The Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez murder case happened more than twenty four years ago and the perpetrators are already convicted and in jail. However, a single news about the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law brought this case up again. Why and what are all the fuss behind this?
The Good Conduct Time Allowance Law
On 20 August 2019, Bureau of Corrections Director General Nicanor Faeldon announced that former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez will likely to be released in two months time. In another statement, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra cited Republic Act 10592 of 2013 which increases the good conduct time allowance and a Supreme Court decision applying this law retroactively.
In an interview, Faeldon said,
“Under the Supreme Court en banc ruling released last 25 June this year, the articles under the Revised Penal Code were amended. The application for Good Conduct Time Allowance Law became retroactive. That’s why we expect that many (inmates) to be set free.”
This law gives around 10,000 inmates a chance of early release if they maintain a clean record during imprisonment including those who were detained from 1963 to 1998.
What caused the recent public uproar was the inclusion of former Calauan mayor and convicted rapist Antonio Sanchez as among the inmates to be freed by the virtue of this law. Antonio Sanchez gained notoriety during the mid-’90s when he and his men were charged of rape and murder of Eileen Sarmenta and the murder of Allan Gomez.
Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez Murder
On 29 June 1993, about 8:00 a.m., the silence of once peaceful town of Calauan was broken when two dead bodies were discovered separately. One was found at Bgy. Imok, a male body full of bruises and had gunshot wounds at the back and in the head.
The other was found inside a Toyota Tamaraw van in Sitio Paputok, Bgy. Mabacan. It was a female body that showed signs of rape before she was shot on the head.
Police identified the bodies as Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez, both 4th year students from the College of Agriculture in UP Los Baños, Laguna.
Police Inspector (P/Insp.) Rizaldy Garcia of CIDG CaLaBarZon was called to investigate. Garcia arrived at the police station and found the Toyota Tamaraw van where Eileen Sarmenta was still laid, covered. Thus, he saw that she was shot on the head, her shirt was still rolled up, and a rubber shoe was still on her foot.
Garcia requested for assistance to accompany him to the separate crime scenes but no one from the police force assisted him except for the municipal ambulance driver, Aurelio Centeno. They went to the crime scenes but found only blood stains, so Garcia suspected that the crime could have started somewhere else and ended there.
He had a hard time determining the motive because of the lack of evidence in the crime scenes and there were no witnesses for him to interview. Garcia also asked for a police report but the Calauan police said there were no reports made yet. The lack of interest and assistance from the Calauan police made Garcia suspect a coverup.
After a few days, Centeno was no longer in Calauan, Laguna. Authorities found him in Metro Manila working as a “kargador” and convinced him to testify and put on the government’s Witness Protection Program.
What Aurelio Centeno Knew
Reports showed that Aurelio Centeno and Sanchez’ security aide Vicencio Malabanan became star witnesses in the 16-month long trial. Their sworn statements became the basis of the prosecution’s arguments. Centeno and Malabanan admitted that they took part in the abduction but not in the subsequent rape of Eileen and the double murder.
On the night of 28 June 1993, Centeno drove the ambulance to Los Banos, Laguna and had seven passengers — Calauan deputy chief of police George Medialdea, Luis Corcolon, Rogelio Corcolon, Zoilo Ama, Pepito Kawit, Baldwin Brion, and Vicencio Malabanan. Along the way, Luis announced the real purpose of the trip. They would take a pretty young lady whom Mayor Sanchez long desired and offer her to the Mayor as a gift. Luis even assured the group that her beauty will make them drool.
The pretty young lady Luis referred to was Eileen Sarmenta whom the Mayor met during an interview for Sarmenta’s school project.
They arrived at the U.P. Los Baños grounds driving at a snail’s pace while Luis scoured the area searching. They went out of the university compound and proceeded to the Agrix complex.
Centeno overheard Medialdea informing the “boss” via the radio that they were already at the site. The “boss” they’re referring to was Mayor Antonio Sanchez.
Passengers Ama, Brion, Kawit, and the Corcolon brothers alighted from the vehicle and went inside the Agrix complex. They saw a parked Toyota Tamaraw van where Eileen and Allan were seated at the front. At gunpoint, the Corcolon brothers took the two victims by force and loaded them at the back of the van. All of them boarded the van while Centeno and Malabanan stayed in the ambulance. Both vehicles headed to Erais Farm, owned by Mayor Sanchez, in Bgy. Curba.
As soon as they arrived at the farm, the two captives were brought down the van. Eileen was gagged by a handkerchief and her hands were tied. Allan was gagged with a towel and his hands were tied, too.
The Mayor emerged from the resthouse and asked the group: “Mga anak, ano’ng problema?” (My children, what’s the problem?)
Luis replied, “Mayor, ito po yung regalo namin sa inyo. Ito po ‘yung babae na matagal na po ninyong kursunada.” (Mayor, here’s our gift to you. She’s the girl you’re longing for.”)
The Mayor replied, “Aba, ang ganda talaga ng babaeng ‘yan. Pero, sino ‘yung kasama ninyong lalaki?” (She’s really beautiful. But who’s that guy with you?)
Medialdea said, “Boss, kasama ho ‘yan ng babae ‘yung lalaki (sic). Isinama na rin ho namin para wala pong bulilyaso.” (The girl’s companion, Boss. We brought him along to avoid complications.)
Then the captives were brought inside the resthouse. Eileen was taken to the Mayor’s room, while Allan was badly beaten up by Luis, Boy, Ama, Medialdea, and Kawit in another room. It was Kawit who struck Allan’s diaphragm with the butt-end of an armalite rifle causing Allan to fall. Brion thought Allan was already dead but Kawit said, “His death will come later.”
Centeno, while waiting for further orders, joined the Mayor’s other personal aides watching television in an adjacent resthouse. One of the Mayor’s aide, Raul Alorico, told Centeno that the Mayor had been waiting for the group and had become worried that they will not arrive.
At around 1:00 a.m. the next day, Luis and Medialdea dragged Eileen out of the resthouse. Her hair was disheveled, mouth covered with a handkerchief, hands still tied, and stripped of her shorts. The Mayor followed and thanked Luis and Medialdea.
“O sige, mga anak, salamat sa regalo ninyo. Salamat sa regalo ninyo sa akin. Tapos na ako, sa inyo na iyan. Bahala na kayo diyan,” the Mayor said in contentment. (My children, thank you for your gift. I’m through with her. She’s all yours.) “Ano naman ang gagawin ninyo diyan sa lalaki?” he asked. (What are you going to do with that guy?)
Medialdea replied, “Boss, papatayin na rin po namin ito para wala pong bulilyaso.” (Boss, we will kill him to avoid further complications.)
The six suspects loaded Eileen and Allan into the Tamaraw van and headed for Calauan, followed closely by the ambulance driven by Centeno.
While driving the ambulance, Centeno noticed the van swayed from side to side. Then he heard gunshot coming therefrom. The van pulled over and he saw Kawit dragged Allan, whose head was already drenched in blood, out of the vehicle onto the road. Using his armalite, Kawit fired another shot on Allan. The van and the ambulance then sped away.
Upon reaching a sugarcane field in Sitio Paputok, Luis announced “Turbohin na rin natin ang tinurbo ni Boss.” (Let’s feast with the one whom Boss feasted earlier.)
The gang-rape happened at the back of the van. In between sobs and whimpers, Eileen pleaded them to stop. But her pleas landed on deaf ears. Kawit invited Centeno to join them but the latter refused as he cannot bear the bestiality being committed on Eileen who appeared to be dead.
After Kawit’s turn, Eileen knelt on the seat and begged for her life. Unmoved, Luis muted Eileen’s cries by forcing an object into her mouth and then fired his baby armalite at her.
They ordered Centeno to get rid of Eileen’s dead body. However, all eight men boarded the ambulance and proceeded to Calauan, leaving the Tamaraw van with Eileen’s remains behind. Along the way, Centeno and Malabanan watched in dismay as Luis, Boy, Medialdea, Ama, Brion and Kawit savored the night’s escapade. Centeno brought each of the passengers to their respective homes.
The Kit Alqueza or the Love Triangle Angle
However, when the bodies were found and the public demanded explanation, Mayor Sanchez and his men pointed their fingers to Kit Alqueza, son of General Dictador Alqueza, Allan’s fraternity brother, and Eileen’s ex-boyfriend. They claimed that a love triangle was the primary motive.
However, in a televised news report, it showed that Kit was brought to then Vice-President Joseph Estrada who was then the head of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission (PACC) only to be presented to the media as a prime suspect.
In an interview, Kit said that while en route to Manila, he heard over the radio that the PACC already captured a suspect, when in fact, he was only invited for questioning. The manner in which Kit was presented to the media was already off and somewhat manipulated. Thus, the public were not buying the Kit Alqueza/love triangle angle.
It was only when Centeno and Malabanan surfaced and declared their sworn statements that the whole story came to light.
The case took 16 months, with 13 witnesses for the prosecution and 27 witnesses for the defendants.
Sanchez’s lawyers Mario Ongkiko, Antonio Bucoy, and Ernesto Brion begged off from the case following a “serious professional disagreement”. Among those left to tend for the cases were Salvador Panelo, now chief presidential legal adviser and spokesperson to President Duterte, and Marcelino Arias.
The defense pointed out the numerous times Aurelio Centeno changed his sworn statements. However, Judge Harriet Demetriou pointed out that Centeno’s changes of sworn statements were brought out of fear from the Mayor and his men. Anyway, Centeno stood the test during the cross-examinations on the witness stand and stayed consistent with his story.
Unlike the statements of the defendants, nothing corroborates and several statements proved to be inconsistent.
The Crucial Piece of Evidence
A small piece of belt loop recovered by Maj. Lulita Chambers, a forensic chemist, on 19 August 1993 at the Erais Farm under a search warrant became a crucial piece of evidence that would link the Mayor to the crime. The belt loop came from the pair of white shorts worn by Eileen that fateful night. Laboratory examinations concluded that the belt loop matched in color, size, and fiber composition from the white shorts of Eileen.
And to make matters worse, Mayor Antonio Sanchez presented the pair of shorts a few days after claiming that his men found it while conducting their own investigation.
On 14 March 1995, Judge Harriet Demetriou concluded the 16-month trial and found Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez and several henchmen guilty of raping and murdering Sarmenta and killing Gomez.
Sanchez is currently serving seven terms of reclusión perpetua (20 years and one day to 40 years per term) for the crime. On 25 January 1999, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court.
While he was accompanied out of the court, Antonio Sanchez was recorded on video cursing which already defied his “religious” character he tried to project. Until now, he denies his involvement on the crimes, shows no remorse, and blames politics for it. He planned to run for governor before the case came out.
Going Back to the Good Conduct Time Allowance
As the law’s name implies, good conduct of prisoners will merit time less than their jail sentence term. However, in the case of Antonio Sanchez, the Bureau of Corrections should be diligent and fair enough to compute his good conduct while in prison.
But how are you going to consider good conduct when in 10 October 2006, during a surprise inspection, authorities found shabu and marijuana inside Sanchez’s jail?
How are you gong to consider good conduct when in July 2010, he was caught again with 1.5 million worth of shabu concealed in a statue of the Virgin Mary?
And to add insult to the other poor inmates, on November 2015, an air conditioning unit, a refrigerator, and a flat-screen TV were seized from his jail cell during a raid.
Not only that, before the Eileen Sarmenta-Allan Gomez case, Mayor Antonio Sanchez was already charged, together with Luis Corcolon, with another double murder of father Nelson and son Rickson Peñalosa in April 1991. The case was tried and rendered its verdict in 1996. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision on 29 August 1999 making his prison sentence add up to 280 years in jail.
Yes, 280 years is too long. Hardly one can reach 100 years of age much more a life sentence. However, the purpose of serving jail time is for rehabilitation and correction. Thus the name Bureau of Corrections. They need to be rehabilitated so that society may embrace them back into the fold once done.
But few criminals show remorse and even worse, commit crime after their jail term, during parole, or after their pardon. And, to top it all, since we don’t have death penalty, the jails we have in our country become overcrowded. That’s why the Good Conduct Time Allowance was amended as part of the measure to lessen the problem of overcrowded jails.
Recently, the Senate announced that they will review the law and will try to amend it. They plan not to include those criminals who committed heinous crimes like Sanchez to avoid future public uproar. If this will push through, then the Good Conduct Time Allowance Law will serve the inmates well and better.