February 2005
F. Larrañaga, The Philippines

Francisco Juan Larrañaga was sentenced at the age of 19 to two consecutive life sentences. He was initially convicted in May 1999 of the kidnap and false imprisonment of two sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong on July 16, 1997. In February 2004 the Supreme Court ordered that he be sentenced to death, with rape and homicide added to his alleged crimes. Added to the capital punishment, was the order to indemnify the victim's heirs to the sum of P100,000 civil indemnity, P25,000 as temperate damages, P150,000 as moral damages and P100,000 as exemplary damages. Mr Larrañaga known as Paco, now sits on death row, waiting.

It was alleged that Paco and 7 other young men kidnapped the two sisters and raped them on the Phillipine island of Cebú where they later threw one of the bodies into a ravine.

During his trial in the Cebu Regional Trial Court, defense lawyers sought to present evidence from 35 different witnesses that on the evening of the crime, Paco was at a party with friends at the R&R Restaurant along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, and stayed there until early morning the following day. After the party, Paco returned to his Quezon City condominium at 2:45 a.m. the following day, as shown by the security guard's logbook. Chef Rowena Bautista, a teacher at the CCA, attested in court that she had seen Paco with a classmate in school at about 6:30 p.m. on July 16. He attended his second round of midterm exams on July 17 commencing at 8 a.m. These were scheduled exams, for which he has records to prove he took and passed. Paco did not leave for Cebu until late afternoon of July 17, 1997. Airline and airport personnel came to court with their respective flight manifests, showing that Paco did not take any flight on July 16, 1997 nor was on board any chartered aircraft that landed in or departed from Cebu during the relevant dates, until the 5 p.m. PAL flight on July 17, 1997 from Manila to Cebu.

However, Judge Martin Ocampo disregarded these' testimonies as well as other documentary pieces of evidence supporting Paco's claim.

Only one body was ever found. When Dennis Chiong, brother of the two sisters, went to the funeral parlour to identify the body he said he didn't think it could be his sister as (the corpse has long hair). There was also a marked difference in height. Nevertheless, no formal identification was made by those who knew the Chiong sisters and the court ruled out requests for DNA tests. Instead, Judge Ocampo placed Mr Larrañaga's lawyer in jail for contempt, and assigned a new lawyer from the Cebu City Public Attorney's Office to represent him.

The accusation against Larrañaga rested almost entirely on the testimony of one of the accused, turned witness for the Prosecution in exchange for total immunity. Cross-examination of this witness was kept to a mere half-hour, but he fainted under the strain. The judge proceeded to respond to questions on his behalf.

FTA is appealing for a re-trial or dismissal on the basis of unsafe conviction. We have called upon the Spanish government, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Parliament who have all protested vigorously at the appalling justice procedures in this case. All protestations have been ignored by the Supreme Court and the Philippine Ministry of Justice. A key part of our activities has been the submission of an Amicus Curiae presenting legal argument and calling for a re-trial, as summarised below.

Main Grounds of concern regarding fair trial procedures:
If Paco Larrañaga is executed without being given a fair trial, he will be arbitrarily deprived of his life contrary to article 6(1) of the Covenant.
• Paco Larrañaga was prohibited from testifying at his trial in violation of articles 14(1), 14(3)(d) and (e) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Although the right to testify is not explicitly stated in article 14 it is an implied right. The accused has the right to present his case in the best way available, and this means in practice the right of an accused to counter the prosecution allegations and provide evidence of his own innocence. In the absence of any valid justification from the Supreme Court, exclusion of this kind of exculpatory evidence deprived Paco Larrañagaof the basic right to have the prosecutor's case tested by available contrary evidence.
• Several defence witnesses of crucial importance to the defence of alibi were prevented from giving evidence. The trial court thereby violated article 14(3)(e) of the Covenant by failing to allow Paco Larrañaga the same opportunity to compel the attendance of witnesses and to examine witnesses as was available to the prosecution.
• Defence counsel's right to examine the chief prosecution witnesses was unfairly restricted in violation of article 14(3)(e) and the principle of equality of arms enshrined in article 14(1) of the Covenant. The defendant is entitled to test by questioning witnesses who testify against him.
• Paco was not given adequate counsel at all stages of his trial in violation of paragraph 5 of the UN Safeguards Guaranteeing Protection of the Rights of Those Facing the Death Penalty and articles 14(3)(b)and (d)of the Covenant. The court appointed counsel from the Public Attorney's Office had less than one day to prepare the defence. A person facing charges punishable by death should be provided with adequate assistance of counsel at every stage of the proceedings; this is above and beyond the protection afforded in non-capital cases. This failure to provide adequate assistance of counsel at all stages of the trial process infringed Paco's right to a fair trial.
• The prosecution failed to prove Paco Larrañaga' s guilt based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts contrary to paragraph 4 of the Safeguards and the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty enshrined in article 14(2) of the Covenant by consequence of the following incidents:
(a) The prosecution evidence centred on the testimony of one of the accused, Sr Rusia, who not only testified against Paco Larrañaga as a result of police brutality and in violation of Article 15 of the Convention, but who also gave evidence against Paco in return for his own release and acquittal.
(b) Paco Larrañaga' s main defence was an alibi. It was wrong in law for the onus to have been put on him to prove that it was physically impossible for him to have been at the scene of the crime. The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove the offences charged beyond a reasonable doubt.
• Francisco Juan Larrañaga's right to be tried by an independent and impartial tribunal according to article 14(1) of the Covenant was violated. Pressure was exerted on the Francisco Juan Larrañaga case by powerful social groups and he was the subject of an unprecedented number of media reports that condemned him even before his trial started. There was also a 100,000 Peso reward for prosecution information and testimony.

This is what you can do to support F. Larrañaga:
Signature Campaign: Please add your signature to support Paco in his fight for justice by going to www.PacoLarranaga.com

Write to Paco, your letters will give him encouragement and huge support during this long and agonising wait.
Francisco Juan Larrañaga, Dorm 1d, Maximum Security Compound, New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City, The Philippines.


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NOTE: The Fair Trials Abroad Trust [FTA] seeks to help citizens from the European Union accused of a crime in a country other than their own, to assert their rights to due administration of justice.

NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
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