“If Sanchez is freed this year he would have served merely 25 years of the 360 years sentence meted to him.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — A women’s group has called on the public to heighten its opposition against the impending release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.
The justice department confirmed Sanchez was eligible for release and might walk free soon, despite being sentenced to seven life terms.
Sanchez, then Calauan mayor, and six other co-accused were found guilty of the 1993 killing University of the Philippines Los Banos students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.
“Let us act quickly to prevent the release of Sanchez. The likes of Sanchez is a danger to women and to our society,” said women’s group Gabriela in a statement.
Sarmenta was offered like a “gift” to Sanchez and gang raped before she was shot dead. Gomez, on the other hand, was tortured before he was killed.
The killing was described as a “a plot seemingly hatched in hell.”
In news reports, families of the two UP students said in separate interviews that they were surprised over Sanchez’s impending release. This, they said, opened up old wounds that never seemed to have healed in the first place.
Gabriela said the families were reportedly not informed that Sanchez is among the inmates set to be released and only learned of it along with the rest of the world when Justice secretary Menardo Guevarra announced it.
Sanchez will be released on the basis of a Philippine law that reduces prison sentences for those with so-called “good behavior.”
This, however, is not the case.
“Surely, being caught in 2010 for smuggling in prison a kilo of shabu worth P1.5 million and hiding it in a statue of the Virgin Mary is not good behavior. Surely, bribing prison officials in order to sneak in an air conditioning unit and a flat-screen TV in his cell is not good prison behavior,” said Gabriela in a statement.
Ironic stand on Sanchez’s release
Former police chief now Senator Ronald dela Rosa was under fire over his statement, saying that Sanchez “deserves a second chance” as the former mayor was “no longer a bully.”
Dela Rosa served as implementor of President Duterte’s war against drugs, which has reportedly left nearly 30,000 killed.
The former police chief is also pushing for the death penalty, of which the heinous crime that Sanchez was found guilty of committing may be meted out with such.
Netizens, on the other hand, were quick to point out the possible hand of the president’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo in Sanchez’s impending release.
Panelo, who has already denied this, served as his lawyer during the trial. He said that he has withdrawn from the case “years ago.”
Former Social Welfare and Development secretary and long-time women’s rights advocate Judy Taguiwalo referred to Sanchez’s impending release as a travesty of justice.
“If Sanchez is freed this year he would have served merely 25 years of the 360 years sentence meted to him,” she said, adding that the people cannot “allow this injustice to happen.”
“We marched and marched in 1993 to demand justice for Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, young iskolar ng bayan, who died in the hands of a mayor and his policemen,” she said.
In the midst of attacks
The reported release of Sanchez came at the helm of a series of attacks against human rights defenders in the country.
Yesterday, Aug. 20, protest actions were held nationwide to decry the unabated killings in Negros and the proposed campus militarization.
Gabriela said that in the midst of all these attacks, “convicted rapist-murderers like Sanchez are allowed to walk free.”