Convicted Sanchez’ looming release is unjustified




By Rose de la Cruz



Under our law books, rape and murder are considered heinous capital offenses that deserve a death sentence or life term in prison. Yet, it took everyone by surprise that the justice department toyed with the idea of releasing him earlier, despite former Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez being convicted in 1995 of both heinous crimes.


Netizens have violently questioned and rightly demonized the judgment authorizing his release saying and the subsequent justifications by people in power---Spokesman Salvador Panelo (his defense lawyer) and newly-elected Senator Bato de la Rosa, his jailer, with some purporting that funds flowed into the administration’s election kitty last 2018.


Social media in fact has been abuzz with photos and insinuations of Sanchez continuing his lucrative drug pushing activities while in jail and enjoying privileges like being out of prison, upon his request, while most others languish behind bars without seeing a friend, relative or even a confessor/lawyer.


Sanchez was convicted of rape and murder in 1993 of UP Los Banos students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.


De la Rosa—under whose time as Philippine National Police Chief—oversaw the anti- drugs operation tokhang and accompanying mass slays of suspected drug dependents and small-time peddlers—said that for good behavior in prison, Sanchez deserves a second chance, a treatment not accorded those killed extra judicially.


Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Sanchez may be released along with 11,000 inmates in the next two months because of a new law increasing good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and a Supreme Court decision applying the same law retroactively.


Sanchez has served 26 years in prison since his arrest in 1993. The Bureau of Correction said the convicted ex-mayor has in fact already served 49 years — exceeding the maximum time of 40 years — based on the computation of his GCTA under Republic Act 10592, which was enacted in May 2013. The Supreme Court in July ruled that the law, which increases the GCTA given to inmates, shall be applied retroactively.


Probe on computation process


Senator Franklin Drilon, who was Justice Secretary when Sanchez was convicted, filed a Senate resolution to investigate the computation process of the Board of Pardons and Parole.


Citing Sanchez’s instances of drug and contraband smuggling in the maximum security unit of the national penitentiary, he slammed how the convict was seen to exemplify “good behavior.”


Apart from lawmakers, lawyers under the Integrated Bar of the Philippines also called for a careful review and transparency on the standards for the evaluation of "good conduct" for releasing prisoners.


"Refinements and safeguards may be introduced in the implementation or through curative legislation.


Anti-corruption, efficiency, and transparency programs in jail management should be relentless pursued," the lawyers' group said in a statement.


Sick, depraved, inhuman

Rep. Bernadette Herrera of Bagong Henerasyon partylist and deputy majority leader of the House, called for a revisiting of RA 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance since “Sanchez’ crimes are heinous beyond sick, depraved and inhuman.”


The women’s rights advocate Herrera vehemently objects to the potential early release of convicted former Mayor Sanchez.


"Hindi dapat palayain si convicted murderer-rapist Antonio Sanchez. Nawa’y magsanib-puwersa ang mga taong tutol sa batas na maaaring gamiting basehan upang makalaya ang ganyang uri ng kriminal," said the Deputy Majority Leader.


"I am not a lawyer, but I am disturbed to the core of my soul and being about this probable reversal of justice and repeat of injustice against the family of Sanchez's Victims. His crimes are heinous beyond the sickest, depraved desires of any truly God-fearing, humane person," she lamented.


Herrera said legal luminaries have already presented the sound arguments against the application of the good behavior rules to the case of Sanchez.


"I agree with their stand that Sanchez does not qualify for that good behavior allowance. Another way would be to convince the Supreme Court to overturn its earlier decision on Republic Act 10592. A revisiting of the decision may be in order," the congresswoman said.


“I also will conduct a revisiting of the law as it seemingly would be used to set free those who have committed the vilest of crimes in our country. To do so would only bastardize the original intent of Congress, which was to give a second chance to those who have truly reformed themselves while incarcerated, and have acted with the utmost behavior and morality,” Herrera, an ex-officio member of the Justice Committee and all standing committees in the House, said.