the iterated resolution number DFEC/DNEC-12-10-18 of the Board dated 10 December 2018 denying his petition for executive clemency citing the gravity of the offense he has committed as the reason thereof. Very Truly Yours, Reynaldo G. Bayang.”
And I responded. And this is my response, April 11, “Dear Executive Director Bayang, we acknowledge receipt of your letter dated March 19, 2019 regarding the subject above and appreciate your prompt response. Thank you. I Remain Very Truly Yours.”
HENRY URI/DZRH: How did you inform the family of Mayor Sanchez regarding that decision?
SEC. PANELO: Here: On April 11, we wrote this letter to Ms. Marie Antonelvie Sanchez, “Dear Ms. Sanchez, further to your letter dated February 8 regarding the application of your father, Mr. Antonio L. Sanchez, for executive clemency, please find the attached copy of the letter reply dated March 19, 2019 from the Executive Director of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Mr. Reynaldo Bayang. Very Truly Yours.”
HENRY URI/DZRH: Sila po ba ay sumulat ulit o pinuntahan kayo sa opisina ninyo para kausapin kayo?
SEC. PANELO: Wala na. I don’t recall na pumunta pa sila.
HENRY URI/DZRH: So when was the last time you talked to the family?
SEC. PANELO: We’ll have to check the records. Because I remember, I was having a press briefing, when I came out nandiyan sila sa labas.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Hi, sir. Good morning. Sir, I understand you don’t recall the exact date of the meeting, your first meeting with the Sanchez family. But at least, is it sometime February?
SEC. PANELO: Yeah, we have. I think we have the record.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. And ang nagpunta po sa office ay si Marie Antonelvie?
SEC. PANELO: Actually, alam ko mga anak sila.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sa inyo po nakipag-usap, sir, sa office ninyo?
SEC. PANELO: Siyempre sa mga staff, and then pinapasok ko sa opisina.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Just a clarification, sir. Because in several of your interviews, you have repeatedly said that you don’t have any communications with the Sanchez family. So—
SEC. PANELO: Eh official—hindi, walang personal communication. But official, pumunta sila. As you can see the… my letter speak for themselves. There’s nothing there that will even remotely be viewed as an intervention or as a recommendation. Even after its denial, the same, acknowledged received, pinadala, tapos.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So just to be clear, sir: You don’t have any relationship with the Sanchez family?
SEC. PANELO: Oo, definitely none. Definitely none. In fact, to be very frank, I didn’t even recognize them because I saw them 27 years ago, when they were still very young. Siyempre nagbago na iyong mga mukha nila.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: And, sir, why didn’t you mention this to the media during our previous interview para lang mas naging transparent sana?
SEC. PANELO: Eh kasi, lahat ng mga—pare-pareho ang ano eh … the same, I respond to the same letters of all kinds. Kumbaga, it’s a standard. Walang personal. There’s nothing personal in communicating with them; it’s all official.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. So you don’t see it necessary to divulge this meeting?
SEC. PANELO: No, because it’s official. It’s all recorded. There’s nothing there.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Sir, but—quick follow up on Maricel’s question. But we particularly asked you about Sanchez, and you said you have no communication—
SEC. PANELO: Because I really didn’t have any communication with Mayor Sanchez. Because the question was in reference to Mayor Sanchez himself. I haven’t seen him for so many… 20 years plus. There was an official request, and I referred it official.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Ang sabi ninyo po kasi dito, sir, noong nasa China kayo, Marlon Ramos asked you. Sabi niya, “Pardon me for asking this, pero before this issue became very public na nagkaroon outrage, have you been in communication with the family, with the family of former Mayor Sanchez.” And you replied, “Eh matagal na kasing nakakulong iyon eh. Noong binisita ko siya, three years after the conviction.”
SEC. PANELO: Exactly. So in other words, my response was in relation to Sanchez himself – ‘matagal na siyang nakakulong.’ So my understanding was the question was in reference to Mayor Sanchez himself.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Sir, iyong question po kasi, “Have you been in communication with the family of …
SEC. PANELO: But ang dating sa akin ng tanong, kaya nga iyong response ko, “nakakulong siya eh.” So in other words, my understanding of the question was in reference to Mayor Sanchez himself. I may have misheard that particular… exactly the response was in reference to Mayor Sanchez himself.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: And don’t you see it proper to divulge in public that you have a communication with the family?
SEC. PANELO: As I already said, the communication is official; it’s recorded. When you say—because to me, ang dating ng tanong ninyo… iyong tanong na nag-communicate ka iyong ano pa kayo, mayroon pa kayong rapport, mayroon kayong relasyon, na magkakaibigan kayo. But mine is official eh. It’s an official communication written to this office, and we responded by referring the same.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Sir, can you describe to us what was the atmosphere when you had a meeting with the family of Sanchez? Ano po iyong sinabi ninyo sa kaniya?
SEC. PANELO: Sinabi ko… sabi ko, iri-refer ko itong letter ninyo and then maghintay na lang kayo ng sagot. Iyon lang.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: And you don’t consider that as an intervention?
SEC. PANELO: Definitely, how can you—you know, this office, as I said, receives and responds to all letters. We cannot discriminate; otherwise we will be accused of being partial and discriminatory. Kailangan lahat sasagutin mo.
JULIE: Sir, you were the former lawyer of Mayor Sanchez.
SEC. PANELO: Yes, one of the lawyers. There were seven of us.
JULIE: Yeah. When you received the letter seeking for help and you referred it to the proper agency in charge of it, did you not see it necessary or proper to inhibit yourself since you were the former lawyer?
SEC. PANELO: No, because I was just referring the matter to the appropriate authority. And I refer all kinds of letters, the same. I don’t want to be accused by anyone that just because I’m a lawyer I would be not doing anything for an official communication, which as a matter of policy by the Office of the President is for me or this office to respond immediately.
JULIE: Did it not cross your mind that you being a former lawyer of the Sanchez family na it might be colored because of your previous relationship—
SEC. PANELO: No. In the first place, it was 27 years ago. Another thing, I was only one of the lawyers; I was not even the lead counsel.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Sir, follow-up lang po. You said that the visit of the Sanchez family to you and their letter to you is official record naman, it’s official communication.
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: If it is official communication, did you not see the need to be transparent about it to the media—
SEC. PANELO: There’s no need to be transparent. This is recorded, anybody can look over the record. It’s there, anybody can see. It’s open.
JULIE AURELIO/PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER: Thank you, sir.
USEC. ROCKY: Okay. Questions? Reymund.
SEC. PANELO: In fact, that is transparency; when you record the visit, when you record the request, when you record the response – that is transparency.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, what we are talking about is simply the letter to the Board of Parole and Pardon, right?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So, for the record. No more letter, for example, of referral to the—in particular naman doon sa Bureau of Corrections for this Good Conduct Tome Allowance benefit of Mayor Sanchez?
SEC. PANELO: Only to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Which is for?
SEC. PANELO: So, it’s not even—
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So, wala ng lalabas ha na sulat mo?
SEC. PANELO: Oo, definitely not because it’s all there. It’s recorded.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, mag-shift lang tayo sa—pero related pa rin sa controversial issue. Sir, so you and the President agree that Mr. Sanchez is not ever qualified to be—
SEC. PANELO: He cannot because the law is very clear that those convicted of heinous crimes are not covered.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: And… but with that—before that BuCor Director General released or wrote a memo/order—a release order for Sanchez even though it is—he is not qualified to benefit from the GCTA Law?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know about Mr. Faeldon. He can respond to your question. I’m not privy to anything that he did.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Yes. So, with—isn’t that incompetence on the part of Mr. Faeldon?
SEC. PANELO: That is for the Senate investigation to—there is an ongoing investigation and I said on my statement, the President will wait for ongoing investigation and wait for the recommendation.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: But, not knowing of his job and not knowing this law, isn’t it incompetence?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for the President to decide. I talked with him yesterday and that’s what he told me: “There is an ongoing investigation and I’ll wait for the investigation.”
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: With what has been said and done and admitted by Mr. Faeldon, is he still as competent to remain in office?
SEC. PANELO: I cannot say anything about that because, first: that lies on the President’s discretion. I will not prejudging any person in this arena. It’s the Senate investigation conducting it, they will be having their own recommendations and the President will evaluate and make a decision, unless sooner decided by the President himself.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: And it’s up to Mr. Faeldon if he wants to resign before the President act on it?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for him—that’s for his—
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: So, he may resign if he wants?
SEC. PANELO: That’s his call. I would not want to suggest anything or imply anything. As far as I’m concern, the President’s statement is clear: There is an investigation and I’ll wait for that investigation to terminate.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Yes. So, it’s his choice if he wants to resign?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for him to decide.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Thank you, sir.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Sir, aren’t you disappointed with the performance of Faeldon considering that when he was the Chief of Bureau of Customs, nagkaroon ng issue. And then now, he’s at BuCor, there’s another controversy?
SEC. PANELO: I cannot make any assessment of what he did. In the first place, I’m not there every day to assess what his performance is. He has his explanation and he’s doing that in the Senate. So, let us wait for the Senate, what they think of his explanation whether it’s justified of not.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So, for now, do you still consider him as an asset in the government?
SEC. PANELO: That’s for the President to decide, that’s not for me to decide.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Can we say that the President—
SEC. PANELO: My duty is to echo what the President’s thought are and not my personal opinion.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Can we say—
SEC. PANELO: In my opinion personal is irrelevant to any matter concerning government affairs.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: And can we say that the President still trusts Faeldon?
SEC. PANELO: Until such time as the President says otherwise, the status quo remains.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: So, he does—
SEC. PANELO: Unless, sooner changed. In other words, you know, the presumption is always the President gives you trust and confidence, but as he always tell all of us, ‘that is subject to change without prior notice. When I receive certain information that may impair the trust, then I will remove it.’ So, let’s wait for the President.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Okay. So, meaning for now, the President has no plans of firing Faeldon?
SEC. PANELO: I do not know about his plans because he has not told me, but there was a statement from Senator Bong Go, I do not know how true/accurate that was in the Inqui—was that Inquirer?
MPC: [(off mic) unclear]
SEC. PANELO: Ano ‘yun?
MPC: [(off mic) unclear]
SEC. PANELO: Hindi. What I read in the plane is that—what’s that ‘PRRD ready to fire something.’ Iyon nang galing… galing ‘yun kay Senator Bong Go.
MPC: [(off mic) unclear]
SEC. PANELO: Hindi… hindi ko alam. Basta kung ano lang sinabi sa akin ni Presidente, iyon lang ipinapaalam ko sa inyo.
MARICEL HALILI/TV5: Thank you, sir.
USEC ROCKY: Okay. Chona then—
SEC. PANELO: But what is important, you know the President particularly… particularly directed me issue a statement relative to Mrs. Chiong’s lamentation. Because Mrs. Chiong, the mother of the sisters involved in that murder case, was effectively blaming the President about this law and that is why the President says I have to issue statement and tell Mrs. Chiong particularly and the public the history of that law.
The law 10592 was introduced in Congress in 2013 and both the Senate and the House passed the same and President Benigno Aquino, the former President, signed it into law. Now I think what made it messy is that former Senator, former Secretary of Justice, now detained Lilia de Lima—
SEC. PANELO: Leila de Lima issued and crafted a reso—implementing rules and regulations together with the DILG Secretary Roxas, placing those convicted of heinous crimes as covered by Republic Act 10592. I think that started the whole thing. That’s why the President says, “It’s not in my Administration.” And if they’re saying that why are you not removing those people who have been doing the wrong computations? The President’s answer is: “I cannot do that because they are covered by the Security of Tenure. They are—they were employees of the previous Administration and even prior to that. So, please don’t blame me. Tell that to Mrs. Chiong.” That’s why I issued a statement.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Sec, nabanggit n’yo sa mga recent press briefings, hindi n’yo nga alam na naipasa na ‘yung GCTA?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Kailan?
SEC. PANELO: In other words—Hindi, nalaman ko lang nung pumutok na.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Kailan n’yo nalaman na—
SEC. PANELO: Nung pumutok. Noon ba noong tinanong n’yo ako.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Mga July, August, ganun po?
SEC. PANELO: No, ‘yung nito lang. Itong Au—itong pagputok. Kailan ba pumutok ‘yun?
MPC: [off mic] August.
SEC .PANELO: Ninoy… Ninoy ano yata ‘yun eh.
MPC: [off mic] Third week.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Okay.
SEC. PANELO: August—
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So, August.
SEC. PANELO: August 20, 21 yata.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Mga ganun.
SEC. PANELO: When it erupted in the papers, I think—who was the one who asked me? Joseph Morong? Sabi niya, release na. Huh? Bakit? Bakit mare-release? That was my response. And then, nabasa ko nga na may Republic 10592. Anyway, I heard Secretary Guevarra saying na, “there’s no need for intervention, not even Panelo, kasi that’s the law.” So, binasa namin ‘yung law. Nakita ko dun na hindi naman talaga puwede that’s why I issued a statement. In fact, when I… when I haven’t read the law yet, my statement is: whatever the law is, we have to implement.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: ‘Yung letter po ni Marie Sanchez, did it cite the GCTA doon sa request for executive—
SEC. PANELO: No. Wala nga that’s why I told you all the letters never cited any Republic Act 10592.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: Hindi nila cinite na—
SEC. PANELO: Kasi ako ‘pag nakikita ko lang na inmate pinapasa ko na agad sa mga abogado eh.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: So, it never cited na dahil may GCTA—
SEC. PANELO: Wala.
ACE ROMERO/PHILIPPINE STAR: And our father is—
SEC. PANELO: In fact, ‘di ba naka-attach ‘yun—ano ba nakalagay sa letter niya?
Dear Mr. Secretary,
I’m cordially writing you in relation to the case of my father, Mr. Antonio L. Sanchez, who was a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, which you originally handled as counsel. Anent thereto, I respectfully requesting the assistance of your good office by providing us if possible, recommendations from you, former special aide to the President, Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Go, and our good President, His Excellency the Honorable Rodrigo Roa Duterte, for the grant of pardon unto my father.
In view thereof, I respectfully forwarding to you the hereto attached documents composed of various recommendations of different government officials and other supporting papers. Any help that you could possibly extend to us shall be highly appreciated and rest assured that it shall be treated with outmost confidentiality. Thank you very much and have a blessed day!
ALEX ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Ah ok. So it was not in relation to GCTA?
SEC. PANELO: No.
ALEX ROMERO/PHIL. STAR: Parang simpleng request for pardon.
SEC. PANELO: Oo.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, when you forwarded… when you referred the application for executive clemency doon sa Board of Pardons and Parole, were you aware that his petition for executive clemency – Mayor Sanchez – was denied on December 10, 2018?
SEC. PANELO: That is why nga eh di ba. Binasa ko na iyong response ko, kasi I was told. Di ba, I read kanina. The letter of Reynaldo Bayang says: ‘In this connection, please be informed that in its meeting February 27, 2019, the Board resolved to deny the motion for reconsideration.’ And my response was – on April 11: ‘We acknowledged receipt of your letter dated March 19, 2019 regarding the above subject and appreciate your prompt response. Thank you, I remain.’ Iyon lang.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, sir when you referred the letter, denied na siya. So, you still maneuver?
SEC. PANELO: I don’t know about the denial. Kasi nalaman ko lang, dineny—nalaman ko lang—I only knew of the motion for reconsideration because the letter says so, coming from Bayang.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, was there no need to examine o parang does your office see letter there is no need to examine every letter of request that goes to your office to check whether the letter warrants an action from your office?
SEC. PANELO: No. The action from the office is to refer everything to the concerned agency. That’s the function, we are just following the instruction of the President na lahat ng sumusulat, lahat ng humihingi ng tulong i-refer ninyo sa mga ahensya ng gobyerno; at iyong mga ahensiya ng gobyerno naman they have – what, how many days to respond? Kailangan mag-action kayo whether denial or grant, kailangan may action.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, you don’t check, you don’t filter every letter of request that goes to your office?
SEC. PANELO: We read the letter and then if the letter refers to for an instance the Bureau of Pardons and Parole, we refer it to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole. If it is a problem involving the Department of Agriculture, we refer it immediately to the Department Secretary. So, palagi lang kaming referral.
The people write letters to the Office of the President. Kasi kapag kami ang sumulat, referring the same to them, dahil galing sa Office of the President, mas madali iyong response. Kasi hindi ba ang reklamo ng lahat ng tao, isang taon na, dalawang taon na, walang nangyari sa mga sulat nila. Karamihan talagang hindi sinasagot, kami we respond it immediately.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, it doesn’t mean that your office so merit in their application for executive clemency, that’s why you referred it to the Bureau of —
SEC. PANELO: Because we—on the first place, we do not have the authority. We do not have the authority, our job is to refer it to the proper agencies for their evaluation and their action in accordance with law.
I think the job of the Office of the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel with respect to the letters is just to forward it immediately for them, for them to take action. Kasi nga palaging complaints is walang nangyayari, Kasi usually ang mga reklamo, ‘sinulatan na po namin, isang taon na po iyan, iyong iba anim na buwan pinabalik-balik po kami.’ So we write, we refer to you this letter for your evaluation and for whatever response.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Sir, didn’t you even consider the possibility that that action from your office from your office would be construed as conflict of interest on your part?
SEC. PANELO: No, how can it be a conflict?
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Because you were the former counsel of Sanchez?
SEC. PANELO: No, I do not think so. Because in the first place, we do exactly the same thing to all, all equally treated, kahit na sino, ke kaibigan ka, ke kamag-anak ka, basta kung ano iyong batas, we will follow the law.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Is there anything else that you want to tell us about the Sanchez case na official communication, baka hindi namin naitanong, sir?
SEC. PANELO: Kung ano iyong nasa record, iyon na lang iyon.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Is there anything that is on official record that you feel that is important to tell us about the Sanchez case, to tell the public?
SEC. PANELO: Basta iyon ang sinabi ko sa kanila, kung ano iyong batas. Of course, they are saying na inosente. Ang sabi ko sa kanila, eh may desisyon ang Korte Suprema. Oh, may dalawang nag-testigo, kung iyong mga nagsinungaling, di iyon ang pakiusapan ninyo na sabihin nila ang totoo kung hindi totoo iyong sinabi nila.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: Last na lang, sir categorically, did you lie when you answer that you had no communication with the Sanchez’s?
SEC. PANELO: My understanding of the question is in reference to Sanchez himself.
PIA GUTIERREZ/ABS-CBN: So, iyon yung pagkakaintindi ninyo, sir sa question?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Sir, when the President asked your legal advice. Did you not informed him that you had a meeting with the—
SEC. PANELO: Oh yes, I did. Of course, I did. I told him.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: What was the response of the President?
SEC. PANELO: He was listening. I told him, oh nagpunta nga iyan sa akin, sabi ko talagang iyan ang batas.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: And did you inform also the President that the family of Sanchez is applying for executive clemency?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko na sinabi iyon. Basta sinabi ko lumapit na iyan.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: And why did you not tell the President that he is applying for executive clemency. Did you not see any necessity to inform the President?
SEC. PANELO: You know—let me tell you this: When I read something, di may binabasa ko executive clemency, nire-refer ko kakagad iyan sa mga abogado ko, gumawa na kayo ng usual letter, there are three lawyers, ina-assign ko na iyan eh. Sa dami, hindi ko na—I don’t have that time to ponder or to what. Basta automatic iyan refer, tapos pirma.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Can you tell us, sir what was the exact quote of the President when you informed him that you had a meeting with the family?
SEC. PANELO: Well, the response of the President was, ‘I was the first one to call Faeldon and told him not to release, tell that to the media.’ Iyon! That’s why… di ba sinabi ko kaagad sa inyo.
CHONA YU/RADYO INQUIRER: Do you believe na wala kang ginawang mali dito sa—
SEC. PANELO: Oh definitely, because it’s all there, the letter speak for themselves. My referral speak for itself, my response to Director Bayang is also speaks for itself.
JULIE: Sir, balikan ko lang po iyong statement n’yo po kaninang umaga, the last paragraph said na the President will not tolerate any form of injustice being committed under his watch and for this reason that he will ensure that the practice initiated by the past administration on the granting of GCTA will no longer continue. What do you mean by this, ire-repeal iyong batas?
SEC. PANELO: No, it means that, first, hindi ba sinabi ko, what made it so messy is because of the implementing rules and regulations; kailangan baguhin mo iyong implementing rules and regulations. Now, after mabago iyan, you will leave it to the wisdom of the lawmakers whether to amend it or to repeal it. Iyon ang ibig naming sabihin.
JULIE: But for now, the Executive branch can only amend iyong IRR?
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
JULIE: Iyon lang iyong gusto ninyo sa ngayon?
SEC. PANELO: To be consistent with the law, that those who are excluded expressly should not be considered because they are automatically disqualified.
JULIE: Pero di ba, sir, iyong RA 10592 only amends iyong RPC which already included iyong pag-grant ng GCTA? Kumbaga, in-expand lang niya, dinagdagan niya ng araw?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, kasi nga doon sa … I understand, doon sa IRR, isinama nila iyong may heinous crimes puwede. Kaya iyon naman ang sinasabi ng mga nandoon sa ano, iyong mga nag-process. Kaya nga nagkaroon ng gulo because of that IRR which was crafted by the previous administration, by the former Secretary of Justice; hindi DOJ ni Secretary Guevarra.
JULIE: Sir, balikan ko lang po iyong tanong ni Pia about iyong pagri-review po natin ng mga letters na pinapadala sa office natin. Given na …you said that you automatically refer iyong mga letters na iyon to the concerned agencies for appropriate action, do you not feel na it is parang irresponsible not to review or carefully scrutinize iyong mga letters na iyon before forwarding it to another agency?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi, binabasa nga eh. Precisely nga binabasa mo para… you’re reading precisely the contents of the letter. And that’s why you’re referring it to them para kapag nag-response sila, alam mo kung anong response regarding kung—if you notice, may nakalagay dito, in all the letters ha whether it involves the inmate or any ordinary writer, “We request that your good office update us for record purposes and for whatever action this office may want to undertake consistent with law and the policy of the President for good government.”
Halimbawa, sumagot, sasabihin, ‘Hindi totoo iyong sinasabi niya.” So ang gagawin naman namin, we will write naman the letter writer, “Oh ito ang sagot ng ano.” Sasagutin naman kami, babalik na naman namin. Kaya very transparent, kung ano iyong sinabi—ngayon, if there is a legal issue involved, that’s the time I will ask the lawyers, “Study this particular law, whether the letter writer is correct in saying that this and that.” That’s the time we make an opinion, and then we advise the President.
JULIE: Sir, sorry, sabi ninyo niri-refer ninyo sa lawyers ninyo ‘di ba to see kung correct ba iyong letter writer. Iyong sa Sanchez case ba ‘di ba ni-refer ninyo rin to your lawyers, correct?
SEC. PANELO: Yes, I did.
JULIE: Anong sabi nila, sir?
SEC. PANELO: I referred it to Asec. Darren—
JULIE: Did they agree, sir? Did they agree na with merit iyong letter or hindi?
SEC. PANELO: Ang ginawa nila, nag-draft na sila ng standard. Binigay sa opisina ko, pinirmahan ko na, iyon lang.
JULIE: Which is iyong referral letter that you sent?
SEC. PANELO: Iyon lang, referral. Ni-refer namin sa Bureau of Pardons and Paroles.
JULIE: Sir, last na talaga from my end. After na-deny iyong GCTA, iyong everything, did the Sanchez family reached out to you again after this?
SEC. PANELO: No.
JULIE: So it was the last contact that you had with them.
SEC. PANELO: Yes. Nandito sila noong huling briefing, iyong briefing nga, iyong paglabas ko nandiyan sila.
Q: Mabilis lang po. Mayroon po bang data iyong si—mayroon po kayong data kung ilan po iyong mga na-refer nila sa Bureau of Corrections before po kay Sanchez?
SEC. PANELO: Ang dami. Ilan ba? Must be hundreds. Ito… ang dami nito eh, mahigit na singkuwenta ito. I can leave these to all of you.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Sir, you mentioned that in the letter by the Sanchez family, there are attached recommendations from other government agencies, correct, sir, granting Mr. Sanchez executive clemency?
SEC. PANELO: Not granting; recommending.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Recommending.
SEC. PANELO: Yes.
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Which agencies recommended?
SEC. PANELO: Hindi ko alam. I didn’t—
ARJAY BALINBIN/BUSINESS WORLD: Of course they mentioned in the letter?
SEC. PANELO: I didn’t go over the … iyong mga attachments kasi I referred that to the lawyer. Ang binabasa ko lang ay iyong main letter, then iyong mga attachment hindi ko na …. Kasi kung gagawin ko iyon, wala na akong magagawa; siyempre ibibigay ko na sa mga abogado.
TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Hi, sir. Nabanggit natin kanina na sumulat, nag-refer kayo sa Bureau of Pardons and Paroles, sinagot ninyo naman, and so on and so forth nagsasagutan kayo. And then, bakit hindi ninyo po nabanggit ito sa amin sa mga previous press briefings when in fact ang tagal-tagal nating tini-take up itong Sanchez issue, sir?
SEC. PANELO: As I said, it’s all in the record. It’s as transparent as it is in the record. Anybody could just look at the record.
TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Yes, sir. Pero kung hindi lumabas sa Senate investigation, sir, hindi kayo magsasalita ngayon. Puwede ninyo namang sinabi na sa amin before or last week.
SEC. PANELO: No, because the question was in reference to Sanchez himself eh, kung nakausap ko na mismo si Mayor Sanchez. Kaya sagot ko palagi, hindi.
TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Yes, but you could have said na iyong family, pumunta pala sa inyo.
SEC. PANELO: I stand by my statement that I have nothing to do, no intervention, nothing whatsoever. It was a referral letter which is consistent with our duty in the office to refer all letters to the appropriate agencies that should require their evaluation or action.
TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: So you believe, sir, or you feel na hindi kailangan na mabanggit ninyo sa amin kung hindi lumutang sa Senate investigation na mayroon pala kayong referral sa Bureau of Pardons and Paroles?
SEC. PANELO: Perhaps if the question was: Did the Sanchez family write you a letter? Then I can say, “Oh there’s a letter there, yes.” But the question palagi is: May contact pa ba kayo kay Mayor Sanchez? Mayor Sanchez mismo eh – the person himself eh.
TUESDAY NIU/DZBB: Yes, sir. But iyong sinasabi ninyo na it’s all in the records, hindi naman po iyon talaga… hindi naman kaagad nakikita ng public iyon, pero puwede ninyo sanang nasabi na agad.
SEC. PANELO: Well, I felt na since the question was in reference to Sanchez himself and the letter was not written by him—kaming mga abogado kasi ganiyan eh, iyong tanong mo lang, iyon ang sasagutin ko. Iyon ang tanong mo sa akin eh, si Mayor Sanchez, talaga namang hindi kami nagkakausap papaano ko.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Sir, doon sa isyu na hindi ninyo matanggal iyong mga kurakot sa Bureau of Corrections because of security of tenure. But nagawa ng Pangulo na palutangin lahat iyong sa Bureau of Customs at floating status, pinagri-report sa Kamara as he mentioned during the State of the Nation Address. Can’t he do this time sa Bureau of Corrections considering iyong ibinulgar ni former Director General, now Senator Bato dela Rosa na GCTA for sale? So hindi ninyo magawa sa Bureau of Corrections na lahat ng mga posibleng sangkot from the highest to the mid level officials ay floating din muna pending the investigation?
SEC. PANELO: What the President meant is that you cannot just remove them outright; you have to file charges. You have to have administrative charges. Kailangan may complaint. Hindi puwede iyong narinig mo lang na ganiyan, tatanggalin mo na. Iyong mga pinu-floating niya, iyon mayroong authority siya doon kasi mga higher level iyon eh. Ang sinasabi niya, iyong for instance, iyong mga nagku-compute, mga ordinary na empleyado.
REYMUND TINAZA/BOMBO RADYO: Eh di palutangin din niya. Floating lang din pending iyong investigation, parang iyong ginawa niya sa Customs.
SEC. PANELO: To my mind, what is important is that the President has directed that all those not qualified cannot be released.
ASEC. IGNACIO: Okay. Thank you, Reymund. Thank you, Secretary.
Source: PCOO-PND (News and Information Bureau-Data Processing Center)