Sanchez's wife learned about ex-mayor's release via 'anonymous' text

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The wife of rapist and murderer Antonio Sanchez claimed on Tuesday, September 3, that she first learned about the "release" of the former Laguna mayor through a text message from an "anonymous" sender.

Elvira Sanchez made the statement as she responded to questions of Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon at the second hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law on Tuesday. 

While narrating her family's meeting with Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor Faeldon on August 21, Elvira volunteered that "somebody" texted her about the supposed release of Sanchez on the afternoon of August 20.

Asked who the text-sender was, and whether she knew the person enough to believe the message to be true, Elvira said she did not know the sender as only an "unknown number" appeared on her phone.

When Drilon asked if she brought her mobile phone with her, Elvira said she had just "destroyed" her phone after receiving so many "death threats" since the controversy erupted asn especially after the first Senate hearing on Monday, September 2.

"Kanina lang po binasag ko ang cellphone ko kasi paggising ko kanina, after ng hearing na 'to ang dami na nagtext sa 'kin. May mga death threat na po. Ako siyempre, outburst of my emotions, ay magtanggal na lang ako ng cellphone," Elvira said.

(I destroyed my cellphone earlier because when I woke up, I received a lot of text messages already. There are death threats. Of course, outburst of my emotions, I decided just to put away my phone.)

Where's the crucial text message?

Drilon asked if she had deleted the text message.

"Hindi ko po tinanggal ang message. Ang tinanggal ko ang SIM card at binato ko na po ang cellphone ko dahil sa sobrang galit ko na po. Almost two weeks na po 'yan na ang daming nagtetext sa amin," Elvira said.

(I did not remove the message. What I removed was my SIM card and I threw out my phone out of anger. A lot of people have been sending us text messages for the last two weeks.)

Drilon then asked, "Wala na 'yung mensahe (The message cannot be retrieved)?" to which Elvira replied,  "Opo, wala na rin po (Yes, it's gone)."

When Drilon asked if she still remembered the number of the anonymous sender, Elvira said: "'Di ko na po saulo. Unknown number nga eh (I didn't memorize it. As I said, tt's an unknown number)."

What she still remembered was the text exchange she had with the anomymous sender.

Elvira told the Senate panel that she recalled the text message as saying, "Ma'am, baka lumabas na si ex-mayor ngayong hapon (Ma'am,  the ex-mayor may be released this afternoon)." 

She said she responded, "Are you sure na lalabas na si mayor (that the mayor will get out)?"

The anonymous texter supposedly advised her to just go to the New Bilibid Prison "to clarify things."

'Tell the truth'

Senate President Vicente Sotto III then asked Elvira to provide her cellphone number to the Senate page.

"Kasi kung magsisinungaling po kayo, mahuhuli namin kayo eh. So magsabi na kayo ng totoo. (If you are lying, we will catch you. So you tell us the truth)," Drilon said.

Elvira told the senators that she went to the New Bilibid Prison on August 20 – on the sole basis of the anonymous text – but was not able to see her husband. The following day, August 21, Elvira said that she met Bureau of Corrections Director-General Nicanor Faeldon to ask why her husband will not be released.

She also said that she never met Faeldon prior to meeting him with her daughter and son on August 21.

Sanchez was supposedly among the 11,000 inmates up for early release. In 1995, the former mayor of Calauan, Laguna, was sentenced to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua after he committed the crime in 1993, and got another two terms of reclusion perpetua for the murder of a father and son.

Faeldon told the Senate panel that he was only following the guidelines of the GCTA law, but he had stopped the process of releasing of the former mayor because of the public outcry.

At the first hearing of the Senate panel, lawmakers alleged that awarding of reduced prison time based on good conduct may be for sale. 

'Virtual jailbreak'

At the House of Representatives, where the justice committee conducted a hearing on the same topic, Albay 1st District Edcel Lagman compared the release of the inmates to a “massive jailbreak.”

“It is virtually a jail break, but this time, not on the part of the inmates, but with conspiracy and consent of prison officials, no less than the director general of the Bureau of Corrections, Nicanor Faeldon,” said the opposition legislator. (READ: Good conduct time allowance may be for sale inside Bilibid – Hontiveros

 Pwersa ng Bayaning Atleta Representative Jericho Nograles said it was “erroneous” for 2,160 heinous crimes convicts to have been freed from jail from 2013 to 2019. 

Nograles said members of the Bureau of Corrections’ (BuCor) Management, Screening and Evaluation Committee (MSEC) responsible for the release of of heinous crime convicts should be subject to criminal and administrative complaints (READ: Can heinous crimes be excluded from good conduct time allowance law?– With a report from Mara Cepeda/Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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