The impending release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for the rape and murder of two state university students in 1993, drew criticisms from the online community.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that the Supreme Court in June released a decision that called for a retroactive application of Republic Act 10592 which increases the time allowances for good conduct among prisoners.
The law enables them to reduce their jail sentences effectively as a reward for their good behavior.
It will also take into account their studying and teaching activities, as well as their loyalty to their places of confinement despite natural calamities and catastrophes.
Guevarra said that Sanchez will be one of the thousands of inmates who will benefit from the law, particularly those who were imprisoned from the ’90s.
“‘Di lang naman siya involved diyan kundi thousands under detention, persons deprived of liberty so libo-libo ‘yan. So marami ang kino-compute ang good conduct time allowances,” he said in an interview.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson Sonny del Rosario revealed that Sanchez has already served 49 years, based on the computation of his good conduct time allowance. It is beyond the maximum penalty of 40 years imprisonment.
Guevarra said that BuCor will grant the release of qualified inmates convicted since 1993, with around 200 inmates eyed to be released daily for the next two months.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, who acted as one of Sanchez’s defense counsel in the case before, denied his alleged involvement in the impending release.
The development was met with condemnation from Filipinos who questioned the judicial system as they recall the brutal rape-slay case that rocked the nation.
Ex-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a convicted rapist and murderer, is set for release in two months' time.
He is the mastermind in the rape-slaying of UPLB student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of Allan Gomez.
Do you still trust the justice system in the Philippines?
— Cha #StopNegrosKillings (@chacastano) August 20, 2019
Other Filipinos questioned Sanchez’s supposed good conduct in prison as they recalled reports of contraband seized by the authorities in previous years.
“Paano naging good conduct siya eh sabi niyo nahulihan (ng) mga kontrabando while in prison? Jusmio, kawawang Pilipinas! Ano na mangyayari (sa’yo),” a Facebook user said.
“Paano naging matino habang nasa Bilibid eh special treatment at (may mga) droga pa nakuha,” another user commented.
Authorities in 2010 seized one kilo of “shabu” or methamphetamine hydrochloride worth P1.5 million from the former Calauan mayor who hid it in the statue of the Virgin Mary.
They also seized an air conditioning unit and a flat-screen television from his cell in 2015.
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her boyfriend and fellow UPLB student Allan Gomez.
He was sentenced by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court to seven terms of reclusion perpetua with up to 40 years’ imprisonment for each term.
The 1993 rape-slay case
On June 28, 1993, UPLB students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez were abducted by the men of then-Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez at gunpoint, which included his nephew and former policemen.
They were brought to Sanchez’s vacation house where Sarmenta was presented to him as a “gift,” according to court records.
She was raped by Sanchez and his men while Gomez was tortured and eventually killed.
Their bodies were dumped separately in the outskirts of Calauan, Laguna.
It took 16 months for the case to reach its denouement, as presided by then-Pasig RTC Judge Harriet Demetriou.
Former Calauan ambulance driver Aurelio Centeno and former Calauan policeman Vicencio Malabanan served as the state witnesses of the case.
It eventually became the basis for the 1993 crime-drama film “Humanda Ka Mayor!: Bahala na ang Diyos” directed by Carlos Caparas that featured Aga Muhlach and Kris Aquino in the starring role.