It’s not every day that a Filipino senator loses his cool in public, so netizens were slightly amused when Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa went after a student leader for bringing up one of his recent controversial remark.
Dela Rosa attacked National Union of Students of the Philippines president Raoul Manuel after the latter brought up his controversial comment about giving convicted killer Antonio Sanchez a “second chance.”
For the unaware, dela Rosa was one of the few people who came to Sanchez’s defense after news broke out that the former Calauan, Laguna mayor was going to be freed sometime soon. While most people have voiced opposition against this (leading the government to temporarily shelve the former mayor’s release), dela Rosa expressed his support for Sanchez, calling him a “changed man.”
That was brought up yesterday by Manuel during a Senate hearing on the reimposition of mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps program (ROTC) for Grades 11 and 12. Without naming dela Rosa, Manuel said it was hard for the government to teach law enforcement and human rights awareness when there are politicians who believe that a certain “rapist mayor” has to be given a “second chance” while poor people are summarily executed.
Instead of keeping silent, a visibly angry dela Rosa berated Manuel.
“What you’re saying is so far from the topic, mister. That’s so off-topic, why did you bring that up? What happened to your mind? I take offense at what you said that ROTC is a misrepresentation of nationalism. What do you think of us? Is that how you judge us?” dela Rosa said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Are you sure you’re a true representation of a Filipino student? There are very few of you [leftist students]. How many leftist students are there? Most students want to go through [mandatory] ROTC. You brought up a different topic just to attack me personally! You’re a student, you have to be respectful even to a senator. Don’t attack me over an issue that has nothing to do with this (ROTC).”
Dela Rosa then asked Manuel how he plans to defend the country from the Chinese without going through ROTC training.
Manuel answered, “We want to fight for our country from foreign invaders. According to our constitution, it’s the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) which is tasked with preserving our integrity and national sovereignty but we don’t see them having any intent to defend our country. So we don’t have a role model.”
Instead of coming up with an ROTC-related answer, dela Rosa went back to the Sanchez issue and said that he wanted the former mayor executed, contrary to his earlier “second chance” comment.
“Did you know that I want him to be hanged? I am for the death penalty! If there was a death penalty during that time, they should have had him executed. But you don’t want the death penalty! Now that he is going to be given a second chance because he has already reformed…you don’t want him [to be freed]! What do you want me to do?”
Senator Pia Cayetano, who was sitting beside dela Rosa, admonished Manuel for his off-topic comments. She also requested that the Senate delete his Sanchez-related remarks from the records.
Sanchez is notorious in the Philippines for the 1993 killing of two University of the Philippines Los Baños 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 before murdering her.
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 and given seven life sentences but he benefitted from the Revised Penal Code’s rule that limited his sentence to a maximum of 40 years. On Tuesday, the government announced that he might be freed soon due to good behavior, but Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon said that may not happen because of some violations that he committed in prison.