Malacañang's 'inevitable conclusion': Sanchez disqualified from early release

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Malacañang said on Friday, August 23, that based on the "spirit and letter of the law," rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez is not qualified for early release.

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo cited the provision of Republic Act No. 10592 or the law on good conduct time allowance (GCTA) that disqualifies those convicted of heinous crimes from availing of reduced prison terms under the law.

Panelo said a review of the law “reveals that it is categorical in excluding recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees, and persons charged with heinous crimes from the benefit of its coverage.”

“This is the letter and the spirit of the law. Thus, the inevitable conclusion is that all those convicted of a heinous crime, including Mr Antonio Sanchez, would be ineligible and disqualified from availing the benefits of the GCTA,” said Panelo.

Asked later on by reporters if President Rodrigo Duterte will allow Sanchez' early release, Panelo said, "Mr Sanchez under Republic Act No 10592 is not eligible so the President, as the chief enforcer of the law, will have to follow the law."

Panelo was Sanchez’s lawyer in the rape-slay case of Eileen Sarmenta, and the murder of Sarmenta’s friend Allan Gomez. Both were students of the University of the Philippines-Los Baños when they were killed in 1993. 

Sanchez was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua for the 1993 murder-slay case, and two terms of reclusion perpetua for the murder of Nelson Peñalosa and son Rickson.

Panelo assured those opposed to the early release of Sanchez that the Bureau of Corrections  (BuCor) under the Department of Justice (DOJ) would conduct a thorough and “careful” review of the GCTA of convicts.

He said Malacañang supports the DOJ's directive to BuCor “to carefully and cautiously review the GCTA of persons who have been found guilty by the courts of having committed high profile, heinous crimes or crimes so grave that show extreme moral depravity.”

Panelo reiterated that reduced prison terms would be granted only to those who are entitled to it, based on the determination of the DOJ which supervises BuCor.

He also welcomed the planned Senate inquiry into the earlier reported possible early release of Sanchez.

On Tuesday, August 20, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that Sanchez would be among those who would benefit from the retroactive application of RA 10592 as he had been in jail for more than 25 years. The 2013 law used to be prospective in application, but the Supreme Court had ruled that it would be retroactive, to cover cases prior to its enactment.

His statement sparked public outrage over the possible early release of Sanchez, as families of his victims demanded proof of his good behavior in prison.

Guevarra, as well as BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon, later said on Thursday, August 22, that Sanchez was ineligible for release

Faeldon had cited Sanchez's misdemeanors, such as stashing drugs inside Bilibid, affecting his good conduct time record. As such, the former mayor may still stay inside prison "for several years." – Mia Gonzalez/