NEOPHYTE Senator and former chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa’s remarks that convicted murderer and rapist Antonio Sanchez “deserves a second chance” or that he might be released soon “for good conduct” caused quite a stir and for a good reason.
Either he spoke too soon or was pretending to impress the public for being a senator with firsthand information, but his act of blurting out unverified news is simply a classic case of putting his foot in his mouth.
Dela Rosa’s seemingly firsthand knowledge definitely did not bode well with the families of the victims and to a certain extent the public, especially those who knew how heinous the crime committed by the heartless and power-drunk former mayor of Calauan, Laguna in 1993, when he masterminded the rape-slaying of Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of Sarmenta’s boyfriend, Allan Gomez, both UP Los Baños students.
Not only did Sarmenta suffer from Sanchez’s brutishness but after he was done with her, he handed the hapless girl to his henchmen who took turns raping her, after which she was mercilessly shot in the head, just like her boyfriend before her.
On March 14, 1995, after a 16-month trial, then Pasig Regional Trial Court Judge Harriet Demetriou found Sanchez and six of his henchmen guilty in what she described as “a plot seemingly hatched in hell.”
It is under the preceding circumstances that dela Rosa’s remarks created disquietude not only to the Sarmenta and Gomez families, but also among politicians and cause-oriented groups upon hearing that Sanchez, who was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua, may soon walk free, as one of around 11,000 prisoners who may benefit from Republic Act 10592, or the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law, signed in 2013 under then president Benigno Aquino.
The law amended several articles under the Revised Penal Code, including Article 97, which lays out the allowance for good conduct for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs).
In a nutshell, the GCTA law allows for deduction of sentences of PDLs, depending on how well they abide by rules and regulations inside “any penal institution, rehabilitation, or detention center or any other local jail.” It essentially awards good behavior and recognizes rehabilitation.
While there may be many deserving prisoners where the GCTA law could legitimately apply, Sanchez’s hideous case, however, is certainly one of those that should not even be discussed for consideration. It must be remembered that before Sarmenta and Gomez met their horrendous death, Sanchez was already being tried for two counts of murder for ordering the killing of father and son Nelson and Rickson Peñalosa, both supporters of Sanchez’s political opponent. The case was tried by Branch 160 of the Pasig Regional Trial Court, which rendered its guilty verdict in 1996.
Thus, dela Rosa should have been more circumspect when he made his irresponsible and uncalled for remarks. He should have verified it first and confirmed whether the person he was talking about should be the best example under the GCTA law before causing undue anxiety to those concerned by reliving the dreadful past again.