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Senators buck Sanchez release; DoJ says case still being reviewed

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SENATORS on Thursday opposed the early release of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, a convicted rapist and murderer, and urged authorities to review his qualifications.

Senator Franklin M. Drilon, the country’s justice secretary at the time of Mr. Sanchez’s conviction, said he was shocked when he heard about the plan for the convict’s release for good conduct.

The lawmaker said he would call for an investigation into the plan, noting that the former mayor had been caught twice hiding illegal drugs while inside the national jail.

“From the records it would appear that he has not changed at all, engaging in shabu distribution 10 years after he was convicted in 1995,” Mr. Drilon said.

In 2006, Mr. Sanchez was charged with illegal possession of drugs and four years later, he was caught again with P1.5 million worth of crystal meth hidden in a statue of the Virgin Mary, he told ABS-CBN News.

“He is charged with engaging in drug trading inside the Bilibid penitentiary and on that basis alone he cannot qualify to avail himself of the benefits under the law,” Mr. Drilon said.




He said the Senate inquiry would look into the possible abuse of a law that increased the time allowance for inmates’ good conduct.

Mr. Sanchez was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of two University of the Philippines students in 1993.

Justice Secretary Menardo I. Guevarra on Tuesday said the convict might be released along with thousands of other inmates for good conduct. Their release cannot be appealed, he added.

The Supreme Court in June allowed the retroactive application of time allowance for inmates’ good conduct.

Senator M. Panfilo Lacson said the controversy should prompt amendments to the 2013 law that increased the good conduct time allowance.

Some crimes such as terrorism and rape with homicide should not be covered by early release, Mr. Lacson, a former policy chief, said in a statement.

Senate President Vicente C. Sotto III said Mr. Sanchez should not be released from jail since he has yet to indemnify the victims’ families. He also said this should prompt lawmakers to consider reviving the death penalty.

Senator Risa Hontiveros said Mr. Sanchez was unqualified to have his jail term reduced because his supposed good conduct remains questionable.

“Sanchez has shown no signs of remorse and displayed no effort at improving himself in behavior or character inside the penitentiary,” she said in a statement.

But Senator Ronald M. dela Rosa said Mr. Sanchez deserves a second chance, citing how the former mayor has become “a changed man.”

Also yesterday, Mr. Guevarra said the Bureau of Corrections would still evaluate whether Mr. Sanchez, who was also convicted of murder for the 1991 killing of a father and his son, qualifies for an early release.

While inmates convicted of heinous crimes are not eligible for an early release for good conduct, there is no law that defines heinous crimes, he said in a mobile-phone message. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

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