MANILA – The Supreme Court has dismissed on technical grounds the bid of convicted rapist and killer Antonio Sanchez to compel the Bureau of Corrections to release him.
Citing a failure to comply with the Rules on Civil Procedure, the high court dismissed Sanchez’s petition for mandamus, based on a resolution of the SC en banc dated December 3, 2019, released to the media recently.
Sanchez ran to the Supreme Court after the Department of Justice (DOJ) and BuCor stopped his release pending review of the rules on good conduct time allowance (GCTA).
A petition for mandamus is a remedy that compels a government tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person to perform a duty under the law which they neglected to do.
Named as respondents were Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and the BuCor.
SC said the former Calauan town mayor failed to pay docket and other fees and there was no proof that a copy of his petition had been served on the other parties.
The court also said Sanchez’s petition had a defective verification and certificate against forum shopping because these were not notarized, aside from an insufficient number of copies filed.
News of Sanchez’s impending release caused public uproar due to the gravity of his crime.
He was sentenced in 1995 to 7 counts of reclusion perpetua (or 40 years imprisonment) over the killing of University of the Philippines Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in June 1993. Sarmenta was also found raped.
Guevarra and ex-BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon initially said in August 2019 Sanchez would benefit from the retroactive application of a 2013 law expanding the period of GCTA credits given to inmates, following a Supreme Court decision in June last year.
But the DOJ and BuCor were forced to backtrack on their statements only two days later, which eventually led to a revised GCTA implementing rules and regulations (IRR) which would exclude those convicted of heinous crimes from benefiting from the expanded GCTA credits.
Several petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court questioning the validity of the revised GCTA IRR but Guevarra clarified in a text message Sunday that Sanchez’s petition did not directly question the new IRR.
“I understand that the underlying basis for Sanchez’s petition for mandamus is his assumption that even heinous crime convicts are supposed to benefit from the expanded GCTA law of 2013. It’s not a direct challenge to the validity of the revised IRR (subject of separate petitions for certiorari and prohibition), nor to any DOJ or BuCor order denying his release (none such order exists, as far as I know; he is simply not released),” he said.
Guevarra welcomed the dismissal of the petition but expressed confidence that if re-filed, it will be dismissed “for lack of merit.”
“We believe that the revised IRR follows the letter and the spirit of the law. If this is not so, the remedy is not judicial; it is legislative. Congress has to amend the law,” he said.
“The DOJ is ready to meet the legal challenge anytime,” he added.
Thousands of inmates previously released on GCTA were forced to surrender following the President’s ultimatum in September.