File picture of former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Manila: A former town executive imprisoned for the murder of a student and her boyfriend in 1993 does not qualify for early release, the palace clarified.

There were concerns that former Calauan mayor Antonio Sanchez would be released from prison under a law providing for shortened prison terms for good conduct, but Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the ex-mayor will not be able to benefit from the edict.

Sanchez, 70, was sentenced in 1995 to serve seven counts of reclusion perpetua for the abduction, rape and murder of college student Aileen Sarmenta and the killing of Allan Gomez. Each count is equivalent to 40 years’ imprisonment.

“Sanchez is not eligible because Republic Act 10592 states that recidivists, habitual delinquents, escapees and persons charged with heinous crimes are excluded from the law’s coverage,” said Panelo in a press briefing on Monday.

The much publicised Sarmenta-Gomez rape-murder case was considered a “heinous crime.”

Earlier, there were fears that Republic Act 10592, which was used by the Department of Justice to set in motion the process for shortened prison terms, would enable the release of Sanchez.

But Panelo, who was among the five defence lawyers for Sanchez during his trial, said this is not the case.

“The law is very clear. It gave four categories that cannot be covered by the expressed provision of the law, that’s why he really cannot be released,” Panelo said.

Earlier, the Bureau of Corrections said around 11,000 inmates would benefit from Republic Act 10592. It covers both detention prisoners and those who are convicted in effect in 2013.

Since it was ordered in effect last week, the law had already enabled the release of 200 convicts.

The Department of Justice also on Monday said the contentious provision of Republic Act 10592 will be reviewed.

“Once we do get the confirmation the exact number and who these [inmates who will be released] are, then we would be able to sort through and possibly share if it is of public interest,” Justice Undersecretary Mark Perete said.

There had been fears from the families of the victims that the released convicts would take revenge.

“I don’t see any compelling reason not to divulge but again we have to see first [the] list because it has not reached us yet,” said Perete.