From the perspective of President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesman and Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, convicted killer Antonio Sanchez — a former client — has no legal right to time off for good behavior.
Panelo said in a statement released today that Sanchez, the former mayor of Calauan in Laguna, does not stand to benefit from Republic Act No. 10592, also known as Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), which deducts as many as 30 days from a prisoner’s term for every month served if they display good behavior during detention.
The Supreme Court ruled in June that the law should be applied retroactively, which theoretically might benefit Sanchez, who is serving 40 years behind bars for the torture and murder of two teenagers in 1993.
But Duterte’s spokesman today said the law “is categorical in excluding recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefit of its coverage.”
“Thus, the inevitable conclusion is that all those convicted of a heinous crime, including Mr. Antonio Sanchez, would be ineligible and disqualified from availing the benefits of the GCTA,” he said.
He added that the office of the president supports Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra’s directive to the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) “to carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who have been found guilty by the courts of having committed high profile, heinous crimes or crimes so grave that [they] show extreme moral depravity.”
It was yesterday that BuCor Chief Nicanor Faeldon, amid rising public furor, said that Sanchez might not qualify for early release from prison due to several behavioral violations he’s made in detention.
This includes the 2010 incident in which a stash of methamphetamine worth PHP1.5 million was found hidden inside Sanchez’s Virgin Mary statue. Another violation Faeldon cited was Sanchez’s possession of a flat-screen TV and air conditioning unit that were discovered inside his cell in 2015.
Panelo and Sanchez have a lot of shared history. The former was one of Sanchez’s defense lawyers when he was tried for the 1993 killing of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, her boyfriend.
Eileen’s mother, Maria Clara Sarmenta, yesterday publicly expressed suspicions that Sanchez’s possible release may have something to do with his prior relationship with Panelo.
“We can’t stop thinking that since he (Panelo) was the legal counsel of [Sanchez]… my husband said, ‘Why does Sanchez have such strong relationships [with people in the top]? Is it because of Panelo?'” Maria Clara told ABS-CBN News.
However, Panelo has denied having anything to do with Sanchez since early ’90s, and said he actually withdrew from the case before the 1995 conviction was handed down, reported Rappler. He also said he no longer communicates with the convict.
Sanchez was convicted to seven life sentences, though under the Revised Penal Code, his sentence was effectively limited to a maximum of 40 years. Without the benefit of “good behavior” rules, he will serve approximately another 14 years behind bars.