MANILA — Tight hugs and warm smiles filled the room when a retired judge met again with parents of slain college students whose killers she sent to prison 24 years ago.
On Saturday, former Pasig Regional Trial Court judge Harriet Demetriou crossed paths again with mothers of University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez more than 2 decades after the conviction of their killer, then Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
The reunion came amid controversy over Sanchez's bid for early release. His plea for executive clemency has been rejected, while his release on good conduct was held back amid questions on his eligibility and public uproar.
During Saturday's reunion at a Makati City restaurant, Ma. Clara Sarmenta and Iluminada Gomez, mothers of Eileen and Allan respectively, were excited upon seeing Demetriou.
The reunion, initiated by Demetriou, was somewhat bittersweet as they relived memories of their fight to convict Sanchez and his cohorts for the 1993 case.
It took Demetriou 16 months of trial before convicting Sanchez and his 6 bodyguards for the crime she described as a "plot seemingly hatched in hell."
Sarmenta was known to have been raped by Sanchez and, later, his men, then shot in the face, while Gomez was tortured then killed.
Demetriou came out of retirement last August to speak out against the government as news of Sanchez being released early over "good behavior" surfaced.
The government backtracked following public outrage, saying Sanchez was disqualified from the good conduct time allowance (GCTA) rule over prison violations.
These include the P1.5-million worth of illegal drugs found in his cell in 2010.
President Rodrigo Duterte did not allow Sanchez's release and on Wednesday, he fired Nicanor Faeldon as Bureau of Corrections chief for setting free some 2,000 heinous crime convicts.
He has ordered those prisoners to surrender in 15 days or face warrantless arrest.