Malacañang on possible Antonio Sanchez release: 'We can't do anything'
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang cannot stop the early release of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez if he qualifies for it under the law.
"[While] the law is there, we cannot do anything. You’ll have to amend. The wisdom of that law, we have to address it to the lawmakers," said Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo on Thursday, August 22, during a Palace news briefing.
Asked if the Palace would make a stand on the law which could set free a man like Sanchez who was convicted of a heinous crime, sooner than his punishment imposes, Panelo said it would do no such thing.
"The Palace cannot oppose a law. The Palace can only implement the law," he said.
Panelo also tried to refute accusations that he may have had something to do with Sanchez's possible release because he was the former Laguna mayor's trial lawyer.
The Duterte spokesman said he had withdrawn as Sanchez' legal counsel after his last hearing in 1995 and before he lodged an appeal.
Panelo also said that Sanchez' inclusion among the roughly 11,000 inmates who could benefit from the 2013 Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law and a High Court ruling that made the law retroactive is "automatic" and not dependent on any intervention by any official. (READ: Sentiments split on SC ruling freeing convicts like 'beast' Sanchez)
"First of all, that law was signed during the previous administration. Number two, as correctly pointed out by Secretary [Menardo] Guevarra, the family need not approach anyone so you can be one of the potential beneficiaries. If you are eligible, automatically they will recompute your sentence," said Panelo.
He added that just because he was Sanchez' lawyer does not mean he was "emotionally attached" to the case.
What does the Palace think of how Sanchez' misdemeanors, such as the discovery of shabu in a Mother Mary statue in his cell and his non-payment of damages to his victims' families, affect the possibility of his release?
Panelo said infractions in general should be considerations when authorities determine when Sanchez should be released.
"If you have an infraction, then that should be considered by those who will evaluate," said the Duterte spokesman.
But he wouldn't say if the above-mentioned misdemeanors count as infractions that would dispute the claim of Sanchez' "good behavior."
"That's not our turf. That's DOJ's turf. Whatever is the law, that's what should be followed," he said in Filipino.
Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon has said Sanchez may not be qualified for early release because of his past behavior.
Thousands have signed a petition demanding that the government keep Sanchez in prison. Clara Sarmenta, mother of Sanchez' victim Eileen Sarmenta, called on authorities to provide evidence of the convict's "good behavior."
Sanchez, then mayor of Calauan, Laguna, and his accomplices were sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua for the 1993 rape-slay of Sarmenta and the murder of her boyfriend, Alan Gomez. Sarmenta and Gomez were college sweethearts at the University of the Philippines-Los Baños (UPLB).– Rappler.com