Calauan town’s Mayor Antonio Sanchez was something of a warlord, already accused of a double murder but still very much in circulation, scot free. According to court records, in the summer of 1993, he took interest in a student of the University of the Philippines, Los Baños, named Eileen Sarmenta, one of the prettiest coeds on campus, and who once interviewed him on a school project.
True to his reputation as being above the law, on June 28, 1993, he dispatched his deputy police chief George Medialdea and his personal security team of about a dozen members to go looking for Eileen inside the vast Los Baños campus. They abducted her and her friend Allan Gomez who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. [Ed note: Reliable sources say Allan Gomez was not Eileen Sarmenta’s boyfriend, as commonly reported. The two were close friends and batch mates in Upsilon Sigma Phi, a University of the Philippines fraternity, and its sister sorority, Sigma Delta Phi, respectively.)
They delivered Eileen to the Mayor Sanchez at his farm house in Calauan as a "gift." Security chief Corcolon: "Here is the girl that long made your mouth water." Upon seeing Eileen, the mayor was inflamed with passion and asked to be left alone with her inside the house. And her friend Allan? The goons beat him up senseless until they thought he was dead.
For one whole day, Mayor Sanchez ravished Eileen while his goons kept watch outside.
Then, after he was satiated, he dragged the disheveled and crying Eileen out of his farmhouse and turned her over to his henchmen. "She's all yours," he said, instructing them to get rid of her.
Before carrying out his dastardly order, the mayor's goons killed Allan and dropped his body by the roadside. Then six of them gang-raped Eileen; first his chief security Corcolon, then Medialdea and so on down the pecking order. Despite her pleas to spare her life (yes, she still wanted to live), they then shot her with one bullet to the face, and left her body in the van in a cane field.
After a national uproar, investigators and police dispatched from Manila apprehended Sanchez and his gang. So much semen was recovered from the body of Eileen that it filled a one-liter can.
Sanchez and his henchmen were sentenced to life in prison. Well, not really. After 26 years in the penitentiary--where he was often pictured smiling with a statue of the Virgin Mary (he claims to be a devotee)--this devil incarnate was set to be released. Thanks to a new law accelerating the service of sentences for "good conduct." Never mind that the unrepentant killer was once caught hiding a stash of illegal drugs under the statue of the Virgin Mary. His piety must have moved jail officials.
This case illustrates the disconnect between the government and the people. There is a well-grounded belief that the justice system favors the rich. Sanchez is suspected of pulling strings in the Presidential Palace, where his former lawyer Salvador Panelo is the president’s spokesman. Sanchez has a defender in Senator Bato de la Rosa, a former national police chief, who opined that this criminal deserves "a second chance" because he is a "changed man." Which sounds a bit ironic to the families of the victims of the war on drugs and others who were summarily executed for petty crimes, the overwhelming majority of whom were poor. Their bodies were often fished out of the river and sewers with arms bound and heads taped. They never had a chance at all.
The public cannot feel safe under a regime where the president casually drops the word "kill" both as a threat and a joke (though one can't tell when he is joking). "Kill" criminals. "Kill" human rights workers. "Kill" certain bishops. "Kill" his son should he be involved in the drug trade. "Kill" leftists and others who displease him.
Promised a crime-free society in "three to six months" during his presidential campaign, the public quakes in fear under the regime of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is perceived as the patron of the death squads.
Sanchez and Duterte have interesting similarities. Both were former mayors. Both presided over a reign of terror. Both appear to be soulmates; the latter drops rape jokes all the time, once about raping an Australian missionary, who was raped and killed by rioting inmates. The only difference is Sanchez has served time, while Duterte is still very much in business, God knows how many skeletons there are in his closet.
The government lately has backtracked on Sanchez’s release. But expect him to walk out of the back door after the uproar dies down. With friends in high places, he will have a second lease on life. As a "changed man."
Wilfredo Garrido, Jr. is a lawyer based in Makati City. He is a graduate of the University of the Philippines.