Senator Lacson and other detractors of the Duterte administration were quick to pounce on Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo’s letter to the Bureau of Pardons and Parole referring a letter from the daughter of convicted rapist killer Mayor Antonio Sanchez appealing for executive clemency.
Senator Panfilo Lacson was among the more prominent voices accusing Panelo of inappropriate behavior and of intervention. The first accusation is debatable and the second accusation is unsubstantiated.
And yet, obviously biased news outlets gorged on it without digging further into the Senator Lacson ‘s soundbytes spoon-fed to them by their patron… este… news source.
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The news reporters should have asked Senator Lacson, “What administrative, criminal, or civil liability are you accusing Presidential spokesman Panelo of?”
So, in an attempt to sort it out, I posted the same question on my Facebook account.
Luckily enough, my fellow political observer Albert C. Lim made what appears to be a good attempt that sorting things out.
In response to my question about Panelo’s liability, Albert said, “He has none except makapal ang mukha niya at para maka-epal ginamit pa ang official stationery ng opisina niya. Take note walang barcode ang sulat niya, meaning wala sa system.” (English translation: He has none except that he was thick faced and self aggrandizing in using the official stationary of his office. Take note his letter wasn’t barcoded so it isn’t logged in the document tracking system.)
Further on he explains, “His letter is in excess of his authority and jurisdIction. He should have referred/endorsed the letter to him to the proper office within the OP. He is a mere “counsel” to the President without any line function & authority.”
“As a mere counsel, he should have referred or endorsed the letter to the Office of the Executive Secretary (OES). The OES will perform the appropriate action.”
Still, Albert’s points are debatable and are probably proceeding based on mere assumptions as to how Panelo’s role was defined.
Positions such as presidential advisers can be created through an Executive Order and it is this document that defines the office as well as the appointee’s “authority and jurisdiction”.
But the Executive Order is not the only thing that defines the functions of a Presidential Adviser as sometimes the President may assign special tasks which needs to be done together with other functionaries.
In the case of Panelo’s letter, I don’t think it is unusual at all as I have on a number of occasions drafted such letters as part of the communications team of three cabinet secretaries and one presidential adviser.
There are cases where personal or professional acquaintances of the cabinet secretary ask for assistance in matters outside of the scope of their functions.
It is practically a custom among us Filipinos to seek someone we know in a government agency or any organization for that matter for assistance even when merely inquiring about matters that could be handled by frontline staff.
In situations like this, they are usually accommodated with a referral letter addressed to another cabinet secretary or even a subordinate of a cabinet secretary who may be personally acquainted with the cabinet secretary.
Albert may be a bit harsh in saying that Panelo acted in excess of his authority and jurisdiction when it could be merely a lapse in protocol — something that Albert knows happens quite regularly in any government office.
It is true however, that depending on the signatory, a referral letter may at times allow the bearer to receive “preferential treatment” which could mean jumping the queue or if it is related so some infraction, it could induce authorities to be lenient or apply some remedial measures which could get the bearer of the letter off the hook.
However, Panelo’s letter only asked for attention on the matter of Sanchez’ daughter’s appeal for clemency for her father. So far, no proof has been shown by Lacson or anyone else that Panelo asked for anything beyond attention.
In Panelo’s case, the accommodation might have a number of reasons for it but I doubt it would have to anything to do with being the FORMER counsel of the rapist killer Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
That relationship should have ceased a long time ago and there was nothing wrong with being the lawyer of Sanchez, a friend on Facebook explained:
Am no fan of Sal Panelo but people are being unfair in insulting him for having served as counsel for the despicable Mayor Sanchez.
You know who else acted as counsel for Sanchez? Rene Saguisag.
Because that’s what lawyers do: One of these days, it might be you charged unfairly (or rightly). When all your friends are nowhere to be found, your family helpless, when everyone is against you, when a mob is crying for your blood, trust God will be at your side. And a lawyer will be there too.
Yes, Sanchez’s crime was heinous but under our Constitution he is still entitled to a legal defense. So Panelo and Saguisag, even only for that, for doing an unpopular duty, deserves our respect and not condemnation.