Wednesday, November 24, 2004
of Chiong slay........ convict insists he's...... innocent
By Aurea Calica
The family of
Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga, one of six men sentenced to
death in the rape-killing of the Chiong sisters in Cebu, insisted
yesterday that he is innocent of the crime.
His mother, Margarita Gonzales Larrañaga, said
they were "on the last leg of our quest for justice" as they
banked on a favorable Supreme Court ruling on their motion for
reconsideration of the lower court’s decision convicting his son.
Margarita and businessman Miguel Juan del
Gallego, however, lamented that the Supreme Court denied their motion to
have the body of Marijoy Chiong exhumed and subjected to DNA tests, for
their lawyers’ oral arguments to be heard, and for the case to be
referred to the Court of Appeals for review.
"We went to the Supreme Court on appeal,
questioning the erroneous findings of the regional trial court of Cebu
that caused the unjustified deprivation of my son’s basic right to due
process," Margarita said.
"Sadly, instead of correcting the grave
injustice committed by the RTC, the (Supreme Court) affirmed the trial
court’s decision and even increased the penalty to death by excusing the
otherwise grave constitutional infractions committed by the police, the
prosecutors and the trial court and affirming the insufferable standard of
‘physical impossibility’ in a alibi," she added.
Margarita said his son and their other witnesses,
especially those who could testify that Francisco Juan was not in Cebu but
in Quezon City when the crime was committed on July 16, 1997, were not given the chance to be heard in court.
Margarita said the courts should not disregard the many testimonies on her son’s
innocence, some of which even came
from Spain because his son is a Filipino-Spanish citizen.
Instead of just 80 years in prison, the Supreme Court imposed the death
penalty on Francisco Juan, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Cano,
Ariel Balansag and James Andrew Uy.
Another convict, James Anthony Uy, who was 16
years old when the crime was committed, was sentenced to reclusion
perpetua (life imprisonment) for the special complex crime of kidnapping
and serious illegal detention with homicide and rape, and separately meted
a 12-17 jail term for simple kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
In raising the penalty, the Supreme Court said,
"At times we may show compassion and mercy but not at the expense of
the broader interest of fair play and justice."
"While we also find it difficult to mete out
the penalty of death, especially on young men who could have led productive
and promising lives if only they were given enough guidance, however, we
can never go against what is laid down in our statute books and
established jurisprudence," it added.
In a companion criminal case, the Supreme Court
also found the appellants guilty of simple kidnapping and serious illegal
detention of Marijoy’s sister, Jacqueline, and were sentenced to
reclusion perpetua. Until now, Jacqueline’s body has not been found.
"What she and what further crimes were
inflicted upon her remain unknown and unsolved up to the present,"
the Supreme Court said.
Aside from capital punishment, the appellants
were also ordered to indemnify the victims’ heirs P100,000 as civil
indemnity, P25,000 as temperate damages, P150,000 as moral damages, and
P100,000 as exemplary damages.
The prosecution centered on the testimony of
state witness Davidson Valiente Rusia. His testimony, which was
corroborated by 21 other witnesses, recounted the kidnapping and gang-rape
of Marijoy and Jacqueline on July 16, 1997.