By Tracy Cabrera
MUNTINLUPA CITY, METRO MANILA — Convicted former Calauan, Laguna mayor Antonio Sanchez died Saturday morning after he “was found unresponsive in his cell” and was brought to the New Bilibid Prison Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival.
Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) spokesperson assistant secretary Gabriel Chaclag said “(the former mayor’s) body is now subject for autopsy as per procedure on sudden deaths” although heart attack insiders claim could be the cause of his death.
Sanchez gained notoriety after being sentenced to seven terms of reclusion Perpetua, or up to 40 years imprisonment, for masterminding the rape and murder of UP Los Baños student Eileen Sarmenta and the death of Sarmenta’s boyfriend, Allan Gomez, in 1993.
Antonio Leyza Sanchez served as mayor of Calauan, Laguna from 1988 to 1993.
Chronology of events
On the night of June 28, 1993, victims Sarmenta and Gomez were abducted at gunpoint by men working for the then-mayor. Both students were brought to Sanchez’s farm in Barangay Curba, where both were bound and gagged.
Court records showed Sanchez’s men also brought Gomez along “to avoid complications.” The students were brought inside a rest house, where Sarmenta was taken into Sanchez’s room while Gomez was beaten by the mayor’s henchmen Luis Corcolon, Rogelio ‘Boy’ Corcolon, Zoilo Ama, and George Medialdea and thereafter thrown out of the rest house.
Pepito Kawit struck Gomez’s diaphragm with the butt of an Armalite rifle, causing Gomez to fall against a cement box. Brion thought Allan was already dead but Kawit said that his death would come later. Aurelio Centeno joined Sanchez’s personal aides Edwin Cosico and Raul Alorico to watch television at the adjacent rest house. Alorico told Centeno that Sanchez had been eagerly waiting for the group and worried that they would not arrive.
At around 1:00 in the morning of the following day, a crying Sarmenta was dragged out of the rest house by Luis and Medialdea, still bound and gagged and now stripped of her shorts. Sanchez, clad merely in a white polo shirt, appeared and thanked Luis and Medialdea for the gift.
At this point, the mayor is alleged to have stated: “I am through with her. She’s all yours.”
When asked what would happen to Gomez, Medialdea assured his boss that they would also kill him for full measure. The students were then loaded in a Tamaraw van by the appellants and headed for Calauan, followed closely by the ambulance. Kawit finished off Gomez with a single gunshot from his Armalite.
The men then stopped at a sugarcane field in Sitio Marupok, Kilometro 74 of Bgy. Mabacan and gang-raped Sarmenta. Kawit invited Centeno to join the assault, but Centeno refused as he could not, in conscience, bear the crime being committed. Despite Sarmenta’s pleas to spare her life, Luis Corcolon fired his baby Armalite at her and ordered Centeno to get rid of her body.
Following separate investigations by different law enforcement agencies, prosecutors pursued charges against Sanchez and his men but did not include Teofilo ‘Kit’ Alqueza, son of Gen. Dictador Alqueza, as respondents. Sanchez had claimed Alqueza was the mastermind behind the incident.
On March 14, 1995, Pasig Judge Harriet Demetriou concluded the 16-month Sarmenta-Gomez murder trial with the finding that Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez and several henchmen (only some of whom were policemen) were guilty of seven counts of rape with homicide for the rape and killing of Sarmenta and the killing Sarmenta’s boyfriend. Demetriou, in her 132-page decision, described the crime as being borne out of “a plot seemingly hatched in hell.”
Sanchez was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion Perpetua (40 years for each count) for the crimes until his death. On January 25, 1999, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court. On August 29, 1999, Sanchez was sentenced to two counts of reclusion Perpetua by the Supreme Court for the murders of Nelson and Rickson Peñalosa.
In a media report, it was inadvertently showed that Sanchez could have walked free in August 2019, and this was later verified by a document bearing the signature of Bureau of Corrections director Nicanor Faeldon.
The document said the release order was for one Antonio Leyza Sanchez, “who was found to have served 40 years upon retroactive application of RA No. 10592 and was certified to have no other legal cause to be further detained shall be released from confinement.”
The release order, penned in view of Republic Act 10592 that allows convicts an early release based on good conduct time allowance (GCTA), triggered a public outcry that questioned the release of the former Calauan mayor despite having committed such a horrendous crime.
Sanchez’s kin had said that they were informed about Sanchez’s impending release but public outrage prompted the government to review the GCTA law that resulted in the exemption to those who committed heinous crimes similar to Sanchez’s. (AI|MTVN)