Tuesday, January 18, 2005 

Review death penalty imposed on Spanish death convict, SC asked
By Benjamin B. Pulta

      The Spain Embassy in Manila has forwarded to the Supreme Court (SC) three letters from lawyers association from Madrid seeking a review of the death sentence imposed on Spanish citizen, Francisco Juan Larraņaga, one of the seven convicts in the rape-slay of the Chiong sisters in 1997.

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

      Spanish Consul Emilio de Leon earlier informed the accused that he had attempted to submit the documents to the high court through diplomatic channels, but the same failed.

      "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 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 is 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.

      "If the evidence were to be reviewed, a breach of procedural safeguards could be found which would invalidate the proceedings," the lawyer's association said in its plea, adding the "execution of a Spanish citizen would be in breach of the principle of reciprocity applicable in the filed of international criminal law. If a Spanish court had found the accused guilty of the offenses facing him, it would 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."  

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

      The high tribunal, in a 77-page decision handed down last February, affirmed the guilt of all seven accused and raised the original penalty of two life terms. Only the youngest convict was spared from death row but will be made to serve two life sentences.

      "At times, we may show compassion and mercy but not at the expense of the broader interest of fair play and justice," 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," it added.

      Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag and James Anthony 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, Marijoy and Jacqueline, 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.

      Justice Reynaldo Puno, Jose Vitug, Artemio Panganiban, Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angekina 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.

      Lawyer Haydee Yorac, who earlier prepared Larraņaga's 145-page appeal dated May 10, 2000, said "The trial court erred when it committed gross, systematic and impermissible violations of the accused appellant's due process rights."

      She added the court violated Larraņaga's rights to counsel when Judge Martin Ocampo ordered the entire defense panel placed behind bars for contempt and, despite protests from the accused, appointed Public Attorney's office defenders to serve as counsel de officio for the accused.

      The prosecution was represented by the office of the Solicitor General, who countered the Larraņaga appeal by saying the court gave the accused "reasonable opportunity to hire new lawyers" and "correctly exercised its authority" when it intervened by appointing public defenders.

      The Office of the Solicitor General maintained the identification by witness of the prosecution, Davidson Rusia, and the other prosecution witnesses was more solid than the defense's alibis as presented by friends or relatives.

                           DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.                                 

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