MANILA - The family of rape-slay victim Eileen Sarmenta on Saturday said it would formally file a petition before the courts to block the possible release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez from prison.
Sanchez was convicted for the 1993 rape and slay of Sarmenta, a University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) student, and the torture and death of her companion Allan Gomez.
“Magsusulat pa rin po kami ng petisyon ng request na hindi siya palalabasin but we have to consult our lawyer kasi, gusto namin in black and white na nagpetisyon, kami hindi lang dito sa mga interviews,” Clara Sarmenta, mother of Eileen, said in a phone interview.
(We want to write a petition, a request so he would not be released, but we have to consult our lawyer because we want to make it black and white that we filed a petition, not just saying this in interviews.)
She said reports on Sanchez’s possible release has caused them nightmares.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra earlier said Sanchez might be released because of a 2013 law, or Republic Act 10592, increasing the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) for convicts and a Supreme Court (SC) decision applying this law retroactively.
The GCTA reduces the time a convict spends in jail as a reward for good conduct. Sanchez was sentenced in 1995 to 7 terms of reclusion perpetua (40 years each term).
After news of his possible release attracted public outrage, Guevarra ordered a thorough review and re-computation of GCTAs of convicts.
He has also changed tune since, saying Sanchez is not qualified for GCTA since he was convicted of heinous crimes.
“Hindi ako nakatulog ng tatlong araw... ngayon lang ako nakapahinga. Sa dinami-dami na prisonero na 11,000, bakit si Sanchez ang binanggit nila dyan? 'Yan po pinagtataka namin eh,” Clara shared.
(I wasn't able to sleep for three days... It's just now I've been able to rest. Of all the 11,000 prisoners, why is it that Sanchez is the one being mentioned? That's what we've been wondering about.)
“It's so ironic na sana nakaka-move on na po kami after 26 years and alam niyo naman 26 years is too long to bring back the pieces of life we went through, ngayon bumalik na naman," she said.
(It's so ironic that we're supposed to be able to move on after 26 years, and you know 26 years is too long to bring pieces of our life back together after what we went through, and now it's coming back.)
Clara also reacted to recent statements of Sanchez saying he believes he has suffered enough for a crime he did not commit.
“Bakit hanggang ngayon sinasabi niya wala siyang kasalanan, na nag-behave siya doon? Naniniwala po ba ang taong bayan, naniniwala po ba kami? Of course we don’t!” the victim's mother said.
(Why is he saying until now he is not guilty, that he was well-behaved there? Do the people believe that? Do we believe that? Of course we don't!)
When asked if Sanchez should be given a second chance as Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa had earlier said, Clara answered: "Talaga naman lahat po ay should be given a second chance, but this man should not be given a second chance because he is a monster, and a menace to society."
(We should all be given a second chance, but this man should not be given a second chance because he is a monster and a menace to society.)
She also appealed to the Bureau of Corrections and Department of Justice saying they should exercise due diligence and sincerity in performing their tasks.
“Sana hindi naman sila naggawa ng statement noon na puwede makalaya si Sanchez because of good conduct time allowance.. kasi maliwanag na maliwanag sa ating batas,” Clara said.
(They should not have made the statement that Sanchez can be released because of good conduct time allowance... because it's very clear under the law.)
She said officials should have thoroughly studied the matter first.
Sarmenta also said reports would reach their family from time to time that Sanchez was being granted temporary freedom from Bilibid in exchange for money.
She lamented that the family had no way to check that.
"'Yung emotions ko hindi ko ma-control, bakit po mangyayari kung totoo man 'yun? Dapat hindi po nangyari di po ba?,” she said.
(I can't control my emotions, why would that happen if that's true? That should not be happening right?)
Sarmenta took stock of what the family had lost. She said her late daughter would have been 48 years old this September 16.
“Mayroon na sana kaming mga apo sa kaniya. At ang kurso niya nutritionist siya sa mga animals, sa UPLB siya nag-aaral… siguro very successful ang anak ko,” Eileen's mother said.
(We might have already had grandchildren by her. And her course was to become a nutritionist for animals, she was studying at the UPLB... she might have been very successful.)
On Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte assured he would not allow Sanchez to be released.
Earlier, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) also said that Sanchez may not be eligible for early release from prison based on several grounds.
The Sarmenta family said they are grateful after hearing the President’s assurance.
“'Yung kalooban namin naibsan ang sakit at hirap ng pinaglalaban po nating lahat na katarungan para sa aking anak. Mahal na Pangulo nating Duterte, nagpapasalamat kami,” Sarmenta said.
(The pain and suffering for what we've been fighting for to achieve justice for my daughter was eased. Our beloved President Duterte, we are thankful.)