Monday, February 9, 2004 

'Initiative' for re-trial....... being planned
'This deep hatred and sense of vengeance can do nothing but dig a deeper hole and create a bigger void unfillable by any means.'
     Marianne and Mona Liza del Gallego
            in a letter circulated by electronic mail 

      AN INITIATIVE asking the Supreme Court (SC) to retry the Chiong case will be organized as the families of the seven convicts, six of whom the SC recently sentenced to death, file motions for reconsideration.

      Businessman Miguel del Gallego, who has been active in civic organizations for decades, is spearheading the initiative. He said it has no other intention but to ensure that justice is handed down "for everybody."

      Del Gallego, chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress-Visayas regional committee, believes that one of the accused, Juan Francisco "Paco" Larraņaga is innocent and that a new trial will prove this. 

Two witnesses
      Without giving details, he said the families of the accused are preparing motions for reconsideration.

      Two of del Gallego's daughters testified in favor of Larraņaga before the late Regional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo.

(CORRECTION: Only one daughter was allowed by the judge to testify. The other two, he did not allow.)  

      They had said they were with Paco in Manila the night Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong were abducted in July 1997. They even submitted to the court photos to prove this.

      Ocampo convicted all ..............Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Caņo, Jmaes Anthony Uy, and his brother James Andrew---for kidnapping and serious illegal detention of the Chiong sisters.

      The SC in a 77-pade decision last Feb.2, not just affirmed Ocampo's finding, it modified it by convicting all seven for rape and homicide as an ancillary to the complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention in Marijoy's case.

Email campaign
      It also raised Ocampo's original penalty of two life terms to death by lethal injection on all except James Anthony, who was 16 years old when the crime was committed.


      The del Gallego sisters, now based in the US, stressed Larraņaga's innocence and have sent a plea.

      Marianne and Mona Liza del Gallego, via email, have circulated a two-page letter calling "for the truth to be heard" and praying for "justice (to) be put upon those deserving its wrath."

      "A number of decent and educated people staked their reputations on the line in pursuit of making the truth known. Sworn affidavits and testimonies were submitted in court. We are among the number of people with Paco that night. Yet our testimonies were not heard," they said.

      "This deep hatred and sense of vengeance can do nothing but dig a deeper hole and create a bigger void unfillable by any means. Such anger can blind one from the truth," they said in the letter they titled justice for Paco and the Chiong sisters.  

      The email comes with instructions for it to be forwarded to other people.

      The elder del Gallego expressed his intent to approach various civic organizations to support a new trial.

      "We believe the SC erred honestly and didn't know all the facts. This retrial is the only way for the Supreme Court to find out about what had (really) happened," he said in an interview with Sun.Star last night.

      He said the SC might not have known the fact that the late Judge Ocampo was not convinced the body found in Carcar, Cebu last July 18, 1997, two days after the abduction was Marijoy's. 

       Similarly, the log book of the security guard in the condominium that Larraņaga was staying wasn't made evidence. The log book could have shown that Larraņaga was in Manila on the night of the alleged abduction.

      The identity of the body is important because the ancillary crime of rape and murder allegedly committed by the suspects cannot be established without this.

      The High Tribunal expressed no doubt about the identity of the body, though. It relied on the statements of Insp. Edgardo Lenizo, a fingerprint analyst who testified that the prints he obtained matched those of Marijoy's.

      But del Gallego stresses there is enough reason for a retrial.

      "We were convinced (ever since the beginning) that the evidence (submitted to the SC as part of the appeals process) was enough to call for a retrial," he said.

      He said a retrial may also tend to show how the innocent can be sent to the death row under the present judicial system.

     "Its no longer just about Paco now. Its about all those other innocent people languishing in Muntinlupa," he said.  KNR


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