TURNING POINT: Second Chance: A Heartbeat Away

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NAAWAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews / 22 Aug) – Rapist-murderer convict former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez is reported to be among the thousands of convicted prisoners to be freed in days to come upon the implementation of RA 10592, a law that increases the reduction of a convict’s sentence on account of good behavior.

Sanchez is in the National Penitentiary to serve seven counts of reclusion perpetua, a maximum 40 years of incarceration, for the rape-murder of University of the Philippines at Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of her boyfriend, Alan Gomez, in 1993. Sanchez was also sentenced to two counts of reclusion perpetua for another case – the 1991 murder of father and son Nelson and Rick Peñalosa.

In its mathematical evaluation of Sanchez’s Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), the Department of Justice reported that he had earned more than enough to entitle him his freedom. But Sanchez is far from being a good prisoner. In fact, the GCTA he accordingly earned while serving his terms for 24 years in prison ought to be forfeited on account of a grave misconduct – he committed a serious a crime while in confinement. He was caught with one kilo of shabu (methamphetamine) stashed inside his cell at the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP). Sanchez was tested positive of the drug. The volume of his stash was beyond his personal use; thus, prison authorities had reasons to believe that he was in the business of illegal drugs at the National Penitentiary.

Is an objective mathematical computation of good behaviour the sole basis of prisoner release? Would there be no other efforts to determine remorse, repentance, and the pycho-social readiness of the convict to re-enter society? Would it not also be in order to consider the impact of the release, particularly of those who committed heinous crimes, such as the unspeakable committed by convict Antonio Sanchez, on the victims or their loved ones and on society at large?

It’s unthinkable that former Tokhang architect and former Bureau of Corrections chief, now Sen. Bato de la Rosa, an ardent advocate of the revival of death penalty particularly for drug related crimes, would justify the looming release of Sanchez, claiming the guy is a changed man while in prison; hence, should be given another chance. Did the good senator bother to look at the file of the convict in his watch as BuCor chief? How would his stance on death penalty sit with the principle of second chance he is now talking about?

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. William R. Adan, Ph.D., is retired professor and former chancellor of Mindanao State University at Naawan, Misamis Oriental, Philippines.)

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