Tuesday, November 30, 2004 

by Suzzane B. Salva

     "On hindsight, maybe I should have sent him to Spain."

     This was the sentiment of Margarita Larraņaga after seeing her son, Francisco Juan or Paco, "waste" seven years of his life behind bars.

     "And now they want him dead." she said.

     Mrs. Larraņaga allowed CEBU DAILY NEWS to visit her at her rented apartment in Metro Manila, roughly two rides away from the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinglupa, where she stays every time she visits Paco.

     For the first time, Mrs. Larraņaga admitted that she often though she had fallen short of expectations as a mother, taking into consideration past suggestions for her to send Paco to Spain.

     Paco has dual citizenship.

     "No, because I have nothing to hide. But you know, now, after having undergone all these, I would sometimes say sus maayo tingale og ato na lang to siyang gipalarga," she said.

     Like her son, Mrs. Larraņaga said she was confident that her son would be cleared of the charges considering the evidence and witnesses on their side.

     "I thought there was nothing to worry, nothing to fear. But now, sometimes I would think: Did I fail as mother?" she said.

     Mrs. Larraņaga said she wanted to do things the right way, and in the case of her son, she thought the truth would set him free.

     "My stand is, we follow the law and there is nothing to fear," she said. "But now can you imagine how I feel after having an innocent son reach this point?"

     Teary-eyed, the Larraņaga matriarch said: "Do we have to wait to go to heaven to get justice? While we are living here on earth can we not get the justice for you, because you are innocent?"

     Those were the words she told Paco after learning of the February 3 affirmation of the Supreme Court on the findings of the lower court.

     If there is one good thing that is happening, she said, it is the family's getting closer to God and taking active participation in lobbying against the death penalty.

     "I always relay to God everything. My prayer everyday when I wake up and when I sleep is Lord please enlighten the justices of the SC, open their minds and their hearts, and let them believe that Paco is innocent and acquit him," she said.

     She also says prayers to different saints.

     "Being a prayerful person, I always try to reason out that and try to ask God 'why?'. When I get so frustrated and have the feeling of helplessness I get the bible and open it and I get consoled," she said.

     Larraņaga said the family believed God would always be with them, "and if he was with us who could be against us?"

     "In God's time, he will set Paco free because he is innocent. So that what's keeping me going. God will not abandon us. I know that God will not abandon us," she said.

     Shortly after the SC affirmed the conviction and elevated the penalty from two life imprisonments to death penalty, Mrs. Larraņaga had joined an organization lobbying against the death penalty.

     Last May, she joined the Samahan ng mga Pamilya ng mga nasa Death Row (SPDR), an organization of families whose relatives are on death row.

     "Maybe this happened because God wants us to take an active stand on the death penalty. Now, not only Paco but as well as the family is placed on death row," she said.

     Aside from saying she is against the death penalty, Mrs. Larraņaga has been attending forums and seminars involving the abolition of the death penalty.

     "For people who may have committed a crime, don't kill them, give them a chance to reform to choose their way, save their souls. Don't destroy him by killing him. I believe there is some good in each of us, no matter how bad one is," she said.

     For the first time, she said she was hoping for a positive outcome in their appeal before the Supreme Court on the decision of the lower court finding her son and six others guilty of kidnapping and serious illegal detention.

     "All the way I was thinking its taking them so long for four years that means they are studying our case very well, reading our pleadings. When the decision came I was really in disbelief, I could not understand, I could not fathom," she said.

     "I had high hopes, I thought we had a good chance. I was devastated. I was asking the Lord, why God, why?" she added.

     After the SC denied all the motions filed before it, the convicts are now left with only one pending motion, that is their motion for reconsideration. 

                              DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.                      

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