By Mario Casayuran
Senator Panfilo M. Lacson said on Thursday there is a need for convicts serving a ‘’reclusion perpetua’’ (20 to 40 years jail time) to stay in prison for at least 85 percent of their jail sentence before they could be considered for parole or pardon.
Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, issued the statement following reports that former Calauan (Laguna) Mayor Antonio Sanchez who had served 24 of the maximum 40-year jail time for the rape and killing of student Ellen Sarmenta and the killing of her boyfriend, Allan Gomez, would soon be released based on a Supreme Court ruling as cited by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Lacson, former head of special anti-crime unit during the time of then Vice President Joseph Estrada, said the reported parole is not yet final until the President has signed or approved it.
‘’If the victims’ families intend to appeal, they should address the same to the president,’’ he said.
‘’I would say, aside from legislating a maximum of only 15 percent reduction for Good Conduct Time while in prison, there must be offenses that should not make the convicts avail of parole or pardon such as those committed with extreme gruesomeness like terrorism, rape with homicide, and the like,’’ he added.
The victims’ families still suffer from trauma even after more than 20 years of enjoying peace and security following the arrest, trial, and conviction of Sanchez, he pointed out.
Lacson, chairman of the Senate national defense and security committee, said that aside from Sanchez, a number of those recommended for release are kidnap for ransom convicts that he and his anti-crime unit members arrested in the 1990s.
‘’The kidnap victims and their families have expressed fear of retaliation and rightly so.
“The trauma that the victims continue to suffer cannot just be wiped out after more than two decades of enjoying peace and security when their abductors were arrested, detained and convicted with finality,’’ Lacson said.
‘’While ‘reclusion perpetua’ means 20-40 years of imprisonment, the grant of parole should also consider the heinous nature of the crimes committed and the anguish, anxiety, and fear suffered by their victims as in the case of the families of Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez and the others similarly situated,’’ he explained.
When asked whether convicts still committed offenses while in jail like Sanchez who was caught twice for possession of ‘’shabu’’ (crystal meth), Lacson replied: “Yes, that should be included in disqualifying them from availing of parole/pardon.’’
Sanchez’s parole was predicated on his good behavior while in jail.