Thursday, February 17, 2005  
SC Decision: CA.............. can't review Paco's case
The Inquirer News Service and
      Suzzane B. Salva

      The Supreme Court (SC) has denied a motion of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga to have his case reviewed by the Court of Appeals (CA), taking the Chiong case nearer to its final resolution.

      In a two-page resolution dated Jan. 11 but released only yesterday, the high court denied "for lack of merit" the motion for reconsideration of Larraņaga, a scion of the powerful Osmeņa clan, for the court to reverse its resolution on Sept. 21, 2004.

      In that resolution, the tribunal denied two petitions filed by Larraņaga's lawyers --- one calling for the referral of the case to the CA and the other, a motion for oral arguments.

      SC Clerk of Court Luzviminda Puno said that yesterday's resolution did not deal with the Larraņaga's main motion to have his conviction overturned.

      "The decision on that might be released soon. The court has already docketed on his other motions like this one," Puno said.

      She said that while the tribunal had ruled that the CA should review death penalty cases, "it is still within the high court's discretion to decide if it wants to review a particular case."

      In pursuing for a Court of Appeals review, Larraņaga's counsels Sedfrey Ordoņez, Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo and Sandra Coronel, cited in the case of People vs. Efren Mateo on July 7, 2004.

      Mateo, a Tarlac resident, was found guilty of raping his step-daughter 10 times, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

      Quoting the decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Vitug, Larraņaga's lawyers said "that for all cases involving the imposition of penalties of death, reclusion perpetua and life imprisonment, a prior determination by the CA should be available to the accused in order to minimize the possibility of an error of judgment."  

      In Mateo's case, Justice Vitug said in the case of those punished to die by lethal injection or sentenced to a life term "no care in the evaluation of the facts can ever be overdone."

      "A prior determination by the Court of Appeals on, particularly, the factual issues, would minimize the possibility of an error of judgment," he said.

      In a motion dated July 27, 2004 the lawyers said the ruling "is a matter of procedure beneficial to the accused facing a death conviction like Larraņaga."

      "It maybe invoked in the present case (Chiong) to mmm


apply retroactively to his benefit," the lawyers said.

      Larraņaga's mother Margarita, told Cebu Daily News she was not aware of the latest SC resolution.

      She said that when they appealed the Feb. 3, 2004 ruling of the high court sending her son and five other men to death row for the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, "we raised questions of laws and facts." 

      "We were hoping that we would have a chance to present new and additional evidence before the SC decides on the case with finality," she said.

      She is pinning her last hope on their motion for reconsideration of the SC's death sentence.

      "I still have faith in the justices of the Supreme Court and praying for their enlightenment," she said.

      "I am appealing to the justices to review the case very well and open their eyes to the many errors committed by the judge in the lower court," Margarita said.

      "I still feel that God will not abandon us. If I feel frustrated I go back to the bible, to the book of Samuel and I get consoled. Above everyone else is God, He will not abandon us and He will not abandon my son," she said.

      The Chiong sisters were abducted on the night of July 16, 1997, while waiting for their father to pick them up at Ayala Center Cebu.

      Marijoy's body was found two days later in a secluded ravine in Carcar town while Jacqueline's body was never found.

      Paco and his friends maintained that he was in manila attending a party on the night when the sisters were abducted.

      The late Judge Martin Ocampo found Paco and the other accused guilty, and sentenced them to double life terms.

      In February 2004, on review, the Supreme Court upgraded the penalty of the accused to death by lethal injection.

      Besides Larraņaga, also convicted were Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag and James Andrew Uy.

      Only James Anthony Uy, brother of James Andrew, a minor at the time of the abduction, was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison.

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