Senate President Vicente Sotto III has filed a resolution calling for a review of the law reducing the sentences of prisoners on account of “good conduct,” amid public outrage over reports an ex-mayor convicted of rape could soon walk free.
Sotto said former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, found guilty of raping UP student Eileen Sarmenta and masterminding her murder as well as that of her companion Allan Gomez in 1993, did not exhibit good behavior in prison.
“Question, how was it deemed good behavior when in 2006 there was a complaint filed against him for possession of marijuana inside the NBP (New Bilibid Prison)?” he told reporters. “In 2010, P1.5-million worth of shabu was found in the image of the Virgin Mary in his cell.”
If the law, Republic Act (RA) 10592 enacted in 2013, was followed, Sanchez would be deemed to have completed 49 years, despite having been in prison for only 26 years, Sotto said.
Sanchez’s sentence was seven terms of reclusion perpetua, or 40 years per term.
“That’s a confusing computation,” Sotto said.
“Dapat pag (If it’s a) heinous crime, you die in your cell, wala nang (no more) pardon, parole,” he added.
The Senate president also noted that Sanchez never paid indemnity to the victims’ families.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros also called for a review of good conduct time allowances for prisoners.
“Sanchez has shown no signs of remorse and displayed no effort at improving himself in behavior or character inside the penitentiary. In fact, even inside prison, he has continued committing crimes with impunity,” she said in a statement.
No death penalty revival
Sotto said questions over the law should not lead to a revival of the death penalty, after Sen. Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa said Sanchez should have been executed for his crimes.
Militant group Bayan said in a statement: “The possible release of Mayor Sanchez is not an argument for the restoration of the death penalty. Quite the opposite, it is proof of a broken justice system, such that we cannot allow the restoration of the death penalty.”
“Rather than rush to restore the death penalty, efforts should be made at examining and reforming our justice system that apparently favors the rich and powerful, while being biased against the poor,” it added.
“Indeed there are many in Bilibid who deserve a second chance or should be released because they were wrongfully convicted. Mayor Sanchez however is not one of them.”
Blood, sweat and tears
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, who prosecuted Sanchez as justice secretary during the Ramos administration, appealed to the Department of Justice to put on hold the impending release of the convicted rapist.
Drilon has also called for a Senate probe into the matter.
“I am shocked and saddened by this news. I had personally worked hard during my time as secretary of justice to provide justice to the victims and their families. Dugo’t pawis at luha po ang inukol natin diyan,” Drilon said.
“We appeal to the Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra to hold the release of Sanchez and to review and study carefully if, number one, Sanchez is really entitled to the benefits of RA 10592; and, number two, if he has really exhibited good conduct while he was in prison,” he said.
Opposition senator Francis Pangilinan also said Sanchez should not benefit from RA 10592, as there were others more deserving.
“We were among those who signed the Senate bill that became Republic Act 10592, so we know that its intent is not to determine the fate of inmates solely on mathematical computation,” he said in a statement.
“In the case of former Mayor Sanchez, despite the good conduct he has purportedly shown, the infractions he committed while serving should not be disregarded. His so-called reformation is doubtful,” he added.
Seventeen senators, including Sotto, Pangilinan and Drilon, voted “yes” in November 2012 to Senate Bill 3064, which became RA 10592. (PressONE.ph)