"PLEASE take a second look at the evidence." This was the ardent plea of Margarita Gonzales Larraņaga to the justices of the Supreme Court who had denied several appeals filed by her son's lawyers with the court.
Larraņaga's son, Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, was one of the seven young men convicted for the rape-slay of sisters Jacqueline,23, and Marie Joy Chiong,20, in Cebu City in 1997.
The Chiong sisters were abducted on the evening of July 16,1997, while waiting for their father to pick them up at the Ayala Center Cebu. Mary Joy's body was found two days later in a secluded ravine in nearby Carcar town while Jacqueline's body was never found.
In a press conference this week, Larraņaga presented her son's teacher, classmates and friends who, she said, had not been allowed by Judge Martin Ocampo of the Cebu Regional Trial Court to testify that Paco was with them in Quezon City from the evening of July 16 until 5 pm. the following day. Ocampo has since died.
In February of 2004, the Supreme Court upgraded the penalty of the accused to death by lethal injection.
The others convicted were Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Albert Caņo, Ariel Balansag and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew, a minor at the time of the incident, was sentenced life in prison.
"My son has been moved to death row", Larraņaga said.
"We were together in our laboratory class from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. of July 17", said Edna Zagala, Paco's classmate at the Center For Culinary Arts (CCA) on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.
I specifically remember him because he stood before me in the kitchen at around 8 a.m. of July 17," said another classmate, Kathy Malvar.
Yet another classmate, Karen Tiong, said she saw Paco on July 16 and 17 because "he used to sit behind me in class."
"We were with Paco from 10:00 p.m. of July 16 until around 1 a.m. at the R and R restaurant along Katipunan," according to Francisco Jarque and Sebastian Seno.
Chef Rowena Bautista, Paco's teacher at CCA, reiterated her testimony that she saw him at the center on July 16 at 6:30 p.m.
But the teacher's testimony was rendered irrelevant by the judge, according to Mrs. Larraņaga.
A prominent Cebu businessman, Miguel del Gallego, whose three daughters executed sworn statements supporting Paco, said, "I am taking this crusade because I believe in the innocence of Paco and the other accused."
Gallego's daughters, Monique, Marian, and Maitina were in a photo with Larraņaga supposedly taken between 10 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. on July 17 in a Quezon City restaurant.
The Supreme Court, in a resolution dated Sept. 21, 2004, denied the two petitions filed by Larraņaga's lawyers, one calling for the referral of the case to the Court of Appeals and the other a motion for oral arguments.
The young Larraņaga is a scion of the Osmeņa clan of Cebu. He is a nephew of Sen. Sergio Osmeņa III and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa.
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