The heinous crimes of ex-Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who may soon be freed

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) — The crimes of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was sentenced to nine reclusion perpetua, is on the spotlight once again with what may be his possible early release from prison.

He was already on trial for the double murder of his political opponent's supporter and his son when he perpetrated the rape-slay of two students of University of the Philippines-Los Baños.

We look back at the two cases based on official court documents.

'A plot seemingly hatched in hell'

Judge Harriet Demetriou of Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 70 on March 11, 1995 found Sanchez and six of his henchmen guilty of seven counts of rape with homicide for the rape-slay of 21-year-old Mary Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of 19-year-old Allan Gomez. This was affirmed by the Supreme Court.

Sanchez, then-PNP Calauan Deputy Chief George Medialdea, Luis Corcolon, Rogelio "Boy" Corcolon, Zoilo Ama, Baldwin Brio, and Pepito Kawit were each sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua or maximum of 40 years of imprisonment and ordered to pay damages.

In Demetriou's ruling, she described the crime as "a plot seemingly hatched in hell."

After the 16-month trial, the judge's decision relied on the testimonies of co-conspirators-turned-state witnesses Aurelio Centeno and security member Vicencio Malabanan. The two admitted to their role in the abduction of the students, but denied involvement in the rape and killings.

On June 28, 1993, UP Los Baños Agriculture students Sarmenta and Gomez were waiting inside a Toyota Tamaraw van outside the Agrix Complex in the campus. It was then that Sanchez's armed henchmen hatched the plan to abduct Sarmenta to offer her as a "gift" to the then-mayor.

In two separate vehicles, the van and a getaway ambulance, they all went to Erais Farm owned by Sanchez. Sarmenta and Gomez, gagged with their hands tied, were brought inside Sanchez's resthouse.

Sarmenta was sent straight to the then-mayor's room. Gomez was beaten up by Luis, Boy, Ama, and Medialdea, then thrown out of the resthouse. While on the ground, Kawit also struck Gomez's diaphragm with the butt of his ArmaLite rifle.

At 1 a.m. the next day, a crying and disheveled Sarmenta — who was missing her shorts — was dragged out of the resthouse.

The court document said the then mayor, clad merely in a white polo, appeared and thanked Luis and Medialdea for their “gift.”

"'Salamat sa regalo ninyo sa akin. Tapos na ako, sa inyo na iyan. Bahala na kayo diyan,'" the document quoted Sanchez.

Sarmenta and Gomez were loaded in the van, while some of Sanchez's men were trailing behind in the ambulance.

En route to Calauan, Kawit dragged blood-drenched Gomez from the van to the road and finished him off with a single gunshot from his ArmaLite. The young student was left there.

The henchmen brought Sarmenta to a sugarcane field in Barangay Mabacan in Calauan. It was there that Luis announced that it was time for the group to feast on her.

"'The exact words of Luis were 'Turbohin na rin natin ang tinurbo ni Boss,'" the document read.

Sarmenta was laid back at the back of the van, hands and legs tied by Medialdea, Luis, Boy, Ama, Brion, Kawit while waiting for their turn to gang rape the 21-year-old woman. Kawit invited Centeno to rape her, but he refused as he cannot "bear the bestiality being committed on Eileen who appeared to be dead."

After the rape, Sarmenta knelt and begged for her life. Luis forced his baby ArmaLite in her mouth and fired, quickly killing her. Centeno was ordered to get rid of her body. All 8 men boarded the ambulance, leaving her body in the van.

Sarmenta and Gomez were found the next day.

It took authorities over a month to tag Sanchez and his men in the rape and murders. They attempted to pin the blame on Kit Alqueza, the son of a general.

Double murder

Two years before the rape-slay of the UP students, Sanchez and his men also murdered father and son Nelson and Rickson Peñalosa. Nelson, an ally of Sanchez's political rival, Dr. Virvilio Velecina.

On April 13, 1991, Sanchez's henchmen Luis Corcolon — one of his co-accused in the case of the students — Landrito "Ding" Peradillas, Vicencio Malabanan, and Artemio Averion ambushed the owner-type jeep of the Peñalosas. From their own vehicle, they fired their M-16 and baby ArmaLite rifles, executed in automatic firing mode.

The double murder case was brought to court in 1994. Malabanan also testified as state witness in this case.

The decision of the Pasig Regional Trial Court Branch 160 was issued on December 1996. Sanchez, Corcolon, Peradillas, and Averion were found guilty of murder. They were sentenced to reclusion perpetua and ordered to pay a total of ₱230,000 in damages.

Sanchez, soon to be a free man?

Despite all these convictions, Sanchez may soon walk free. He could be one of the 11,000 inmates who could benefit from the law that reduces the sentence of those who show good behavior.

He has served 26 years in prison since his arrest in 1993. The Bureau of Corrections said the convicted ex-mayor has in fact already served 49 years — exceeding the maximum time of 40 years — based on the computation of his good conduct time allowance (GCTA) under the Republic Act 10592, which was enacted in May 2013. The Supreme Court in July ruled that the law, which increases the GCTA given to inmates, shall be applied retroactively.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Sanchez's evaluation may start next month. But there are questions if he is eligible to avail of it because of crimes he reportedly committed inside the New Bilibid Prison, inlcuding smuggling of illegal drugs and contraband.

“Conditional ‘yung grant ng deductions na ito. (The granting of these deductions are conditional) The most telling na requirement ng law is good behavior. The second is may mga exclusions, so yung recidivist, those repeat offenders are excluded from the benefit of the law. If he's found to fall under that category, then he might be ineligible to avail of the benefits of the law,” Department of Justice spokesperson Markk Perete said.

Senator Franklin Drilon, who was Justice Secretary when Sanchez was convicted, filed a Senate resolution to investigate the computation process of the Board of Pardons and Parole.

Senate President Tito Sotto said he will push for the exemption of the expanded GCTA law for heinous crimes. Several senators are also pushing to postpone the controversial development as clarifications and investigations into the process are being sought.