By: Reyshimar Arguelles
LAST week, everyone was talking about convicted ex-mayor Antonio Sanchez of Calauan, Laguna. There’s no reason not to. This degenerate Satan spawn deserves all the public hate he has drawn since he was given a maximum of 360 years of prison time for the murder of University of the Philippines-Los Baños students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1993.
But it wasn’t what he did 26 years ago that has everyone calling for his head on a pike right now. When national media ran stories of Sanchez’ impending release from the New Bilibid Prison (as confirmed by no less than the Department of Justice), people saw this as an unacceptable path for the Philippine justice system to take – as though it hasn’t taken the high road to perdition already.
With morally questionable politicians and government officials, we’re not far off from throwing ourselves into Nietzsche’s abyss. In a committee hearing over the proposed revival of the Reserve Officers Training Corps just last week, Senator Bato dela Rosa flared up against National Union of Students in the Philippines President Raoul Manuel in a tantrum that was just as hilarious as it was sad.
It started when Manuel, in an argument against the supposed militarization of schools in the country, singled out Bato by citing the former police chief’s prior comment about Sanchez deserving a “second chance.” Visibly offended, the senator sought to skewer Manuel for making statements that had nothing to do with the government’s plan to reintroduce mandatory military training for students. In a fit of rage that’s similar to someone suffering from lemonade-induced blindness, he would turn the other way to say that he really wanted Sanchez dead all along.
Sanchez was due to be released through Republic Act No. 10592 which was a string of amendments to the Revised Penal Code that was enacted in 2013. Its retroactive application intends to reduce the prison terms of convicts who show good behavior and who deserve second chances in the outside world. Ideally, the law humanizes convicts and shines a light on the reformative aspect of our perfect and dirt-free justice system. Obviously, it didn’t jibe well with supporters of capital punishment who would rather see Sanchez and other perpetrators of heinous crimes hanging from the gallows.
There’s no doubting Bato’s stance on the death penalty. He doesn’t question its assumed applicability as deterrence against murder and rape. As an extension of his tirade on Manuel, he called out the anti-capital punishment crowd for being hypocrites in opposing Sanchez’s release.
You could see how such an issue has been watered down into a question of “either this… or this…” to hide the repugnant ignorance that’s haunting the current legislature and to peddle sordid agendas.
The Sanchez case was bound to disturb moral sensibilities because of two facts: The gory details of the murders as described by star witnesses Aurelio Centeno and Vicencio Malabanan, and the fact that an elected official had masterminded the gruesome crime. What stands out from all this, however, is the idea that people in power (even town mayors) can get away with anything, even if they do the most horrible acts. In Sanchez’ case, he turned what could’ve been an agonizing and soul-crushing time in jail into a block party, complete with meth and luxury amenities that poorer inmates can only dream of having.
To even say that Sanchez deserves a second chance would indicate the mind-numbingly one-sidedness of our already decrepit justice system. It’s just as baffling to hear a politician try to take back what he initially said about the idea of freeing a convicted rapist who to this day hasn’t shown any inch of remorse. Clearly, there are prisoners more deserving of freedom than this animal.
Manuel’s comments were out of place, but they did manage to shine a light on the fact that people deserve more than just politicians who couldn’t even make up their minds on highly sensitive issues, let alone follow the moral standards they have set for themselves. That they know what’s best for the country is dubious at worst, and such leaders are an affront to a society that deserves to be treated better.