The family of Eileen Sarmenta on Saturday said it would formally petition the courts to prevent the release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted of raping and killing the University of the Philippines at Los Baños student and her schoolmate Allan Gomez in 1993.
READ: Ex-mayor may gain freedom on ‘good conduct’
This developed as the Interior department also said Saturday it supported the Justice department’s decision to disqualify Sanchez—who is serving seven life sentences—from possibly leaving jail early as a benefit of a new law that provided increased Good Conduct Time Allowance credits to prisoners.
READ: Palace: Sanchez ‘not eligible’ for release, Duterte ‘furious’
Saying Sanchez’s possible freedom caused nightmares for her family, Clara Sarmenta, Eileen’s mother, told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview they wanted to formalize their position against the ex-mayor with a court filing.
“We want to write a petition, a request so he would not be released, but we have to consult our lawyer because we want to make it black and white that we filed a petition, not just saying this in interviews,” Mrs. Sarmenta told the network.
“I wasn’t able to sleep for three days. It’s just now I’ve been able to rest. Of all the 11,000 prisoners, why is it that Sanchez is the one being mentioned? That’s what we’ve been wondering about,” she added.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said his agency supports the Department of Justice’s revised stand on Sanchez, who was convicted and sentenced for the murders of Sarmenta and Gomez in 1995.
“The law is categorical in excluding recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefits of [the] coverage” of Republic Act 10592, which amends parts of the Revised Penal Code, Año said.
That condition alone, he added, means Sanchez “inarguably does not stand a chance of being released anytime soon.”
“Sanchez committed rape and double murder. He was responsible for the death of two bright university students. Allowing him to get out early is a mockery of the law and justice system,” the secretary said.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra previously said Sanchez might be released because of RA 10592, enacted in 2013, which increased the GCTA
—a reward for good conduct—for convicts. Later, a Supreme Court decision applied the law retroactively.
But as news of Sanchez’s possible release provoked public outrage
, Guevarra ordered a thorough review and recomputation of GCTAs of convicts, then said the former mayor was not qualified for the benefit as was convicted of heinous crimes.
Underscoring the stipulations of RA 10592, Año said Sanchez “must serve every minute of his entire sentence.” One “reclusion perpetua” conviction is equivalent to 40 years in prison under the law, so Sanchez should be serving a total of 280 years.
The secretary spoke in his capacity as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which supervises the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, which in turn oversees city, district, and municipal jails across the country.
Detainees in facilities run by the BJMP, including Sanchez, would benefit from the provisions of the GCTA law.
But if Sanchez is released ahead of serving his full sentence, “we would have punctured a hole in our own justice system,” Año said.
Clara Sarmenta noted the irony in the release of the former mayor, who also told ABS-CBN in another exclusive interview Friday he was innocent and that he deserved to be freed.
The former mayor said he was not involved in the deaths of Sarmenta and Gomez, whose bodies he said were merely dumped in his town. He insisted he was framed by his political enemies.
But Mrs. Sarmenta, countering another statement by the ex-mayor that he had already suffered enough, said: “Why is he saying until now he is not guilty, that he was well-behaved there [in prison]? Do the people believe that? Do we believe that? Of course, we don’t!”
She appealed to the DOJ and the Bureau of Corrections to exercise due diligence and sincerity in performing their tasks, adding their officials should have studied the matter thoroughly first.
Mrs. Sarmenta was also grateful for President Rodrigo Duterte putting his foot down on Sanchez’s release, as the Palace said Friday he was “furious” and as “chief enforcer of the law, will have to follow” RA 10592.
“The pain and suffering for what we’ve been fighting for to achieve justice for my daughter was eased. Our beloved President Duterte, we are thankful,” she said.
READ: Panelo denies role in Sanchez case