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Duterte stops Sanchez release

‘Rapist-killer doesn’t qualify for jail-term cut’

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Bureau of Corrections (Bucor) to block the release of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez.

Duterte reviewed Republic Act 10592 and found that Sanchez was not covered by the law reducing jail terms on the basis of good behavior since it excludes those who were convicted of heinous crimes, Senator Christopher Go said Monday.

“He told BuCor chief (Nicanor) Faeldon at (Justice) Secretary (Menardo) Guevarra that Sanchez cannot be freed,” Go told reporters at the sidelines of National Heroes Day rites in Taguig City.

“He ordered [them] not to release Sanchez,” Go added.

The senator, a former aide to the President, said Duterte was furious when he learned Sanchez, who has shown no remorse for his crimes, might be released early.

READ: Palace: Sanchez ‘not eligible’ for release, Duterte ‘furious’

The President’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, at first said the government would have no choice but to free Sanchez if he was qualified under the law.

He later insisted that the former mayor was not qualified under Republic Act 10592 after all.

Guevarra first announced that Sanchez “may actually be released” under RA 10592 along with 11,000 other inmates. Following a strong public outcry, Guevarra said Sanchez was ineligible for early release.

READ: Ex-mayor may gain freedom on ‘good conduct’

Section 1 of RA 10592 states that “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act.”

“The problem is, whether he deserves [to be released] or not, under the law he is not eligible,” Panelo said in an interview over CNN Philippines.

Sanchez was convicted for the 1993 rape-slay of Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of Allan Gomez, both University of the Philippines LosBaños students.

Panelo was one of Sanchez’s seven defense lawyers. His former client was sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua in 1995.

READ: Panelo denies role in Sanchez case

Court records showed that Sanchez raped Sarmenta inside his rest house and handed her to his henchmen to be raped again the following day. Meanwhile, Gomez was beaten outside Sanchez’s rest house before he was killed.

While in prison, Sanchez was also found in possession of shabu and marijuana leaves in his cell in 2006. In 2010, prison guards confiscated P1.5 million worth of shabu stashed in one of his Virgin Mary statues.

Meanwhile, retired judge Harriet Demetriou, who convicted Sanchez, denounced as “a mockery of justice” and “a cruel joke” the planned release of the former Calauan, Laguna mayor.

Demetriou said Sanchez, whom she sentenced to seven life imprisonment terms, said Sanchez did not deserve to be released under RA10592.

“I will question first what is their interpretation of the law… Are people convicted of heinous crimes included or excluded? They should not insult the intelligence of the Filipino public,” the retired judge said in an interview on ABS-CBN.

She slammed Panelo, Senator Ronald dela Rosa and Faeldon over their earlier statements that Sanchez deserved to be released.

Demetriou said Panelo, who served as lead counsel of Sanchez during the trial, has been defending his former client’s good conduct. But Panelo denied that he had a hand in the plan to free his former client.

She also criticized Dela Rosa over his statement that Sanchez deserved a “second chance” despite being convicted of rape and homicide, saying the drug suspects killed in the government anti-drug campaign did not get a second chance.

“For the senator, it seems he has two concepts of justice—justice for the poor and justice for the rich.

That should not be done in this country,” Demetriou said.

After drawing heavy fire for his remark, Dela Rosa later said Sanchez should have been executed.

Demetriou also hit Faeldon for saying that Sanchez was qualified for release due to good conduct.

“He (Sanchez) was treated like a king in his cell. How can Faeldon say Sanchez was qualified for early release for good conduct when he (the Bucor chief) tolerated all this?” Demetriou said in a mix of English and Filipino.

The former judge said she had more respect for the young people who are protesting plans to free Sanchez.

Guevarra on Monday said the Palace asked him to put on hold the processing of Sanchez’s case until all factual and legal issues have been reviewed.

“The request that I received from Malacañang was to hold the processing of Mayor Sanchez’s case until all the factual and legal issues have been fully threshed out.”

Guevarra also said the interpretation of the law on who may qualify for early release could be resolved by Congress or by the Supreme Court.

On Sunday, the Justice Department said it would suspend the processing of GCTAs until the implementing rules and regulations governing the law are reviewed and finalized.

He said such a review could be completed in 10 days.

“We will give this top priority,” he said. “We don’t want to keep inmates who have a right to be released on good behavior. That law is for them.”

Though he said the BuCor already has a manual on the processing of GCTA that was printed two years ago, it was not yet updated to take into consideration the recent decision of the Supreme Court which ordered the retroactive application of RA 10592.

In a message to reporters, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said the Senate will work this week on possible amendments to RA 10592 to clearly exclude from the program inmates convicted of heinous crimes.

GCTA is earned as a reward for an inmate’s good behavior and deducted from his jail term.

But Zubiri said inmates convicted of heinous crimes are too dangerous to release back in the streets.

“Imagine, the families and individuals who testified against them will be in extreme danger,” Zubiri said.  

READ: 'Nightmares' over Sanchez

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Bureau of Corrections , Department of Justice , Antonio Sanchez , Christopher Go
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