Mass outrage
BABE’S EYE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON D.C. - Babe Romualdez (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2019 - 12:00am

In Washington, D.C., we monitor all the news about the Philippines and around the world. The dominant news which literally caused “mass outrage” from the Filipino-American community was the news about the possibility that former Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez could be released from prison.

I received hundreds of indignant reactions from people, mostly UP alumni friends familiar with the case of Sanchez, expressing disgust and outrage that the man convicted of the gruesome rape and murder of Mary Eileen Sarmenta should benefit from a 2013 law that shortens an inmate’s prison term through “good conduct time allowance.” Simply put, his sentence could be commuted, with the number of days reduced based on his so called “good behavior.”  

They all asked, how is it possible for Sanchez – who was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua – to be released for good behavior when each count is 40 years? Which means he should serve a total of 280 years plus 80 more for another two counts for the murder of political rivals. Sanchez – who reportedly stayed in airconditioned prison quarters – was also charged with illegal possession of drugs while in prison in 2006, then was caught again in 2010 with P1.5 million worth of shabu that was concealed in a statue of the Virgin Mary. 

So, how is that a display of good behavior? What’s more, the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta was one of the most gruesome, hideous and heinous crimes ever. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Boy Locsin, who himself is a lawyer was right – “he has to serve six more life terms.”

Eileen was a graduating student taking up BS Agriculture at the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB). At 21, she had a bright future ahead, with job offers waiting for her. It was heartbreaking to know Eileen had the misfortune of meeting Sanchez when she interviewed him for an article in their school paper. At the time, Sanchez was also facing murder charges for the death of a political rival and his son.

Apparently, the mayor took an interest in the young woman. Former bodyguards of the mayor who turned star witnesses admitted stalking Eileen and hatching a plan to abduct the girl, said to be very attractive. 

It was a dark day on June 28, 1993 when the mayor’s gang – then-Calauan Philippine National Police Deputy Chief with brothers Luis and Boy Corcolon, Zoilo Ama, Baldwin Brio and Pepito Kawit – decided to give her as a “gift” to Sanchez. 

Using an ambulance, the men – which include Aurelio Centeno and Vicencio Malabanan who would eventually turn state witness – drove around looking for the young woman. They eventually found her in a popular student hangout known as Agrix complex, sitting at the front seat of a van owned by schoolmate Allan Gomez while waiting for passengers to arrive. The thugs commandeered the vehicle, gagged and bound the students and brought them to a farm owned by Mayor Sanchez. It was there where the hellish nightmare began.

The men proudly presented their “gift” to the mayor, who thanked them for his beautiful present. Eileen was then dragged inside the mayor’s room, where she stayed for hours, raped over and over. Allan meanwhile was taken outside and beaten with the butt of an Armalite rifle.  

When the evil mayor was finally done, he presented the terrified girl – who was disheveled, hands tied, mouth gagged with a handkerchief and naked from the waist down – to his men, telling them: “I’m through with her. She’s all yours.”

The students were loaded into Allan’s van with six men accompanying them, the ambulance driven by Centeno following closely behind. At some point, Gomez was dragged from the van, shot in the head and left behind. The convoy continued until they reached a sugarcane field. Then the men took turns raping the girl. One of them however could not stomach the depravity that was happening, so he refused to participate.

Those who remember the details of the case could not get over the thought of Eileen kneeling, crying and begging the monsters for mercy, pleading for them to spare her life. They gave her a bullet in the head. 

It was, in the words of Judge Harriet Demetriou who tried the case, “a plot seemingly hatched in hell.” And we all might add, “perpetrated by barbaric evil animals!”

One of those who saw Eileen’s body when it was brought to the UPLB police headquarters for identification was STAR columnist Bum Tenorio, who was then living within the campus. “There was a commotion. I saw her body for less than a minute – and I couldn’t bear what I saw,” Bum said, recalling the shirt rolled up above Eileen’s chest while her shorts were pulled down to her ankles, a portion of her head blown off. The medico legal report confirmed that the beautiful young lady was indeed repeatedly raped by a number of men.

I and many others who remember the case feel for Mrs. Sarmenta, who is reliving the nightmare all over again. All of us either has a daughter, a niece or friends whom we would never want to become victims of such a heinous, horrible crime committed against Eileen.

President Duterte himself was outraged, and we are pleased that Malacañang had said that Sanchez will not be a beneficiary of the GCTA law, and that he is ineligible.

Filipinos may be a forgiving people, but they will never forgive nor forget what happened to Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez – the most heinous of heinous crimes ever committed in Philippine history.

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