MANILA, Philippines — If the law says convicted rapist-murderer and former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez should be allowed early release for “good behavior,” then so be it.
This was the pronouncement of Malacañang, as presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a Palace briefing on Thursday that the government “cannot do anything” because it could not oppose the law.
“Until the law is there, you cannot do anything. You have to amend the law,” asserted Panelo, who used to be Sanchez’s lawyer in the rape and murder of UP-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta in June 1993.
The Palace official was referring to Republic Act 10592 or the law that increased the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.
GCTA provides additional time to be deducted from an inmate’s prison sentence as a reward for his or her good behavior.
In June, the Supreme Court ruled to apply the law retroactively.
Sanchez was convicted in 1995 and was sentenced to seven life terms. One life term is equivalent to 40 years.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Tuesday that Sanchez could benefit from the high court’s ruling.
“The Palace cannot oppose the law. The Palace can only implement a law or the Office of the President. If we have any concern on the wisdom of the law, then it should be addressed to lawmakers,” noted Panelo, who also serves as President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel.
“That law was passed during the administration of President Benigno Aquino, right?” he added.
Republic Act 10592 was passed in 2013 during the term of Aquino.
But despite Panelo’s statement that the Palace could do nothing on the possible release of Sanchez, Section 1 of RA 10592, a copy of which was uploaded on The Official Gazette, states that “recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the coverage of this Act.”
On Thursday, Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) director Director General Nicanor Faeldon said Sanchez may not be qualified for release, citing the former mayor’s violations.
READ: BuCor chief: Sanchez ‘may not be qualified to go home’ yet
In 2006, Sanchez was charged with illegal drug possession and was again charged in 2010 after P1.5-million worth of shabu was discovered stashed under a Virgin Mary statue inside his prison cell.
Following a raid in 2011, BuCor jail guards seized from Sanchez’s cell a flat-screen television, an air-conditioner, and a refrigerator. /kga
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