Tuesday, January 18, 2005  

Spanish law groups
asked SC to spare......... Osmeņa scion
By Philip C. Tubeza

      Three Spanish bar associations have asked the Philippine Supreme Court to spare the life of a scion of the influential Osmeņa clan of Cebu who was sentenced to death for the rape-slay of two sisters in 1997.

     In three separate amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs, the bar associations of Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque Region asked the high court to spare Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, a Spanish citizen and great-grandson of the late President Sergio Osmeņa and nephew of Sen. Sergio Osmeņa III and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa.

     The three bar associations said the evidence and "procedural lapses" in the case showed that Larraņaga should not be executed.

     Larraņaga was one of the seven men convicted of the rape-slay of sisters Jacqueline, 23, and Marie Joy Chiong, 20, in Cebu City in 1997.

      Lawyer Sandra Marie Coronel, Larraņaga's counsel, asked the Supreme Court yesterday to accept the briefs after the Spanish consul tried but failed to submit them through diplomatic channels.

     "With the greatest respect for the law and judicial system of the Philippines, the Barcelona Bar 

Bar Association wishes to state its deep concern at the sentencing to death of a Spanish citizen in the said country, not only on account of the profound conviction that the death penalty is not a civilized response to crime, but also because in view of the documentation provided, irreparable harm could be caused, said the Barcelona bar.

      "If the evidence were to be reviewed, a breach of procedural safeguards could be found which would invalidate the proceedings," it said.

      The Basque Bar Council noted that 35 witnesses had stated under oath that Larraņaga was in Quezon City and not in Cebu when the Chiongs were abducted on July 16, 1997.

      It said there was no "physical evidence" to link Larraņaga to the crime and that the late Judge Martin Ocampo, who heard the case, prohibited the defense lawyer from properly examining the prosecution's witnesses.

     Ocampo had also barred defense witnesses-- who had claimed they were with Larraņaga in a Quezon City bar at the time the crime was committed--- from testifying, it added.

      The council said that Ocampo was "not impartial" and "hurled insinuations on the personal qualities" of the defense witnesses. It noted that the judge even had the defense lawyers jailed for 10 days for seeking his inhibition from the case. 

      The Madrid Bar said Larraņaga's death sentence "would suppose unequal treatment, against the principle of reciprocity in force in International Criminal Law," since no Filipino in Spain charged with the same crime would be meted out the death penalty.

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