by Heidi M. Pascual
Justice for Eileen and Allan
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 on 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 the 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 the 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 properties, 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!

The 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
forgives his soul. Lucifer has been waiting for him for so long.