Tolentino's death penalty pitch hits snag; Eileen's mother prefers life sentence
Tolentino is among the administration allies at the Senate who support the revival of the death penalty.
The STAR/KJ Rosales, File
Tolentino's death penalty pitch hits snag; Eileen's mother prefers life sentence
Kristine Joy Patag ( - September 2, 2019 - 5:12pm

MANILA, Philippines (Updated: 10:05 p.m.) — Sen. Francis Tolentino's attempt to inject the revival of death penalty into a Senate hearing on the possible early release of convict Antonio Sanchez failed to gain support from the mother of one of the former mayor's victims.

During the Senate hearing into implementation of a law expanding inmates' Good Conduct and Time Allowance, Tolentino reserved his last question for Maria Clara Sarmenta, whose daughter Eileen was raped and killed in 1993.

"A few weeks ago when this brouhaha when the release of former Mayor Sanchez was raised you were quoted in a TV interview or even a newspaper report, radio interview that because of this incident, you favor the restoration of death penalty. Was I right in understanding your sentiment?” Tolentino said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Sarmenta admitted that she said she agreed with the restoration of capital punishment as a “spur of the moment” reaction.

"But then, when I thought it over, being a Christian, I would rather have the life sentence," she said.

Sarmenta said that the death penalty would end a convict's life with just one injection, but if life imprisonment is meted, "the prisoner would be given the chance to be reformed also and also the mere fact that he should be suffering for the crime that he did."

She added in Filipino: "I would rather see that he is suffering. It isn't that I'm a sadist but it is somehow easier knowing he is serving a life sentence."

Tolentino thanked Sarmenta, saying "Philippine society commiserates with you, and I'm sure a lot of things will come out of this committee hearing."

Earlier in the legislative hearing, Sen. Richard Gordon asked Sarmenta and Iluminada Gomez, Allan's mother, to tell the panel, and the public, how they felt when the she heard of Sanchez’s release and whether Sanchez asked forgiveness from them.

In 1993, Sanchez’s thugs grabbed UP Los Baños students Sarmenta and Allan Gomez. Sanchez raped Eileen while his men beat up Gomez. They were later brutally killed.

The two mothers turned emotional while they recounted their grief and their long years of suffering to the public.

Gomez also had to be escorted to the infirmary. 

Death penalty in the Philippines

The killing of Sarmenta and Gomez happened on June 1995, seven months before death penalty was enacted in the country.

The Pasig court found Sanchez guilty of rape and murder and meted him a punishment of seven terms of reclusion perpetua (up to 40 years imprisonment for each term).

Leo Echagaray, a house painter convicted of raping the 10-year-old daughter of his live-in partner and the first execution in the Philippines after the return of the death penalty in 1993, was convicted in 1994. The Supreme Court affirmed his conviction and the death sentence in 1996.

Echagaray was executed by lethal injection in 1999.

Duterte and his allies in Congress, including Tolentino, are pushing for the restoration of the capital punishment.

READ: Where senators stand on reimposition of death penalty

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