Sanchez can still run to SC to secure release, Drilon warns
Photo taken in March 1995 shows then justice secretary Franklin Drilon with Iluminada Gomez and Ma. Clara Sarmenta, mothers of the two victims in the case against Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez, following the guilty verdict by the Pasig court.
Sanchez can still run to SC to secure release, Drilon warns
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Convicted rapist-murderer Antonio Sanchez can turn to the Supreme Court for help in securing his release by exploiting the conflicting interpretations of the Department of Justice (DOJ) of a law that allows the reduction of sentence for convicts for heinous crimes on the basis of good conduct in prison, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon said yesterday.

Drilon, then the justice secretary who led the successful prosecution of Sanchez and his cohorts in 1995, said officials of the DOJ and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) have changed their interpretation of Republic Act 10592 or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law following the strong public outcry over the planned release of the convict.

The law, enacted in 2013 and implemented retroactively, allows the reduction of sentences by as much as 19 years based on a formula.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon last week announced that Sanchez may be released in two months based on the application of the GCTA law on his case.

The DOJ and BuCor however backtracked on Friday saying that the 73-year-old Sanchez may not be eligible for release based on their latest interpretation of the law that those convicted or detained of heinous crimes are not covered by the GCTA.

Drilon, however, warned the government that Sanchez could use the changing interpretations of the DOJ and BuCor as his main argument for asking the SC to order his freedom.

“I do not discount that it will be challenged in the Supreme Court,” the senator told the “The Chiefs” on Cignal TV’s OneNews on Friday night.

Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, and his bodyguards were sentenced to seven life terms, served simultaneously for a maximum of 40 years, for the rape-slay of Mary Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez in 1993.

The victims were students of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna.

DOJ and BuCor officials earlier said applying the GCTA formula would show Sanchez had already served 49 years in prison, and that only those charged or with pending heinous crimes cases are disqualified from the prison term deductions, implying that those already convicted are qualified to avail of the scheme.

Drilon explained that Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) provides for period of preventive imprisonment deducted from the term of imprisonment.

Recidivist, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of the article, he said.

Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said in the same news program that those disqualified from availing of term reductions under the RPC provision, are also barred from benefiting from same scheme under the GCTA law.

“It’s the confusion. Here, the law is maybe less than clear. To my mind, the rules are broad enough so that the good conduct definition will include all these instances to disqualify Sanchez from GCTA,” Drilon said.

He said BuCor added to the confusion when it applied the GCTA formula to those convicted of heinous crimes—in this case, Sanchez.

“Now, those who are found guilty by final judgment of heinous crime cannot avail of GCTA. Their sentences cannot be reduced,” he said.

He also stressed the reported violations of Sanchez during his incarceration–including the discovery of methamphetamine hydrochloride inside Virgin Mary statue in 2010 – was more than enough to disallow any term reduction.

He said every prisoner’s infraction is supposed to be meticulously recorded.

“You cannot discount the fact that there can be something funny happening there. How much does it cost not to have a violation of the rule in your folder?” Drilon said.

Sanchez has committed over 40 violations of rules and regulations of the New Bilibid Prisons, BuCor and DOJ including rules for not wearing the prescribed orange T-shirt of inmates, wristwatches, and sunglasses, Drilon said.

Drilon has filed a Senate resolution calling for an investigation on the reported plan to release Sanchez for good conduct while inside the NBP despite being convicted of seven counts of rape with homicide.

Drilon said he would look for the basis of the BuCor officials in granting Sanchez the GCTA.– With Cecille Suerte Felipe

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