Tragedy of Errors: Persecution of Human Rights Activists, Release of Rapists-Murderers and Plunderers – CWR

They are so preposterous that they become tragically and illogically comedic: persecuting human rights activists yet, letting plunderers, rapists, and murderers remain scot-free.

The Philippine happenings under the leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte defy reason and logic, respect and dignity.

We in the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) are enraged by reports on the impending release from prison of former Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, who was convicted for rape and murder of University of the Philippines-Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and killing of Sarmenta’s boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993.

Sanchez was sentenced by Pasig Regional Trial Court in 1995 to seven counts of reclusion perpetua, or 280 years of imprisonment. However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra announced yesterday that he may be released soon.  The current Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo was Sanchez’ lawyer then.

According to the Department of Justice, Sanchez was included in the list of 11,000 inmates who displayed good behaviour, thus may benefit from the newly implemented retroactive law on Good Conduct Time Allowance. Apparently, he displayed good behaviour despite complaints against Sanchez in 2006 after he was found in possession of marijuana, and in 2010 when P1.5 million worth of shabu was discovered stashed in one of the Virgin Mary statues inside his cell. Further, in 2016, authorities seized a flat-screen television, an air conditioner unit, and a refrigerator from his cell in the Maximum Security Compound.

This move to release Sanchez is the latest proof of the flawed sense of justice in the country. Double standard and culture of impunity continue to rule the justice system. The president’s closest allies such as Imelda Marcos and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo remain scot-free.

Recently, Imelda Marcos has been convicted of seven counts of graft yet she was not arrested in consideration of her “advanced age”, as explained by no less than the National Police Chief himself, Oscar Albayalde.

Yet, there are more than 500 political prisoners where 120 are also in their senior years and languishing in jail only because of their political conviction.  Government and state forces who committed heinous crimes are pardoned but ordinary people like farmers, lawyers, church people, women, and children are summarily killed.  More than 500 fell victims to extra judicial killings during the Duterte administration alone, where 226 are farmers, and 33 are women.

We are enraged but we are not surprised. In the current administration, where killings and sexual abuses are justified and dissent is considered as a terroristic act, the impending release of Sanchez only reflects the culture of impunity and the distorted sense of justice under President Duterte.

CWR monitored early this year that 59 cops were found to be involved in 35 cases of state-perpetrated violence against women since Duterte assumed presidency. Of these cases, 18 were on rape and seven on acts of lasciviousness. In 2018, the Philippine National Police admitted that 43 cops were administratively charged of rape since 2015. At the end of a day, we need to reflect if we can still allow such tragedy of errors remain. We need to show the powers-that-be, who thought that they can always get away with murder, that our voices are louder and our fists stronger when we collectively demand for accountability and justice.  We then rise to roar – NEVER AGAIN!  ###

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