He was convicted of the 1993 torture and murder of two 19-year-olds in a plot the presiding judge said was “hatched in hell,” and later caught with PHP1.5 million worth of meth while behind bars, but according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Antonio Sanchez may soon be released from prison for, wait for it … good behavior.
Sanchez, the former mayor of Calauan in Laguna province, is one of the thousands of prisoners eligible for early release due to Republic Act No. 10592, a law that deducts as many as 30 days from a prisoner’s term for every month served if they display good behavior during detention. In other words, it can effectively cut your sentence in half.
We’re not entirely sure what constitutes “good behavior,” though we’re guessing the whole “getting caught with a huge amount of drugs” thing (it was hidden inside a statue of the Virgin Mary) probably doesn’t qualify. Oddly, we’ve been unable to find any reports of Sanchez having any additional time added to his sentence for that bust inside the prison.
While the law was signed in 2013, the Supreme Court ruled in June that the law should be applied retroactively, according to GMA News.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson Sonny del Rosario told the Manila Bulletin that if you count up the “good behavior” days that Sanchez is due, the convicted felon has effectively already served 49 years in the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City. Del Rosario did not say, however, when Sanchez will be released.
So about those murders.
Sanchez became notorious in the Philippines with the 1993 killing of two University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) students: Eileen Sarmenta and her boyfriend, Allan Gomez. The two were abducted by Sanchez’s men in Los Baños with the intent of presenting Eileen as a “gift” to the mayor. They were then brought to Sanchez’s home in Calauan, where Gomez was tortured.
Before ordering his aides to kill the victims, Sanchez raped Eileen, then presented her to his henchmen, who abused the teenager as well.
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 to seven life sentences but he benefitted from the Revised Penal Code’s rule that limited the sentence to 40 years maximum. He made headlines again with the 2010 drug bust behind bars.
Eileen’s mother, Maria Clara Sarmenta, yesterday said their family found out about Sanchez’s impending release from news reports and that the government had not informed them.
“We were so surprised,” Maria Clara told the talk show Unang Hirit in a mix of English and Filipino. “We had no idea about his impending release. We don’t know what the basis was for him to be set free… because he has only served his life sentence for 25 years.
“We thought he applied for parole but we were made to understand last night that it’s not a matter of parole — it’s a matter of implementing the new law which we were not aware.
“All the pain because of what happened to our child, it all came back. This is really painful.”
Sanchez’s impending release from prison was denounced by the feminist party-list group GABRIELA Alliance of Filipino Women. In a statement, they said his release is “a distortion of justice promoted and perpetuated by the macho-fascist Duterte and other hoodlums in government.”
However, Sanchez also has his supporters, such as Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. The former BuCor chief, a vocal supporter of the return of the death penalty, told ANC yesterday that Sanchez has become a “changed man” in prison, and that he deserves “a second chance in life.”
Plenty of netizens, meanwhile, have expressed anger and fear over the former mayor’s impending release. As of writing, a petition is even making the rounds online which asks the government to have the former mayor serve all seven of his life sentences. There are almost 33,000 people who have signed the petition.
Movie director Quark Henares (@quarkhenares) wrote: “I was in the Seventh Grade when Mayor Sanchez killed Eileen Sarmenta. That’s when i first heard about pedophilia and gang rape, and when I realized the world was not a nice place. I got a physical reaction finding out he was freed.”
I was in the Seventh Grade when Mayor Sanchez killed Eileen Sarmenta. That’s when i first heard about pedophilia and gang rape, and when I realized the world was not a nice place. I got a physical reaction finding out he was freed.
— Quark Henares (@quarkhenares) August 22, 2019
“F*cking no to Sanchez’s release! That beast deserves to rot in jail for the rest of his horrible existence and burn in hell thereafter!” wrote @dromagpantay.
I just read the full text of the case against the Ex-Mayor of Calauan (& cohorts) for Eileen Sarmenta’s rape-slay and Allan Gomez’s murder.
Fucking no to Sanchez’s release! That beast deserves to rot in jail for the rest of his horrible existence and burn in hell thereafter!
— Danna Reitczielle (@dromagpantay) August 22, 2019
Wrote singer and theater actress Bituin Escalante: “I was in my Freshman year in UPLB when Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez were abducted, dehumanized and murdered. This case was one of the few times our justice system actually worked and now these new monsters in government seek to reverse that.”
I was in my Freshman year in UPLB when Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez were abducted, dehumanized and murdered. This case was one of the few times our justice system actually worked and now these new monsters in government seek to reverse that. #FuckThisGovernment https://t.co/1yRuAj124h
— bituin escalante (@gobituin) August 21, 2019
Others blasted Senator dela Rosa for wanting to give Sanchez a second chance, such as @Cessblablabla who shared this meme.
‘Why not?’: Bato says rape-slay convict Sanchez ‘deserves second chance’
Me to Bato: pic.twitter.com/C5I2ngIidg
— CESS (@Cessblablabla) August 22, 2019
What are your thoughts about Sanchez’s impending release? Tell us by leaving a comment below or tweeting to @CoconutsManila.
Show your local Manila pride with our new City Logo Tee! Available on sale until September 30 at The Coconuts Shop.