Karapatan assails possible release of convicted criminal Sanchez amid widespread illegal arrests of political prisoners

Rights group Karapatan vehemently condemns the possible release of convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez.

Sanchez, a former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, made headlines when he and his henchmen were convicted on 1995, on seven counts of rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta, and the killing of her boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993. The decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1999. The former official was also suspected of smuggling and selling shabu to fellow inmates back in 2010, according to then NBP Director General Oscar Calderon.  He was also reportedly found positive for drug use in the same period. 
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced yesterday that more than 10,000 inmates, including Sanchez, will benefit from Republic Act 10592 which increased the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) given to inmates. The GCTA gives additional time to be taken from an inmate's sentence as a reward for his good behavior in jail.

"This case was considered as one of the triumphs of the Philippine judicial system at that time, yet, it seems that convicted criminals can still pull a few strings to surreptitiously orchestrate their escape, shamelessly disguised as "award" for their alleged good conduct," noted Cristina Palabay, Karapatan Secretary General, as a response to the news that criminal and rapist Sanchez will be among those released in accordance with the GCTA. 

The Karapatan official also noted that Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo served as one of Sanchez's defense counsel. "We are concerned and suspicious about this turn-out, considering that Panelo, now the Presidential legal counsel and spokesperson, had a hand in this case back in 1993. We cannot help but question his involvement in Sanchez's release. Of course he is denying it, but we can hardly expect defenders and mouthpieces of criminals to be truthful," added Clamor.

"It's a shame that the DOJ is quite excited to announce the possibility of Sanchez's freedom, yet the judiciary systematically veers its sight away from the cases of hundreds of political detainees in the country, many of which are sickly and elderly. Come to think of it, these political prisoners are jailed because of trumped up charges -- some for decades already -- yet a convicted murderer and rapist will be set free on the guise of good behavior, " Clamor explained. 

Based on the data gathered by Karapatan, as of June 2019, there are 545 political prisoners in the country - 288 of which were arrested under the administration of Rodrigo Duterte. Out of these 545 detainees all over the Philippines, 44 are elderly while 118 are sick and have various types of illnesses including life-threatening ones.

Palabay further commented: "Truly, justice only works for those favored by the powerful. The judge who handled this case more than 20 years ago aptly likened the incident to a plan "hatched in hell." His release despite such a brutal, merciless crime mocks justice, and it is an affront to the lives of his victims. We must never allow Sanchez's crimes to be forgotten, whitewashed, or reduced; we must never allow his band of demonic ilk to absolve him from where he and his kind belongs -- locked up in jail."

"If released, Sanchez's case will be another glaring example of how dysfunctional and unfair our current judicial system is. We cannot allow this to happen. We call upon the Filipino people to oppose this  preposterous and clandestine move to free an unremorseful criminal who will be a danger to more Filipinos. We remind Filipinos of the lives of Sarmenta and Gomez. It is not these criminals that should enjoy freedom, but the political prisoners, and many other innocents who languish in jail on the basis of trumped-up and fabricated charges, " Palabay ended.
 

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