Decision to penalize 6 of the 7 Chiong accused with lethal injection came despite 3 associate justice's objection to the constitutionality of death as a penalty
SC believes the RTC should have imposed death at its own level when it ruled that all accused were guilty beyond reasonable doubt
3 justices, who are not identified in SC decision, did not issue dissenting opinion on the High Tribunal's decision; SC decision therefore was deemed to be handed down 'as a body'
The decision to send six of the Chiong seven to death by lethal injection came despite three associate justices' objections to the death penalty.
While the Supreme Court (SC) did not reveal the names of the three anti-death justices in the decision, it stressed that the three submitted to the validity of Republic Act 7659, which imposes the death penalty for heinous crimes, and to the ruling that the death penalty "be lawfully imposed" in this case.
Similarly, the three judges did not issue dissenting opinions on the decision that, as a result, was deemed to be per curiam or handed down "as a body."
In fact, the SC believes the Regional Trial Court (RTC) should have imposed the death sentence at its own level, when it ruled that all accused where guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
"The trial court erred in merely imposing two reclusiones perpetua, rationalizing that justice must be tempered with mercy," the High Court ruled.
"We must be reminded that justice is not ours to give according to sentiment or emotion. It is the law that we must faithfully implement," the High Tribunal maintained.
RTC Judge Martin Ocampo, in his May 1999 decision on the July 1997 case, found all seven guilty of the kidnapping and serious illegal detention, with rape and murder of Marijoy Chiong.
They were also found guilty of the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of her sister, Jacqueline.
The seven are: Juan Francisco Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag, James Anthony Uy and James Andrew Uy.
Ocampo gave them back-to-back life sentences that all seven, through their lawyers, separately appealed before the SC.
Ocampo was found dead in a hotel room soon after he handed down the decision. While evidence pointed to a suicide, it was speculated otherwise.
In the 77-page document, the High Tribunal went along with the life imprisonment penalty for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Jacqueline for all seven men.
However, it increased the penalty to death for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention with rape and murder of Marijoy, tough only for six of the seven accused.
The youngest one, James Anthony Uy, was a minor at the time of the crime. He was ordered to serve another life sentence instead.
According to the High Tribunal, the RTC should have considered the provisions of RA 7659, which prescribes death for certain heinous crimes, when it imposed a back-to-back life imprisonment penalty for the seven.
"When the victim is killed or dies as a consequence of the detention, or is raped or is subjected to torture or dehumanizing acts, the maximum penalty (of death) shall be imposed," the SC quoted the statute.
(NOTE: Contrary to this and other newspaper accounts, RTC Judge Martin Ocampo never convicted the seven accused for 'rape and murder', but for 'kidnapping and serious illegal detention' of the two sisters. He was not convinced that the dead body found in the ravine was Marijoy and in his Obnibus Order, he even went to the extent of accusing the police and the prosecutors of hiding the true identity of the girl found in the ravine... the webmaster.)
THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR CLEARER APPRECIATION.
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