Dela Rosa renews call for death penalty in PH amid talks of Sanchez release

Robie de Guzman   •   August 22, 2019   •   387

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa on Thursday renewed his call for the reimposition of death penalty in the country amid talks on the possible release of convicted rapist and murderer, former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez.

Dela Rosa said the impending release of Sanchez and other inmates convicted of heinous crimes should not have been an issue now if the capital punishment was not abolished.

“Kung sa akin lang kung ganyan ka-heinous ang krimen na ginawa niya (Sanchez) dapat binitay na siya noon di ba, kung may death penalty na noon nabitay na yan… pero wala tayong magawa,” he said in a statement.

Sanchez was sentenced in 1995 to seven terms of reclusion perpetua (or 40 years of imprisonment) over the rape and murder of students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez.

At the time of Sanchez’s conviction, the capital punishment was still in place.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) earlier said Sanchez is among the more than 11,000 other inmates who might soon be freed due to a 2013 law that increased good conduct and time allowance (GCTA) given to inmates and a Supreme court ruling last June applying this law retroactively.

Dela Rosa said the pending release of inmates, especially those who were convicted of heinous crimes, could be averted if the capital punishment is reimposed.

He further noted that existing laws should be observed.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m just on the side of the law. Andiyan yang batas (Republic Act 10592) na ‘yan, dapat respetuhin natin, sundin natin,” he added.

But Sanchez’s eligibility under the new GCTA rule has been questioned by lawmakers and other sectors due to allegations of possession of illegal drugs after a prison guard found a packet of shabu and marijuana in his jail cell. An air condition unit and a television set were also seized from his cell, which are violation of prison rules.

When asked on the validity of releasing Sanchez, Dela Rosa said the DOJ through the Board of Pardons and Parole should explain to the public with regard to the GCTA.

“Well tanungin natin yung Board of Pardons and Parole na nagre-recommend niyan at yung sa loob ng Bureau of Corrections kung paano nila na compute, ang alam ko meron yang computation, may corresponding GCTA yan kung ilan days ang mababawas sa sintensya mo,” he said.

READ: BuCor says convicted ex-Mayor Sanchez may not be eligible for release under new GCTA rule

The Bureau of Corrections earlier said that contrary to earlier reports, Sanchez may not qualify for early release from prison due to several alleged violations of prison rules.

“As far as the Bureau is concerned, dahil nahulihan talaga sa kubol niya nuong 2006, as far as we are concerned, legal ang pagkakahuli sa kaniya… that means definitely disqualified him sa good conduct time allowance,” BuCor director general Nicanor Faeldon said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Vicente Sotto III questioned whether Sanchez’s case is the best argument for the revival of death penalty.

“7 life sentences, no indemnification, hearings for parole did not inform Sarmenta family. Best argument for death penalty?” Sotto asked in a Twitter post on Wednesday.

Several lawmakers have expressed support for the return of the capital punishment, including Senators Sherwin Gatchalian, Pia Cayateno, Bong Go, Cynthia Villar, Sonny Angara and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, but only for high level drug trafficking.

While other senators, including Risa Hontiveros, Franklin Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima, Ralph Recto and Joel Villanueva expressed opposition to the proposal.

The Philippines abolished the death penalty under the 1987 Constitution. President Fidel Ramos reimposed the capital punishment in 1993 as a crime control measure but President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reinstated its abolition in 2006.

GCTA law’s revised IRR excludes heinous crimes convicts

Marje Pelayo   •   September 17, 2019

MANILA, Philippines – Convicts of heinous crimes are no longer entitled to benefit from the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

After a 10-day review, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra signed on Monday (September 16) the revised implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the GCTA law.

This time, the new rules exclude convicts of heinous crimes.

“We enumerated the persons deprived of liberty (PDL) excluded, recidivist, habitual delinquents, escapees and those charged of heinous crimes,” Guevarra said in a press briefing.

Heinous crimes are also clearly enumerated based on what is defined under Republic Act No. 7659 or the Death Penalty Law and Supreme Court Jurisprudence.

These include treason, qualified bribery, parricide, murder, kidnapping and serious illegal detention, rape, destructive arson, carnapping with rap or murder and some illegal drug offenses among others.

The provision of transparency is emphasized in which the names of the persons deprived of liberty (PDL) entitled to time allowance or credits should be posted online.

The Justice Department will now be part of the management, screening and evaluation committee and of the accredited civil society organization.

Likewise, the revised IRR clarifies the period of grant of credits and time allowances, but the re-computation of sentences will be detailed in the new manual of the GCTA law.

Guevarra explained that although the assessment is done on a monthly basis, the granting of credits will be on a cumulative basis depending on the overall actions of the PDL during the time of incarceration and not just on his monthly behavior.

“The grant will be done on a cumulative basis so that it is the general conduct of the PDL that will have to be taken into account,” he said.

Because of this, the DOJ assured that former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez, whose alleged record has been questioned due to charges of illegal possession of drugs filed against him in 2006, will not be included in the expanded GCTA.

The DILG and the DOJ have given the joint committee a 60-day extension to review the GCTA law manual or guidelines. – MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

Panelo says Inquirer.net apology over Sanchez clemency report ‘’unacceptable”

Robie de Guzman   •   September 6, 2019

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo on Friday called as “unacceptable” the public apology issued by the news website Inquirer.net over its report on the plea for executive clemency by the family of convicted rapist-murderer, former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez.

The Inquirer.net earlier apologized for reporting on its social media platform that Panelo wrote a letter to Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) executive director Reynaldo Bayang, recommending executive clemency for Sanchez at the request of the latter’s daughter.

Sanchez was Panelo’s former client in the rape-murder case of Eileen Sarmenta and murder of Allan Gomez.

Panelo denied making an intervention for the Sanchez family’s plea, and the Inquirer.net said it posted the latter’s “clarification upon receipt of his statement on the matter.”

READ: Panelo on Sanchez’s clemency plea: ‘No intervention, nothing whatsoever’

“The updated reports stated that he merely referred the request of Sanchez’s family to Bayang,” the online publication said.

But Panelo rejected it, saying the apology “prefaced it with an alleged clarification from me of what I meant in referring the letter of the daughter of Sanchez.”

“I was not clarifying rather I was telling the Inquirer.net that it maliciously gave a wrong meaning and adverse imputation of the performance of an act which I never did, therefore, besmirching my character and reputation in the process,” he said.

“I educated it on the meaning of referral as against recommendation and endorsement as against indorsement, and thereafter demanded a public apology from it,” he added.

Panelo earlier said he will press libel charges against Inquirer.net and Rappler if the two sites fail to issue a public apology and rectify their reports, which according to him were “reeking with malice” and are “libelous in nature.”

Rappler earlier said in a statement Panelo’s threat to file libel complaints was merely a diversionary tactic.

Duterte sees nothing wrong with Panelo’s referral of Sanchez clemency letter

Robie de Guzman   •   September 5, 2019

President Rodrigo Duterte (right) and Spokesperson Secretary Salvador Panelo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte sees nothing wrong with the move of his spokesperson and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo to refer the request of Antonio Sanchez’s family for clemency.

Panelo drew criticisms after a Board of Pardon and Parole (BPP) official revealed that Panelo referred the request of Marie Antonelvie Sanchez – the daughter of Sanchez – for executive clemency.

This sparked questions on conflict of interest on the part of Panelo as he was the defense lawyer of Sanchez when the latter was sentenced to seven terms of reclusion perpetua for the murder and rape of Eileen Sarmento and the murder of her friend Allan Gomez.

But Duterte on Wednesday night cleared Panelo of alleged “conflict of interest,” saying he did not commit any wrongdoing in referring the letter of Sanchez’s family.

“Eh kung sabihin nanghingi ng tulong kasi abogado siya noon, ano bang masama niyan?” he asked.

What would have been wrong, Duterte said, was if Panelo handled Sanchez’s plea for the recommendation of their application.

“Ngayon kung sabihin mo, ‘Sige, lakarin natin ‘to. Meron kayong pera? Marami pang naiwan sa jueteng ninyo.’ Well, but Panelo is not that kind of guy. Kaya sabi ko I can vouch for his character. I will have to stand by him because it is really the truth and he did what was — or what is right,” he said.

Panelo earlier insisted that he did not intervene in Sanchez’s case and he only followed the standard procedure when he referred the family’s letter sent last February.

The BPP denied Sanchez’s request for clemency after Panelo wrote the referral. RRD (with details from Correspondent Rosalie Coz)

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