Saturday, February 12, 2005 

Fr. Reyes, runners ask  for Chiong case retrial
by Jhunnex Napallacan
      and Suzanne B. Salva

Led by Juan Miguel del Gallego (left, front row, above) and Fr. Robert Reyes, joggers drum up support for a retrial of the Chiong case. Top photo: The crusade seems difficult and lonely, but this advocate makes sure he's seen. Page 2.
                                                               Junjie Mendoza

      "For real justice" was how Fr. Robert Reyes described his latest run in Cebu City yesterday with families and friends of six men now on death row for the abduction of the Chiong sisters in 1997.

      The running priest is convinced of the innocence of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, one of those sentenced to die for the crime, but said he also wanted justice served to the Chiong family.

      "There must be a retrial," Fr. Reyes said      after the two-hour run from the Ayala Business Park to the Capitol, also joined by 40-50 people.

      "I'd like to make this point, I did the run also for the Chiong family. I came here for the Chiong family because if Paco and company were innocent, therefore, there is no justice for the Chiongs," he said.

      "Mr. and Mrs. Chiong should not sit down, relax and say 'we are happy because justice is served,' because justice has not been served," he said.

      Last December, Fr. Reyes said he had given SC Chief Hilario Davide, Jr. a lantern with a message for the Cebuano magistrate "to prepare the path for a retrial."

      "I will sit down with the Cebuanos and plan more activities in Manila because the SC is there. That's the only way to keep justice alive in this country," he said.

      He also asked the spirit of the late RTC Judge Martin Ocampo to revisit the conscience of the Supreme Court justices "so that the high court will reverse its decision sentencing six of the men to death."

        The joggers who went with Reyes included businessman Juan Miguel del Gallego, former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia, Jody Aznar, Paco's mother Margarita, and Paco's friends who swore he was in a Quezon City bar when the crime happened in Cebu.

      On the way to Capitol, the group stopped by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) 7 headquarters, and Paco's friends handed a letter asking the police agency to conduct a reinvestigation of the case.

      At the Palace of Justice, they gave a manifesto to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), asking the lawyer's group to "answer the call of the innocent and oppressed in finding the truth and justice".

      After the run, Fr. Reyes and Paco's pals---Raymond Alvin Garcia, Sebastian Eriberto Seno, Paolo Manguerra, Francisco Carlos Jarque Jr., Ma. Christina del Gallego Borromeo, Jheanessa Ann Fonacier and Maharlika Esperanza Shulze---held a press conference at a restaurant in Ayala.

      For Fr. Reyes, this was not the first time he had run to "save innocent people from the death penalty." He said he also ran for the "Abadilla Five," alleged fall guys in the murder of Col. Rolando Abadilla on June 13, 1996. "I am also running for the abolition of the death penalty," he said.

      Talking about the Chiong case, Fr. Reyes said he had the impression that the court and the media colluded to have all the accused convicted.

MARGARITA Larraņaga, former Cebu City Mayor Alvin Garcia and wife Ninette (from left) joins the "run for justice" that is led by running priest Fr. Reyes (not on photo).                                      (CDN PHOTO/JUNJIE MENDOZA)

       And as in the case of the "Abadilla Five, "Reyes said the "Chiong Seven" could be fall guys picked up by the police. 

      He said the statements of Paco's seven friends, who took the dock during the trial of the case, were rejected in favor of the testimony of star witness Davidson Valiente Rusia. 

      The priest described Rusia as an "incredible police asset."

      "The exhumation of the body believed to be that of Marijoy, should be made so a DNA test could be conducted," Reyes proposed.

      "There are rumors that the two girls are alive. What if they are really alive? Now enjoying life in some Caribbean island and now carrying different passports? Is it possible that the two girls are still alive? It's very possible in this country of so many possibilities," he said.

      Reyes also suggested that Cardinal Vidal help in the crusade to find the truth.

      "I am not ordering the cardinal because I am a little priest. But for the sake of truth and justice, it is our moral duty to step in," he said.

      Seven of Paco's friends who attested to his presence in a Quezon City bar on July 16, 1997, when the Chiong sisters were abducted in Cebu, were among the front-liners in yesterday's "run for justice," she added.

      Raymund Alvin, son of former mayor Alvin Garcia, Maharlika Shulze, Paolo Manguerra, Jheanessa Ann Fonacier, Sebastian Seno, Francisco Carlos Jarque, Jr. and Ma. Christina del Gallego-Borromeo handed "release Paco leaflets" to bystanders.   

      Inscriptions on their shirts read, "Justice for Paco" and "Paco is innocent." 

      They joined the other runners at the Kaona Grill in Ayala Business Park, taking off at 8:45 a.m. for the Marcelo Fernan Hall of Justice via General Maxilom Avenue. 

      With the group were Jody Aznar, Marilyn Yap and Maria Elena Soledad, mothers of Josman, James Anthony and James Andrew Uy and Rowen Adlawan, respectively.  

      "We are happy that people are supporting us. If it would be proven that Paco was indeed in Manila during the commission of the crime, then the case against the others would crumble," Mrs. Aznar told CDN. 

      "This gives us the hope that the SC will hear us and will not totally close its door for us," she added. 

      Mrs. Uy said her sons were minors when they were implicated in the case. 

      "This is the time when they are supposed to be studying and enjoying the prime of their lives. If this is God's will, I know the truth will really come out," she said.  

      Paco's family came in full force. 

      "I have been praying whatever it is we are going to do. We want the truth to come out and tell the world that Paco and all the others are innocent," said her mother Margarita. 

Alvin Garcia and his wife Ninette said they wanted to be counted. 

      He said the camera used by Raymund to take photos of Paco and his friends at the Quezon City bar on the night of the crime was Ninette's. 

      The late Judge Martin Ocampo said the photos could have been tampered with, and sentenced all the seven accused to double life terms.

      On review, the Supreme Court handed the death penalty to six of the men, sparing only James Anthony who was a minor. 

      James Anthony was sentenced to life imprisonment. 

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