Robredo: Sanchez case proof that death penalty shouldn’t be revived

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — Vice President Leni Robredo said the case of convicted rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez is proof that the death penalty should not make a comeback, this amid a renewed push for its revival in response to the possible release of the former Calauan, Laguna mayor.

Ito nga ‘yung pruweba na ‘wag ipapasa. ‘Wag ipapasa kasi ‘yung mga may kaya, sila na naman ‘yung makikinabang noon. ‘Yung mga mahihirap na walang means para kumuha ng mahuhusay na abogado, sila na naman ang malulugi,” Robredo said in her radio program BISErbisyong Leni on Sunday.

[Translation: This is proof not to pass it. Let’s not pass it because the rich will only be the ones who will benefit from it. The poor who don’t have the means to get good lawyers, they would be on the losing end.]

Reports of the possible early release of Sanchez based on the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law has revived calls for the reinstatement of the death penalty.

Sanchez and six other men were each sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua for the 1993 rape and murder of University of the Philippines – Los Baños (UPLB) student Mary Eileen Sarmenta, and the murder of her friend and fellow UPLB student Allan Gomez. Each sentence totals 280 years, but the law only allows a maximum prison time of 40 years.

At the time that they were sentenced, murder and rape was punishable by death through electrocution or gas poisoning, if these were accompanied by certain circumstances.

Under Republic Act 7659, which was in force when Sanchez and his henchmen were sentenced, murder with the aid of armed men was punishable by death. Court records show that the men who abducted and later murdered Sarmenta and Gomez were armed.

Ang problema ‘yung mga may kaya, ‘yung mga mayayaman, may kapangyarihan, sila ‘yung gumagamit ng mga paraan para makalusot sa batas. Kawawa talaga ‘yung mga mahihirap,” Robredo said.

[Translation: The problem is that the rich and the powerful, they find ways to evade the law. The poor are on the losing end.]

She also noted that Sanchez committed several violations while in prison.

‘Yung mga nakukulong naman, ito ‘yung pagkakataon mong magbago habang nasa kulungan para paglabas mo, handa ka na ulit para mag-integrate sa society. Pero itong si Sanchez, nakakulong, ilang beses nahulihan ng drugs, ng shabu. Ilang beses na maraming violations,” Robredo said.

[Translation: When people are jailed, this is your chance to change while in prison so that when you get out, you are ready to integrate with society. But with Sanchez, he was jailed and was caught so many times with drugs, shabu. He had so many violations.]

After the public uproar over the possible release of Sanchez, officials changed their tune, saying there is no way the former mayor would benefit from the expanded GCTA law.

The law, passed in 2013, shaves off time from an inmate’s sentence on the basis of good behavior.

Originally, only inmates sentenced after the law was passed could benefit from it, but the Supreme Court (SC) in June granted the petition of New Bilibid Prison inmates who sought that the law be also applied to people who were sentenced to jail before the law was passed.

The Justice department wants to suspend the processing of GCTAs pending the review of its guidelines.

It also asked Congress and the SC to clarify whether the GCTA applies to all convicts or if it excludes those convicted of heinous crimes.