It’s been nearly three decades but the murder of college students Eileen Sarmenta and Allan Gomez in 1993 remains one of the most high-profile cases in the Philippines. Sarmenta was just months away from graduating when six men abducted her and Gomez from their university in Laguna, a province just south of Manila.
They were taken to a remote farm where Sarmenta was presented as a “gift” to then-Mayor Antonio Sanchez. According to court records, Sanchez raped Sarmenta in his room for hours, and the six other men continued to abuse her after.
"I am through with her. She’s all yours," a witness recalled the mayor as saying.
One of the men gagged Sarmenta, who was kneeling and begging for her life, with a handkerchief and shot her in the face. They left her naked and dead in the back of a vehicle. The men also killed Gomez.
Known as the Sarmenta-Gomez murder, it is one of the Philippines’ longest-running criminal cases and now the subject of a reinvestigation in the new true crime podcast Super Evil, which premiered on Spotify and other major podcast apps in October. New episodes will come out every week until November.
Hosted by Pam Pastor, a journalist and associate editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the first season titled “Hatched in Hell” revisits the case in seven episodes, making it the first serialized true crime podcast in the Philippines.
It’s a subject still fresh in the minds of many Filipinos. Last year, the case re-emerged and opened old wounds when an attempt to free Sanchez from prison through a controversial law was exposed. Sanchez was sentenced to seven counts of reclusion perpetua, or a total of 360 years in prison, but Philippine media discovered in August 2019 that the Bureau of Corrections had approved a release order under a law that shortens a convicted person’s jail time based on good behavior. Public outrage ensued, with many questioning why a convicted rapist and murderer will benefit from the law.
The government disqualified Sanchez from the release following the uproar and he remains in prison. But the controversy has sparked conversations about the culture of impunity and corruption in the country.
This prompted Pastor, PumaPodcast producer Tricia Aquino, and audio editor Marc Casillan, to focus Super Evil’s first season on the case. Pastor scoured the Inquirer archives and interviewed key personalities involved in the case, including journalists who stayed on top of the story as it unfolded. Each episode lasts more than 30 minutes and features narration, interviews, and soundbites.
“It’s a reminder about the need for vigilance. We really can’t close our eyes. When this crime happened in 1993, it shocked the whole country,” Pastor told VICE.
“It reflected so much of what was wrong with the Philippines — corruption, impunity, patronage politics.”
Pastor lamented that not much has changed in Philippine society since the case erupted.
“And what’s tragic is, as we worked on the podcast, we realized that the things that were wrong with the country then, almost 30 years ago, are things that are still wrong with the Philippines now,” she said. “It makes you wonder when we will learn our lesson.”