By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
For Vice President Leni Robredo, the possible release of convicted former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez from prison would highlight the “disparity in treatment” between the rich and the poor under the present criminal justice system.
“Why are rich given every chance to be free while poor are denied due process?” Robredo asked on the possible release of Sanchez from prison under a law intended to benefit persons deprived of liberty who demonstrate good behavior while serving time in jail.
Robredo, who visited Balangkayan, Eastern Samar on Friday, gave her thoughts on the issue following a heated debate over whether Sanchez should be freed under Republic Act 10592 which amended the Revised Penal Code to increase the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) given to inmates.
For Robredo, giving the former mayor the opportunity to “walk free” under RA 10592 “goes against the essential spirit of the law” given “his multiple reported violations while incarcerated such as possession of illegal drugs and having a luxurious ‘kubol’ – among others.
“Iyong balita na pagpapalabas [sa kaniya], parang hina-highlight ulit iyong privilege ng mayayaman saka iyong kawalan ng pribilehiyo ng mga mahihirap,” Robredo said. “Kasi iyong tanong natin: Bakit iyong mga mayayaman, karumal-dumal na iyong ginawa, bibigyan ng pagkakataon na lumabas kahit hindi niya pa nase-serve iyong kaniyang sentence?” she added.
Robredo noted that should Sanchez be allowed to get out of the prison, it sends a wrong message about the current criminal justice system – particularly on the “disparity” in treatment between the rich and the poor. “Iyong mga mahihirap, hindi nga binigyan ng due process, pinapatay, so ano iyong mensaheng binibigay natin sa taumbayan, na talagang kapag mahirap ka, sorry ka?” she lamented.
Sanchez was convicted for the rape and murder of University of the Philippines (UP) Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the killing of her fellow student Allan Gomez in 1995. For these, he was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua.
Robredo, who spent years as a human rights lawyer, said she shares the widespread public outrage over Sanchez’ supposedly impending release. “Noong una kong narinig iyong balita, nakakagalit…parang naging sariwa tuloy ulit iyong balita from many years ago, na talagang binaboy iyong dalawang estudyante,” she said.
Likewise, Robredo expressed relief Filipinos have expressed strong opposition to the possible release of Sanchez. “Natutuwa tayo na iyong taumbayan talagang pinarating iyong kanilang boses, kasi paano na lang kung hindi tayo nag-react – baka nalaman na lang natin nakalabas na siya,” she ended.