MANILA - Sen. Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Thursday said rape and murder convict Antonio Sanchez should have been sentenced to death.
Dela Rosa issued this statement after he earned criticism for saying that former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Sanchez, who was behind the rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and her companion Allan Gomez, deserves a “second chance.”
Dela Rosa, a former Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief, said that “by operation of the law”, Sanchez indeed deserves a second chance.
“Ang sa akin nga ganun ka-heinous ang krimen na ginawa nya, dapat binitay sya noon,” Dela Rosa told reporters.
(Due to the gravity of his crime, he should have been sentenced to death.)
“Bakit kailangan ko pa mag-sympathize? Kung ako tanungin, bitay na dapat iyan noon. Galit na galit ako sa kaso na iyan.”
(Why should I sympathize? If you ask me, he should have been sentenced to death back then. That case really outraged me.)
At the time of Sanchez’s conviction in 1995, the death penalty was in place in the Philippines, which resumed executions in 1999.
At a Senate hearing on the mandatory imposition of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps program for Grades 11 and 12, Dela Rosa also clashed with National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) President Raoul Manuel who chastised him for saying that Sanchez deserves a second chance.
“Ang layo naman ng sinasabi mo mister. Kasama ba yan dito sa hearing yong comment ko na yon? Ang layo naman. That’s an affront,” an outraged Dela Rosa said.
(You are off-topic. Is that comment included in our hearing? That’s an affront.)
“Ikaw na estudyante ka, dapat matuto kang magrespeto kahit sa isang senador man lang na nandito sa hearing na ito. Huwag mong tirahin sa ibang ‘isyu na hindi kasama dito ha.”
(As a student, you should know how to respect a senator during a hearing. Don’t attack him on an unrelated issue.)
GOOD CONDUCT TIME ALLOWANCE
Sanchez was sentenced in 1995 to 7 counts of reclusion perpetua (or 40 years imprisonment) over the murder of Sarmenta and Gomez, both University of the Philippines Los Baños students.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Sanchez might be released because of a 2013 law increasing good conduct time allowance and a Supreme Court (SC) decision applying this law retroactively.
Although sentenced to 7 counts of reclusion perpetua, Sanchez stands to benefit from the 3-fold rule under the Revised Penal Code, which limits the service of sentence to a maximum of 3 times the harshest penalty but in no case more than 40 years.
The Revised Penal Code also allows the application of good conduct time allowances, which reduces the years and days spent in prison.
The periods for good conduct time allowance were increased in a 2013 law, Republic Act 10592, which expanded the application of good conduct time allowance for prisoners even during preventive imprisonment and increased the number of days that may be credited for good conduct.
SENATORS THUMB DOWN FREEDOM FOR SANCHEZ
Dela Rosa said the impact of the 2013 law on the high-profile Sanchez case might prompt lawmakers to revisit the measure.
Several senators have already expressed outrage over the possibility that Sanchez might be freed.
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, the country’s justice secretary at the time of Sanchez’s conviction, said he was shocked after hearing the news and urged the justice department to withhold Sanchez’s release pending a review of his qualifications.
He said he will seek a Senate inquiry on the computation of the good conduct allowance, adding that the former mayor was twice caught concealing illegal drugs inside New Bilibid Prison.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said Sanchez should not be released from jail since he has yet to indemnify the victims’ families.
He added, the case should also prompt lawmakers to consider reviving the death penalty.
Minority Sen. Risa Hontiveros also said Sanchez is not qualified to have his jail term reduced because his supposed good conduct while in prison remains questionable.
Hontiveros cited an instance where Sanchez was caught with P1.5 million worth of shabu hidden in a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his cell in 2010. She also noted that the former mayor was found to be enjoying VIP perks when an air-conditioning unit and a flat-screen TV were seized from him during a raid in 2015.
Sen. Sonny Angara shared the same view, saying the shabu found in Sanchez’s possession should affect his chances to be released from prison.
“[In] the grant of clemency, should the friends and family of the victims be mandatorily consulted, and in fact, as the ones directly suffering from the loss, be the first to be solicited of their views, and should the latter be given much weight?” he said.