Former mayor of Calauan, Laguna and convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez is being released. In 1999, he was sentenced to 7 life terms, or 360 years in jail, for masterminding the rape and double murder of two UP Los Banos students, Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1995. It took nearly years for the family of these two young victims to receive their justice, but now 20 years later it’s been snatched away due to a bad law.
While we won’t go into the details (there are plenty going around which recount the horrific fate that Sarmento and Gomez met at the hands of this monster), we will delve into the reason why this is happening. Because even with how horrific the crimes committed were and how impossible it must seem that the man found guilty by the Supreme Court itself could be let out only 20 years after his sentencing, it is actually entirely within the realm of legal possibility.
Sanchez, the leader of a plot described by the Supreme Court as “seemingly hatched from hell”, is one of 11,000 prisoners who may benefit from Republic Act No. 10592, which increases good conduct time allowances, credits preventive imprisonment, and otherwise allows for the reduction of sentence for “good inmates”.
Which makes sense, since people can be reformed, right? Except Sanchez was still a candidate even after being found with an air conditioner in his room and shabu hidden in a Mother Mary statue in his cell. Not exactly a candidate for reentering society, right?
This is why RA 10592 is flawed. The law reduces the sentence of prisoners per month of good behavior. For example, say Sanchez was caught in February with more contraband, but every other month he was a “good” inmate (or just wasn’t caught). First the first two years of his imprisonment, each “good” month would credit 20 days off his sentence. From the third to fifth year, this would be 23. From the fourth to tenth, it’s 25. From the 11th onwards, its a full deduction of 35 days. Plus, an additional 15 days for each month of study, teaching, or mentoring time rendered. Which means that Sanchez could have effectively been serving nearly triple his sentence simultaneously. And violating good behavior rules any month does not disqualify him from getting 20 days credited to his freedom in the month immediately after.
RA No. 10592, which was signed into law by former President Noynoy Aquino, makes no distinction between inmates who display a pattern of good behavior and provides no real punishment to those who would try to game the system.
He’s now being released thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court in June to rule favorably on a petition by inmates that said the law should be applied retroactively. Sanchez was included in the inmates for early, and we meant early, release that the Bureau of Corrections computed.
The metrics in RA No. 10592 are flawed, obviously. How this law could have passed in 2013 is hard to understand. Did they not think of the impact the early release of a “reformed” criminal would have on their victims? Why is there of factoring in of remorse? With the passing of this bill, criminals were just given a new way to game the system. Now, we have no means to keep criminals like Sanchez behind bars.
Yes, there are flaws in the legal system, but that doesn’t mean that the entire thing should be thrown out. But that’s what’s happened. Our justice means nothing if monsters like Sanchez can walk free legally after 20 years. The students he murdered were 19. He barely even served 20 years. The atrocities committed against those youths cannot even be quantified. How on earth was 20 years enough to pay for his crimes?
How many other monsters are we letting back into society with Sanchez? With no provisions in the law to distinguish the murderers from the petty criminals, how can we even know?
A round of applause to President Aquino. Thank you Juan Ponce Enrile, then-President of the Senate, and Feliciano Belmonte Jr., then-Speaker of the House of Representatives. Good job Acting Senate Secretary Edwin B. Belen and Secretary General of the House of Representatives, Marilyn B. Barua-Yap. Sanchez’ freedom is your accomplishment. Congratulations.