Antonio Sanchez's possible release revives calls to reinstate death penalty

enablePagination: false
maxItemsPerPage: 10
maxPaginationLinks: 10

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 22) — The impending release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a convicted rapist and murderer, has revived calls from some senators to reimpose the death penalty.

Senator Ronald "Bato" dela Rosa said capital punishment should have been carried out on Sanchez.

"Kung meron sanang death penalty noon edi wala na tayong ganitong issues, tapos na 'yan, diba? Dapat ganong klase, isipin mo napakabigat na offense 'yun, dapat binitay na 'yan noon pa para wala nang issue ngayon," the senator told CNN Philippines' The Source.

[Translation: If there was death penalty at the time, we would not have these issues, this should have been over and done with. With such major offense, the death penalty should have been imposed on him so that there would be no issue today.]

In 1995, the Supreme Court found Sanchez and six others guilty of seven counts of rape with homicide in relation to the rape and slay of 21-year-old University of the Philippines Los Baños student Mary Eileen Sarmenta and 19-year-old Allan Gomez. They were sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua or up to 40 years of imprisonment.

RELATED: Panelo denies hand in looming release of ex-mayor convicted of students' murder, rape

Sanchez, who has only served for 26 years, is one of 11,000 inmates and detainees who will benefit from the law increasing good conduct time allowance (GCTA) and a Supreme Court decision in June that applies the same law retroactively.

But Sanchez' eligibility to avail of the GCTA has been questioned by some senators and other sectors since P1.5 million worth of illegal drugs were found hidden on a religious statue in his cell in the Bilibid prison in 2010.

Dela Rosa said he was told during his stint at the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) that Sanchez has become a "changed man."

"Six months ko doon as BuCor chief wala ako narinig na derogatory reports against him, wala akong narinig na mga ginawa nyang hindi maganda, hindi ko nga lang sya na-meet dahil sa dami ba naman ng prisoners doon," he said.

[Translation: In my six months as BuCor chief, I haven't heard any derogatory reports against him, I haven't heard of any wrongdoing on his part, but I haven't met him given the volume of prisoners there.]

"There was one time nagtanong lang ako sa warden dun sa maximum security compound... Sabi nila, sir, mabait na, kuwan na changed man na. Sabi ko what do you mean by changed man? Bumait na, sir," Dela Rosa said.

[Translation: There was one time when I asked the warden at the maximum security compound. They said Sanchez is a changed man. I asked them what they meant by that? They said he has become a good man.]

Senator Francis Tolentino also believes that the issue on Sanchez's possible release "strengthens the need for death penalty."

"Kung may death [penalty] noon, wala na reprieve. Wala na parole. Hindi lang double life sentence, death penalty na dapat," Tolentino told reporters.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente "Tito" Sotto III on Tuesday questioned whether Sanchez's case is the best argument for the return of capital punishment.

"[Seven] life sentences, no indemnification, hearings for parole did not inform [Sarmenta] family. Best argument for death penalty?" Sotto asked in a Twitter post.

Senators Manny Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian, Pia Cayetano, Lito Lapid and Ramon Bong Revilla, and Christopher "Bong" Go, back the reimposition of capital punishment. Reelected Senators Cynthia Villar, Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III all back death penalty, but only for high-level drug trafficking.

Meanwhile, Senators Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Nancy Binay, Ralph Recto, Joel Villanueva, among others, have expressed opposition.

Death penalty was abolished under the 1986 Constitution, but the Charter gave Congress the power to reinstate it for heinous crimes. Capital punishment returned under the administration of President Fidel Ramos, but was abolished again under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The Philippines is also a signatory to the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which commits countries to abolish death penalty.