Tuesday, January 18, 2005 

                 PETITION FROM SPAIN
Spanish lawyers plead
for Paco
Larraņaga counsels raise bar group's briefs to SC
* Amicus curiae ("friend of the court") briefs submitted through defense lawyers come from Barcelona Bar Association, Basque Bar Council, and Bar Association of Madrid
* Groups ask for review of death sentence imposed on Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, a Spanish citizen, one of the seven sentenced to die for the rape-murder of Chiong sisters in 1997, saying they wish to asserts the rights of Paco to a fair trial and due process under "international law standards"
Thelma Chiong, mother of the victims, says she is confident the death sentence will be upheld

     The fight to save Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga has reach Spain, as lawyers' groups there asked for a review of the death sentence on the scion of a prominent Cebuano family.

     Spain's embassy in Manila has forwarded to the Supreme Court three letters from different bar associations "to assert the rights of their citizen to a fair trial and due process of law." 

      Larraņaga, one of the seven convicts in the rape-murder of the Chiong sisters in Cebu, is a Spanish citizen, according to the letters.

      In a six-page plea, Larraņaga defense counsels Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo and Sandra Coronel asked the court to consider the amicus curie briefs filed by the Barcelona Bar Association the Basque Bar Council and the Bar Association of Madrid.

      Spanish Consul Emilio de Leon earlier informed Larraņaga that he had attempted to submit the documents to the Supreme Court via diplomatic channels, but failed.

      Thelma Chiong, the mother of the Chiong sisters, will be flying to Manila today to check with the High Tribunal the developments on the case and to get a copy of the request of the three bar associations in Spain.

      In February 2004, the Supreme Court decided to impose the death penalty on six of the seven men convicted of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, with homicide and rape, of Marijoy Chiong.

      Marijoy and her elder sister Jacqueline were together when they were grabbed from an uptown mall last July 16, 1997.

     Jacqueline has not been found, but two days after the sisters were reported missing, the body of a young woman was found in a ravine in Carcar, Cebu, which the Chiong family said was that of Marijoy.

      Their mother also questioned yesterday Larraņaga's Spanish citizenship because his application for a visa at the height of the case was allegedly denied.

PACO. He and six other accused were saved from the death sentence in the Regional Trial Court but the Supreme Court, on review, raised the penalty to death.                                                                    (SUN.STAR FILE)

      "But whatever country-- Spain, Belgium, Germany-- I am not afraid because the law is on our side," said Chiong, also national vice-president of the Crusade Against Violence.

      In an en banc decision, the Supreme Court had raised the penalty imposed by the late RTC Judge Martin Ocampo, from double terms of 20 to 40 years in prison on the seven men to death penalty on six of them and 32 to 57 years on the seventh accused.

Fair trial
      "The submitting organizations wish to assert the rights of their citizen to a fair trial and due process of law, invoking international law standards, and in keeping with their general stand against the death penalty," the Spanish lawyers said.

      "With the greatest respect for the law and judicial system of the Philippines, the Barcelona 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 i not a civilized response to crime, but also because in view of the documentation provided, irreparable harm could be caused,' a portion of the amici's briefs said.

      The lawyers said that if evidence were to be reviewed, " a breach of procedural safeguards could be found, which would invalidate the proceedings."

      "The execution of a Spanish citizen would be in breach of the principle of reciprocity applicable in the field of international criminal law. If a Spanish court had found the accused guilty, in no event, have imposed the death penalty,  neither on a Spanish nor a Philippine citizen, nor could he have been extradited without the firm undertaking of the requesting state not to impose  or carry out the death penalty," they added.

      The European Union, Spain included, has ratified the international instruments against the death penalty.

      In Cebu, business leader Miguel Juan del Gallego is on a mission to free Larraņaga from death.

      Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag and James Andrew Uy are now in death row.

      The seventh accused, James Andrew Uy, who was only 16 during the kidnapping and rape of the Chiong sisters will be spared.

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 Jacqueline. (Sunnex)/GN

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