Petition launched to stop release of ex-mayor Sanchez from prison

Published August 22, 2019, 11:34 AM

by Dhel Nazario, Jeffrey G. Damicog, and Rey G. Panaligan

By Jonathan Hicap

An online petition has been launched urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to stop the release of former Caluan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez, who is serving sentence at the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa for the 1993 rape-slay of Eileen Sarmenta and killing of Allan Gomez, students of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB).

The cell of former mayor Antonio Sanchez at the New Bilibid Prison in 2015. (jonathan Hicap / MANILA BULLETIN)
The cell of former mayor Antonio Sanchez at the New Bilibid Prison in 2015. (Jonathan Hicap / MANILA BULLETIN)

The petition, titled “Stop the Release of Mayor Antonio Sanchez; Let Him Serve His Seven Life Sentences,” was launched by Gomez’s friend, B. Vergara, who wrote that Gomez and Sarmenta “were loved by friends and family.

“Both lives tragically taken from us. Sanchez does not deserve a life outside prison.”

One of those who signed the petition is Gomez’s brother, Oliver John. As of writing, the petition has garnered 7,250 signatures.

About 11,000 prisoners including Sanchez under the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) are set for release based on Republic Act 10592, enacted in 2013, which increased the allowance for good conduct for prisoners. The Supreme Court ruled last July that the law should be applied retroactively for the benefit of prisoners.

BuCor spokesperson Sonny del Rosario said the bureau has already released 221 prisoners under the said law and about 100 are being processed.

Sanchez is actually serving nine terms of reclusion perpetua for two cases at NBP.

For the Sarmenta-Gomez case, he was sentenced to suffer the maximum penalty of 40 years each for seven reclusion perpetua.

In addition, in December 1996, Sanchez was convicted by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 160 for the April 13, 1991 murder of Nelson Peñalosa and Rickson Peñalosa in Calauan, Laguna. He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua but the Supreme Court modified the decision in August 1999 and sentenced him to suffer two reclusion perpetua.

“On August 21, 2019, the Department of Justice announced Sanchez will likely walk free after just over 20 years in jail. We petition the Department of Justice to stop Sanchez’s release and affirm his seven life sentences. He used his power and position to kidnap, rape and murder. His actions terrorized a university and an entire town. For full justice to be served, he must remain incarcerated for the duration of his lifetime,” the petition read.

However, under Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code on the successive service of sentence, it states that “when the culprit has to serve two or more penalties, he shall serve them simultaneously if the nature of the penalties will so permit otherwise” and “such maximum period shall in no case exceed forty years.”

Del Rosario said that based on their computation, Sanchez has already served 49 years and eight months based on the computation of his good conduct time allowance (GCTA) under RA 10592, beyond the maximum serving time of 40 years.

Sanchez has served an actual period of 26 years in prison. He was arrested in 1993 and convicted by the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 70 in March 1995.

GCTA is granted to prisoners wherein prison term is reduced for every month of detention based on good behavior.

Sarmenta and Gomez were abducted at Agrix complex outside UPLB by Sanchez’s men and were brought to Erais Farm, owned by the mayor, in Barangay Curba. There, Sanchez raped Sarmenta.

According to the testimony of star witness Aurelio Centeno, Sarmenta was given as a gift to Sanchez.

“Mayor, ito po yung regalo namin sa inyo. Ito po yung babae na matagal na po ninyong kursunada,” said Luis Corcolon, according to a 1999 decision of the Supreme Court.

Mayor Sanchez replied, “Aba, and ganda talaga ng babaeng yan.”

After raping Sarmenta, Sanchez told George Medialdea, who was also later convicted by the court, “O sige mga anak, salamat sa regalo ninyo. Salamat sa regalo ninyo sa akin. Tapos na ako, sa inyo na iyan. Bahala na kayo diyan. Ano naman ang gagawin ninyo diyan sa lalake?”

“Boss, papatayin na rin po namin ito para wala pong bulilyaso,” said Medialdea, referring to Gomez.
Gomez and Sarmenta were subsequently killed by Sanchez’s men.

READ MORE: Under 2013 law, Sanchez has already served 49 years that made him eligible for release