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Jail merits put off

Alvin Murcia

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Triggered by an uproar on the possibility that rape and murder convict former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez may be released from prison as a result of a new law, the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rules will be undergoing review.

The outcry against the release of Sanchez included a vehement opposition from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Department of Justice (DoJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the GCTA processing may also be temporarily suspended.

“We’re considering seriously the need to suspend the processing of GCTA until the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) guidelines are reviewed and firmed up,” said Guevarra.

The Justice chief said BuCor will base its actions on the adjusted guidelines after the review.

DoJ Undersecretary and spokesman Markk Perete discarded the possibility of an early release of the controversial detainee amid fears and apprehensions from parents and relatives of his victims.

Perete said Sanchez is excluded from the benefits provided under the GCTA law.

No chance

Based on DoJ’s evaluation, Sanchez is not qualified to the expanded GCTA law.

In 1995, Sanchez was convicted by the Pasig Regional Trial Court for the 1993 rape and murder of University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of Sarmenta’s friend Allan Gomez.

The court meted Sanchez and his cohorts seven terms of reclusion perpetua that carries a maximum of 40 years imprisonment, which was a ruling later on upheld by the Supreme Court in 1999.

Guevarra earlier said thousands of inmates that included the former mayor could be released within the next two months.

The said inmates were eligible for release due to the recomputation of GCTA on the basis of Republic Act 10592 and a ruling of the SC that made the effectivity of the law retroactive, making it applicable to convicts sentenced prior to its 2013 enactment.

The SC, in a statement released Friday, appeared to distance itself from the possible release of Sanchez.

When BuCor said there are 11,000 inmates who may benefit from the law, the DoJ said that while all are included, the case of each will undergo extensive evaluation based on the provisions of the law.

Sanchez won’t be reviewed

In the case of Sanchez, the DoJ spokesman said since there is a determination that he is excluded from the law, he should not be evaluated anymore.

BuCor, according to Perete, has reviewed the eligibility of around 200 inmates since the SC ruling.

It is safe to say that Sanchez has no hope of walking out of jail based on the law, he added.
The same view was shared by Department of the Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año who said Sanchez, in committing a heinous crime, can’t avail of the provisions under the law.

Año said the law is categorical in excluding recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefits of its coverage.

“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,” Año pointed out.

“He should serve his sentence up to the last minute. He must serve his entire sentence. If we will release him early, we would have punctured a hole in our own justice system,” he added. “He cannot be released on the basis of GCTA.”

With FTW