Justice for Eileen and Allan

By Heidi M. Pascual

Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez were students at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos. Laguna, where I also studied my
freshman year. Unlike them, however, I graduated and went on to experience life – building a career and a family, raising kids, seeing
the world and meeting a lot of people in a journey that was sometimes bumpy, yet exciting, challenging, and truly full of memories.

Eileen and Allan were very young when they lost their lives in 1993 in a rape-slay case that a judge called a plot “hatched in hell.”
Eileen was abducted in the campus by a group of men working for a wealthy town mayor of Calauan in the province of Laguna, and
presented as a “gift” by these men to the mayor. Allan was with her that fateful day, so he was taken as well. Both were taken to the
mayor’s farmhouse, where Eileen was repeatedly raped, first by the mayor (named Antonio Sanchez), followed by six of his men, later
gunned down, and left naked and dead in the back of a stolen van. Allan was tortured while Eileen was being raped, and was later shot
in the head and thrown from the vehicle on the way back to the town of Calauan.

The perpetrators of this gruesome crime, including Sanchez, were eventually caught, convicted, and jailed, primarily because two
aides of Sanchez who took part in the abduction but not in the rape and killing of Eileen and Allan, became government prosecutors’
star witnesses. Sanchez and his men each received seven terms of reclusion perpetua, or “seven life sentences” ; though in reality,
the same verdict allows for a maximum of 40 years imprisonment.

Sanchez has served a total of 26 years in national “bilibid” prison.  Like many Filipinos today, I seemed to have forgotten about this
case, until the news about Sanchez’ possible release from prison gave me high blood pressure! The thought of what the devil did to
Eileen and Allan rushed back, as fresh as if the case just happened yesterday.

In 2013, a law was passed (Republic Act 10592) that would allow inmates with records of “good behavior” to be released. The intent of
this law was to decongest the prisons and give qualified inmates a second chance to join society’s mainstream. The news that
Sanchez’ name is included in the list of possible recipients of the law’s provisions now has become a national issue that drove the
Filipino people to speak openly against the idea. I am one of them.

A CNN report which cited the Bureau of Corrections’ statement that Sanchez had served 49 years, per computation of his GCTA (Good
Conduct Time Allowance) under the above law, plus the Supreme Court’s ruling last July that RA 10592 shall be applied retroactively,
gave me enough reason to boil. I could understand why the public is now up in arms against such an injustice if ever Sanchez is
released.

What good behavior is the Bureau of Corrections saying about the convicted mayor? Records show that – 1) Sanchez never
indemnified the families of his victims. 2) In 2006, Sanchez was charged with possession of illegal drugs, along with drug
paraphernalia. 3) In 2010, authorities caught him with Php1.5 million worth of illegal drugs concealed in a Virgin Mary statue. 4) In
2015, outside investigators found Sanchez living in prison with an air-conditioner and a flat screen TV! Sanchez is definitely one of the
Bureau of Prison’s favorite inmates. Sanchez must be a generous benefactor in the prison community, obviously missing his work and
lifestyle in his municipality. 5) Last year, the government confiscated Sanchez’ and his wife’s ill-gotten wealth, including 19 real estate
property, high-end vehicles, cash in bank, and shares in a lending company.

And what about the conviction of Sanchez for another crime -- the murder of father and son Nelson and Rickson Penalosa, supporters
of Sanchez’ political opponent? This case’s ruling was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1999, while Sanchez was already in prison!

Duterte government’s Department of Justice says an inmate’s release is “conditional,” as there are exclusions, such as recidivism, so
Sanchez might be ineligible to avail of the law’s benefits. Let me also note that Sanchez’ lawyer during the Sarmento case trial was
Sam Panelo, now the spokesperson of President Duterte. I’d understand why Panelo is trying to emphasize he has nothing to do with
Sanchez’ possible release.

Well, in the first place, I think Sanchez should not be part of the list of inmates who might qualify under this RA 10592. What he did to
Eileen and Allan was heinous. The kind of crime committed should be the first consideration in selecting inmates for release.

The truth is, I hope Sanchez stop professing his innocence, and instead beg the families of Eileen and Allan for forgiveness, and pray
that God forgive his soul. Lucifer has been waiting for him for so long.