Wednesday, November 24, 2004
to reopen...... Chiong murder case...... launched
By M. Rullan
An international campaign to support the reopening of the Francisco Juan
"Paco" Larraņaga case was launched Tuesday after the Supreme
Court denied the defense lawyer's plea to refer his case for review at the
Court of Appeals and its motion for oral arguments on the case.
Larraņaga's lawyers, family and friends, in a
press briefing in Makati, insisted that "Paco" was the victim of
injustice after he was sentenced to death through lethal injection for the
death, with six others, of sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong in 1997
The campaign for signatures for support for a
fair trial for Paco was supported by the "Unheard 35," are
reference to the 35 witnesses who were not allowed by a Cebu Regional
Trial Court judge to testify in court, even though they all issued
affidavits, at the risk of perjury, supporting Paco's claim that he was
with them when the rape-murder of the Chiong sisters took place.
Larraņaga is being represented by former justice
secretary Sedfrey Ordoņez, who insists that under Philippine law, his
client should be allowed to raise before the appellate court factual
shortcomings during the trial of the controversial case.
Judge Martin Ocampo, who tried the Chiong case,
repeatedly refused to allow the testimony of at least 10 defense
witnesses, jailed the defense counsel and justified his moves by saying
that "the defense can take the matter when it reaches the SC."
Judge Ocampo later died in an apparent suicide.
"Today, after seven years in prison, he
[Larraņaga] has been moved to death row. This is a great injustice
because my son is innocent. He could not have committed the crimes imputed
on him because he was in Quezon City continuously before, during and after
the commission of the crime in Cebu," Larranaga's mother said.
Cebu businessman Miguel Juan del Gallego, who mm
taken up the case, claims that the main witness of
Davidson Rusia, had been twice convicted of burglary and perjury in the
United States. Rusia claims to have been a friend of Paco.
After the Larraņaga conviction, Rusia had a
falling out with the victim's family, who complained about the latter's
alleged repeated demands for money and support from them.
The other witnesses in the cases are "police
assets" who said they were near the crime scene around 3 a.m. but
curiously failed to report the matter to their police handlers until three
months later, or shortly before the trial.
Pending before the Supreme Court is a
motion for reconsideration in the main case of the Chiongs.
A number of law groups from Spain and the
European Union, acting for Larraņaga---who is technically a Spanish
citizen---have asked the Supreme Court to allow a retrial of the case to
silence talks of irregularities.
The High Court, in a 77-page decision in
February, affirmed the guilt of all seven accused and raised the original
penalty of two life terms to death. Only the youngest convict, James
Andrew Uy, 16, was spared from death row, but will be made to serve two
The SC said in the ruling: "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, we can never go against what is laid down in our
statute books and established jurisprudence."
The other accused are Josman Aznar, Rowen
Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag and James Anthony Uy. They are now
on death row.
The court treated as separate cases the
kidnapping and serious illegal detention, with homicide and rape, of
Marijoy and the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Jaqueline.
Justices Reynato Puno, Jose Vitug, Artemio
Panganiban, Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Yņares Santiago, Angelina
Gutierrez, Antonio Carpio, Ma. Alicia Martinez, Renato Corona, Conchita
Morales, Romeo Callejo Sr. and Dante Tinga voted against the accused.
Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., whose wife is a
relative by affinity of the Chiongs, and Justice Adolfo Azcuna took no
part in the deliberation.