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Sanchez’s possible release revives call to restore death penalty

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By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Calls for the revival of death penalty floated in Senate in the wake of reports on the possible release of former Calauan, Laguna mayor and rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez from prison.

Senate President Vicente Sotto III first raised the return of death penalty as he questioned Sanchez’s potential release from prison.

“Seven life sentences, no indemnification, hearings for parole did not inform Sarmenta family. Best argument for death penalty?” he wrote on Twitter Wednesday.

Asked about his tweet on Thursday, the Senate chief said he only took note of propositions raised to him by some people that Sanchez’s case was a “good” case for death penalty, as this would ”inhibit” convicted criminals from committing the same crimes again.

Sotto was first opposed to death penalty but later agreed that drug lords and high-level drug traffickers should be punished with death.

But he clarified that he was not bringing the controversial proposal in the much-opposed plan to release Sanchez.

Senator Francis Tolentino, meanwhile, said the public outcry over Sanchez’ impending release bolsters the need to restore capital punishment in the Philippines.

“It further strengthens the call for the restoration of death penalty,” Tolentino said in a separate interview.

“Kung may death penalty noon, di na natin ito pinag-uusapan ngayon (If there was death penalty before, we would not be discussing this today),” he added.

Like the sentiments cited by Sotto, Tolentino said the re-imposition of death penalty would prevent the release of persons convicted for committing heinous crimes.

“Baka maulit eh, may gumawa na naman n’on, makalaya na naman after 25 years (There might be a repeat of Sanchez’ case, someone might commit the same crime, and also be released after 25 years),” he said.

“Kung may death penalty noon, wala na itong reprieve, wala na itong parole. Hindi lang double life sentence, death na siguro dapat,” he added.

Sanchez was sentenced to seven reclusion perpetua (maximum of 40 year imprisonment) by a Pasig City court for the June 1993 rape and killing of university students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, along with his men.

The guilty verdict was handed down by the court in March 1995.

It was on December 13, 1993 when former President Fidel Ramos signed the Republic Act No. 7659, which revived the imposition of death penality for crimes including murder, rape, parricide, kidnapping, drug trafficking, plunder, among others.

The law was repealed in 2006 when former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic 9346 which prohibits the imposition of death penalty in the Philippines.

President Duterte, in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 25, urged the 18th  Congress to expedite the approval of a death penalty law for the heinous crimes related to illegal drugs, as well as plunder.

Sotto, however, said earlier that the proposals to restore death penalty have higher chance of passage in Senate if limited only to high-level drug trafficking.

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