Wednesday, January 19, 2005  
                 

Spanish lawyers ask High
Court to spare Larraņaga

By Jun P. Tagalog
      
Correspondent

      CEBU CITY --- Three bar associations from Spain have asked the Supreme Court to review the death sentence meted on Francisco "Paco" Larraņaga, one of the seven young men convicted for the abduction and murder of the Chiong sisters.

      In their letters, the three Spanish lawyers' groups expressed concern over the imposition of the death penalty on a Spanish citizen. They said Mr. Larraņaga is a Spanish citizen and they were merely asserting the rights of Mr. Larraņaga to a fair trial and due process of the law.

      But the Chiong family belittled the separate amicus curiae briefs submitted by the three bar associations in Barcelona, Madrid, and Basque region in Spain and expressed confidence that the Supreme Court will not budge.

      Dionisio Chiong, father of the victims, described the appeals of the three lawyers' groups from Spain as "outrageous".

      "It's quite unreasonable simply because the crime was committed here and they are they are asking now from nowhere to spare Mr. Larraņaga," he said.

      He said his family was not threatened by the maneuvers of the Larraņaga family and their friends. Mr. Larraņaga is a great-grandson of the late President Sergio Osmeņa, Sr. and a cousin of brothers Sen. Sergio R. Osmeņa III and Cebu City Mayor Tomas R. Osmeņa. 

     "I don't think they can influence the highest court of the land. I believe that justice has been served already on my daughters," he added.

     The counsel for Mr. Larraņaga has submitted the letters of the Barcelona Bar Association, Basque Bar Council and Bar Association of Madrid as amicus curiae briefs.

LOBBY FOR REVIEW
      The family and friends of Mr. Larraņaga have been lobbying for a review of the case since the Supreme Court handed down the death sentence sometime in February 2004.

      Miguel Juan del Gallego, a close family friend, resigned from the Philippine Business for Social Progress to concentrate on the case.

      Mr. Larraņaga and the six other convicts of the Chiong sisters rape-slay case were first meted life sentence by the late Judge Martin Ocampo of the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC).  

      In an en banc decision in February 2004, the Supreme Court upgraded the penalty to death for six of the accused, including Mr. Larraņaga, and 32 to 57 years for James Andrew Uy, who was only 17 when the crime was committed.

      The Chiong sisters, Jacqueline and Marijoy, were abducted from the Ayala Center Cebu in July 1997. The body of Marijoy, a college beauty queen, was dumped in a southern town. She had been raped, Jacqueline remains missing.

      Aside from Mr. Larraņaga, others convicted of the Chiong rape-slay case were Aznar scion Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Caņo, Rowen Adlawan, and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy.

      The crime pushed their parents to become active in the fight against violence and prosecution of heinous crime suspects. Mr. Chiong heads the Crusade against Violence in the Visayas while his wife, Thelma, serves as national vice-president.

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