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Duterte ruled out Sanchez early release — ex-aide

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PHILSTAR/JOVEN CAGANDE

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has ordered the Justice department not to release former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a convicted rapist and murderer, according to his former aide.

The president has studied the case of the ex-mayor and determined that he’s ineligible for an early release because he committed a heinous crime, Senator Christopher Lawrence T. Go, Mr. Duterte’s former right-hand man, told reporters.

Mr. Duterte made this clear to Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra and Bureau of Corrections chief Nicanor E. Faeldon, the lawmaker said.

Mr. Guevarra on Sunday said he would suspend the program on the early release of convicts for good conduct amid an uproar against the planned release of the ex-mayor.

Mr. Sanches was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of two University of the Philippines students in 1993 and was sentenced to seven life terms.

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Meanwhile, Senator Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said he would file a bill amending the law that expands the application of early release for good conduct.

“We intend to go back to work tomorrow armed with possible amendments to that Good Conduct Law by making it specific that convicts of heinous crimes especially those such as murder, drug trafficking, kidnap for ransom and other highly dangerous criminals cannot avail of the program,” he said in a mobil-phone message.

Mr. Zubiri said such convicts are “too dangerous” to be released. “Imagine the families and individuals who testified against them will be in extreme danger,” he said.

He also warned that law-abiding citizens will now be afraid to testify against criminals of heinous crimes. “Cases like that have happened in other countries like the United States where criminals released on good behavior had become recidivist and preyed on other victims in other states after relocating,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Guevarra said he got an order from the presidential palace to hold Mr. Sanchez’s release until legal issues are settled.

He earlier said he would form a task force that would review the rules and inform the Supreme Court about the planned suspension.

Justice Undersecretary Markk L. Perete in a text message yesterday said they needed 10 days to review the law.

Presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo on Friday said the ex-mayor was ineligible for an early release because he was convicted of heinous crimes. Mr. Panelo, the former legal counsel of Mr. Sanchez in the case had denied having a hand in his planned release.

The Supreme Court in June ruled that the law should be applied retroactively. Last Friday, it denied ordering the early release of Mr. Sanchez, saying it had ruled based on the judicial doctrine that laws should be applied retroactively if they favor the accused. — Arjay L. Balinbin and Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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