Thursday, February 5, 2004 
                 
CHIONG TO CONVICTS

'Admit sins, tell where.. Jackie is'
Tomas for death penalty but wants Paco saved

Defense lawyers prepare for uphill battle to have Supreme Court reconsider decision against even Chiong accused

SC voted 12-0 to raise penalty to death against six accused, one of whom is Paco Larraņaga, nephew of Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa

Prosecution hails tougher punishment for convicts in the case of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, with homicide and rape, of Marijoy Chiong

Sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong were abducted on July 16, 1997

Marijoy's body was found at the foot of a cliff in Carcar, Cebu. Jacqueline presumed dead, has remained missing

      THELMA Chiong yesterday appealed for "one last good deed" from six young men who were sentenced to die for the death of her two daughters. 

     "Tell us where Jacqueline is," Chiong said.

      Chiong and husband Dionisio have accepted that Jacqueline is dead, but the family wants a proper burial. Jacqueline was 21 when she and Marijoy, 19, were abducted on July 16, 1997.

      Chiong, whom grief transformed from a housewife to a key figure in the Crusade Against Violence, she said "she can sleep better now" knowing that her daughters" have been given the justice they deserved."

      Defense lawyers braced themselves for the uphill climb of asking the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse its decision, while prosecutors hailed the ruling to send six of the seven convicts to death row. 

      But few were more torn by the decision than Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa, who believes in the death penalty but hopes that the life of nephew Juan Francisco "Paco" Larraņaga will be spared.

     "On a personal level, I hope and pray that nothing will happen to him, but we have to accept what the law decides because that is my job. Whatever statements I make won't make any difference," the mayor added.

      Larraņaga is the son of Margarita Osmeņa-Larraņaga, the mayor's cousin.

(CORRECTION: The real name of Paco's mother is actually Margarita Gonzales-Larraņaga. Her mother is the Osmeņa...the webmaster)

      The mayor feared that with his stand on the death penalty, people might think he is contributing to a relative's death and to the misery of Larraņaga's family, which he stressed was not the case.

Last chance
      The SC, in a 77-page decision, affirmed the guilt of the seven convicts and raised the penalty imposed to six of them.

      Instead of double life terms, the High Court ordered the death by lethal injection of Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag, James Andrew Uy and Larraņaga for the kidnapping, serious illegal detention, homicide and rape of Marijoy.

      James Anthony Uy, who was 16 at the time of the crime, was spared from death but will serve two life terms instead.

      "At times we may show compassion and mercy but mm


MRS. THELMA CHIONG wants to know where the body of her daughter Jacqueline was dumped.       
                                                           
(SUNSTAR FILE)

not at the expense of the broader interest of fair play and justice," the High Tribunal ruled.

      Each appellant was also ordered to give the Chiong family P375,000 in damages.

     But aside from filing a motion for reconsideration, the six meted with death sentences can still ask for presidential pardon.

     Sought for comment, Cebu Gov. Pablo Garcia, a lawyer and former lawmaker, explained that under the rules, the party that is not satisfied with the decision can still file a motion for reconsideration in the "court of last resort."

     Although it is "practically an exercise in futility," Garcia said it is one of the last things they could do, before the families seek the President's intervention.

     "I think the President will look at the case on its merits. The President is fair and just," the governor told reporters.

COMPASSION
     To Deputy Ombudsman Primo Miro, the decision affirms that the prosecution was right all along. Miro was head of the justice department's heinous crimes task force that prosecuted the "Chiong seven" from 1997 to 1999.

     Miro said the prosecution panel was sure of getting the death penalty for all seven and were surprised when Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Martin Ocampo handed down his ruling in 1999.

     "We argued that the (double life) sentences they got in the RTC was borne out of a judge's compassion, rather than the application of the penalty prescribed by the law. We believe that we proved our case beyond a shadow of doubt," Miro said.

     He also said there were a lot of technical questions that enriched jurisprudence.

     "We were able to establish that kidnapping is a continuing offense and that a kidnapping suspect can be arrested, detained, subjected to inquest and then charged even if his or her arrest came after the actual kidnapping," he explained.

DIFFICULT TASK
     Public Attorney Anacleto Debalucos was both surprised and saddened by the decision, however. He represented Adlawan, Balansag and Caņo.

     "We believe that Judge Ocampo committed errors in convicting my clients," he said in an interview.

     Defense Counsel Eric Carin also could not get over his sadness yesterday, as he prepared to ask the SC to reconsider. He believes that the rights of his clients, the Uy brothers, were violated.

     "It is difficult (to get a reversal) because it is a 12-0 decision. I'm just hoping for the best for my clients," Carin said. 

     Cebu City Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Democrito Barcenas said that while he sympathized with the victims in the 1997 Chiong case, he is also against death by lethal injection.

     He maintained though, that all accused in this case were afforded due process.

     State witness Davidson Rusia, whose testimonies gave weight to the prosecution's case, had narrated in court how the kidnapping and rape took place. He could not be reached for comment yesterday. KNR/LCR/GAN/CYR

NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
        DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.              

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