TV screen grab shows new clippings about the killing of Mary Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.
Relatives of Antonio Sanchez victims hit looming release
Janvic Mateo, Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The family of University of the Philippines Los Baños student Mary Eileen Sarmenta, who was raped and killed by former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, opposed yesterday his inclusion in the list of convicts set for release due to good behavior.

Sarmenta’s mother, Ma. Clara, in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, said they would appeal the possible release of Sanchez with the Board of Pardons and Parole.

“To tell you the truth, I wasn’t able to sleep last night. Everything came back – the pain, struggle, bringing back our lives together. Bumalik lahat iyon,” Ma. Clara said.

“We were shocked when we learned that he is a candidate for release. As far as we know, it’s supposed to be channeled through the board. If he has a petition for parole, we should have been notified,” she added.

Ma. Clara said they were not informed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) that Sanchez would walk free.

Sanchez was sentenced to seven life terms or up to 40 years in prison for the rape with homicide of Sarmenta and the killing of her boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993.

Show proof of good behavior

While they respect the law, Ma. Clara lamented that they have not been provided any proof that Sanchez behaved while he was in prison.

She noted that the former mayor has failed to show remorse even after his conviction, adding that he has not complied with the court order directing him to pay damages for his crimes.

“We are not after the money, but he has to make good on the damages set by the court,” she said. “We didn’t even see any remorse from him. What we’re asking is for him to show us that he was sorry for what he did.”

In its 2001 ruling, the Supreme Court (SC) Special First Division affirmed the conviction of Sanchez along with his co-accused George Medialdea, Zoilo Ama, Baldwin Brion, Luis Corcolon, Rogelio Corcolon and Pepito Kawit.

The SC ordered them to pay the heirs of Sarmenta P3,982,080 and the family of Gomez P3,992,220 in damages.

Gomez’s brother Oliver told TV5 that their family has not received a single centavo of the damages from Sanchez.

The victim’s car is still parked at the Gomez family’s home, and the pain of the murder has not diminished, Oliver said.

Palace: Rule of law, not emotion

The rule of law, not emotion must prevail in the case of Sanchez, according to a Palace official.

“If the law says that the Sanchez is qualified to be released, then that’s the law. We have to abide by the rule of law,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said, referring to Republic Act 10592 that allowed revision in the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) of convincts.   

“We cannot rely on emotion. We have to follow the law. As the President said, just follow the law and everything will be in place,” Panelo added.

He denied having a hand in the impending release of Sanchez.

Sachez was a former client of Panelo.

Panelo said he had withdrawn from the former mayor’s case even before the conviction was appealed.

“I withdrew (from the case) 27 years ago,” Panelo said in a phone interview.

RA 10592 amended provisions of the Revised Penal Code and allowed the credit of preventive imprisonment and revision of GCTA of persons deprived of liberty.

The SC recently ruled that the law would be applied retroactively, meaning those imprisoned before its passage in 2013 would be released following a recomputation of their GCTA.

In an interview years after his conviction, Sanchez said he would run for mayor again if he is released from prison.

But Panelo said Sanchez’s conviction bars him from seeking public office.

“He cannot run unless he seeks absolute pardon,” Panelo said.

On Tuesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed that Sanchez was among the 11,000 prisoners who may be released in the next two months because of a reduced prison term.

Guevarra said the DOJ is not required to publish or notify the convicts’ families that the GCTA of the prisoners are being reviewed.

“There is no requirement to publish or notify anyone because this is not a case of executive clemency. This is a case of prison sentence duly served,” he said.

Aside from Sanchez, Guevarra said some drug convicts serving time at the New Bilibid Prison, who testified against Sen. Leila de Lima may also walk free due to reduced prison term.

But the justice secretary clarified that their possible release from prison is not a political payback, but in compliance with the law passed during the Aquino administration and affirmed by the high court.

Retired Gen. Rex Piad expressed dismay over the DOJ action on Sanchez’s case.

Piad headed the Joint Task Force Upsilon, which investigated the murders of Sarmenta and Gomez whose bodies were found separately in Calauan.

“Masakit para sa pamilya, pero kung iyan ang batas wala na siguro tayong magagawa ,” Piad said. – With Alexis Romero, Evelyn Macairan

ALLAN GOMEZ ANTONIO SANCHEZ MARY EILEEN SARMENTA
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