By Jeffrey Damicog
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Menardo Guevarra has chosen to ignore allegations that he was trying to muster public support for the revival of the death penalty when he made the “premature” announcement of the possible early release of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Speaking on his behalf, DOJ spokesman and Undersecretary Markk Perete said Guevarra would rather work on making sure that only deserving inmates would see early release by virtue of the accumulated Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) pursuant to Republic Act 10592.
RA 10592 amended provisions of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) to increase the GCTAs for inmates.
“At this point, we prefer to focus on making sure that the BuCor (Bureau of Corrections) and those tasked to implement the law do so correctly, and sans bias or prejudice,” Perete told reporters in a statement.
Perete explained that refraining from responding the accusations was meant “not to dignify unfounded and purely imagined accusations of some ‘insidious agenda’ in the public discourse which transpired as regards the GCTA implementation.”
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima made the accusations as she saw the pronouncement of the Sanchez release as a calculated move made by the administration.
“In the first place, Sec. Guevarra did not even have to make that reckless announcement about Sanchez’s possible release if BuCor and the Board of Pardons and Parole have not yet received Sanchez’s prison record,” she said.
De Lima observed that it appeared “that Guevarra’s premature announcement was a trial balloon of some sort but which was immediately burst by an enraged public.”
“Maybe it was precisely to enrage the public and to garner public support for the death penalty that Guevarra announced Sanchez’s impending release,” she pointed out.
The Board of Pardons and Parole had already denied in 2018 his application for executive clemency, a decision it upheld this year due to “the gravity of the offenses he has committed.”
Sanchez has been convicted of seven counts of rape with homicide for the deaths of University of the Philippines (UP) Los Banos students Eileen Sarmenta and her boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993.
He was also convicted of two counts of murder for killing of Nelson Penalosa and his son Rickson, supporters of his political rival.
Aside from these, he was also convicted for violating the Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.