The name “Antonio Sanchez” has been plastered all over headlines since yesterday. Who is he and why is he making news? Let me break it down for you:
Antonio Sanchez is the former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, the mastermind in the rape-slaying of Eileen Sarmenta, and the murder of her boyfriend, Allan Gomez. Eileen and Allan were both students of the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB).
On June 28, 1993, Eileen and Allan were waiting inside a Toyota Tamaraw van outside the Agrix Complex on their campus. It was then that Sanchez’s armed henchmen hatched the plan to abduct Eileen to offer her as a “gift” to the then-mayor. Eileen was reported to have previously interviewed the mayor for the school paper, which is when he took interest in her.
Eileen was sent straight to the then-mayor’s room. Gomez was beaten up by then-PNP Calauan Deputy Chief George Medialdea, Luis Corcolon, Rogelio “Boy” Corcolon, Zoilo Ama, Baldwin Brio, and Pepito Kawit.
ABS-CBN News disclosed that the mayor raped Eileen, handed her over to his six men to be raped again before she was shot in the face, according to court records.
In the same year, Kit Alqueza, son of Gen. Alqueza was falsely accused of conducting the murder, and was led to a room full of media personnel and was accused before national television of the crime without the benefit of a legal counsel and the chance to defend himself.
The chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) at that time was Joseph Estrada, and he held on to this accusation despite witness statements that allegations were false. It was then suggested by observers and opinion writers that the fabrication was aimed to divert the focus from Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez who had been identified by witnesses as the principal suspect in the UPLB case.
After 16 months of trial and a number of other witnesses, the truth finally came out. On March 14, 1995, the judge concluded that Antonio Sanchez and several henchmen (some of whom were policemen) were guilty of seven counts of rape with homicide.
Inquirer.net reports that then-Mayor Sanchez, then-PNP Calauan Deputy Chief George Medialdea, Luis Corcolon, Rogelio “Boy” Corcolon, Zoilo Ama, Baldwin Brio, and Pepito Kawit were each sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua— a maximum of 40 years of imprisonment and ordered to pay damages.
If you’re not familiar with the term reclusion perpetua, it is one of two sentences in the country—the other being the life sentence. The length of its sentence is fixed at 40 years, and cannot be altered during sentencing. It also does not allow pardon or parole until after the first 30 years of the sentence have been served, and after 40 years without pardon or parole, the sentence expires.
Why does all of this matter? The men are in prison and due to serve 14 more years.
Or so we thought.
Despite all these convictions, Sanchez may soon walk free. He could be one of the 11,000 inmates who could benefit from the law that reduces the sentence of those who show good behavior.
Under Art. 94 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended by RA 10592, “criminal liability is extinguished partially for good conduct allowances which the culprit may earn while he is undergoing preventive imprisonment or service sentence.”
This sparked public outrage.
A former mayor who raped and murdered two innocent students will be allowed to walk free because of good conduct?
It’s infuriating, to say the least.
Even more so as Sen. Bato Dela Rosa says that the convicted rapist and murderer ‘deserves a second chance.’
“[If] it is determined by the Board of Pardons and Parole that he deserves that commutation, then why not? He deserves a second chance in life,” Dela Rosa said in an interview over ANC.
“After three to five years of serving his sentence and he has no offense committed inside one incarceration and has shown good conduct… he’s given at least 20 days of GCTA per month so bali credited ito. This is credited sa kanyang sentence,” Dela Rosa explained.
However, the chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Nicanor Faeldon clarified that the former mayor did in fact, commit various violations while serving his prison sentence—including illegal drug possession after a prison guard found him keeping a packet of shabu (crystal meth), marijuana, and drug paraphernalia.
Although, the chief noted that the case was dismissed by the Muntinlupa court sometime in 2011.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sonny Angara has questioned the “yardstick” used to recommend the release of Sanchez.
“The reduction of prison sentences is not a mathematical formula that can be computed separate and isolated from other factors that must be considered,” the senator said.
“If the person had committed a crime while in prison, like stashing shabu inside the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, does this not affect his chances of clemency or even forfeits it?” he asked. “In his ledger of sins, does the commission of a new crime cancel whatever penalty was extinguished by previous good conduct?”
The issue is seen as one of the most major insults to one of the Philippine justice system’s major victories and to the families of his victims’ rights. These developments merely show that those in power still have major influence over our justice system.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo has confirmed that the Pres. Duterte will not allow the release of the convicted murderer and rapist, and hopefully, this will be the final word for this case.
If there is anyone who deserves a second chance, it would be Eileen Sarmenta and her boyfriend Allan Gomez—who were robbed of lives and futures.
If Antonio Sanchez were a regular tax-paying citizen, and not a former mayor of Laguna, would he be facing the same situation? Or would he have been charged a life sentence back in 1995?
Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net’s Instagram account
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