Thursday, February 17, 2005  
SC denies motions of..... Chiong sisters'.............. convicted killer 
Philip C. Tubeza

      THE SUPREME COURT yesterday denied an appeal of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, who was sentenced to death for the rape-murder of the Chiong sisters in Cebu, to have his case heard at the Court of Appeals.

      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.

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

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

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

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

      Larraņaga was one of the seven young men convicted for the rape and murder of sisters Jacqueline, 23, and Mari Joy Chiong, 20, in Cebu City in 1997.

      The Chiong sisters were abducted on the evening of July 16, 1997, while waiting for their father

father to pick them up at Ayala Center Cebu. Mari Joy's body was found two days later in a secluded ravine in nearby Carcar town.

      Jacqueline's body was never found.

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

The other convicts
      Besides Larraņaga, the others convicted were Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag and brothers James Anthony  and James Andrew Uy. James Andrew, a minor at the time of the incident, was sentenced to life in prison.

      Larraņaga asked the high court to reconsider its decision, claiming that he was in Quezon City when the Chiongs were abducted and brutally  murdered.

      In a press conference last November, his friends and classmates also claimed Larraņaga was not in Cebu on July 17, 1997.

      "We were together in our laboratory class from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. of July 17," Edna Zagala, Paco's classmate at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) on Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City.

      "I specifically remember him because he stood before me in the kitchen at around 8 a.m. of July 17," said another classmate, Kathy Malvar.

      Yet another classmate, Karen Tiong, said he saw Paco on July 16 and 17 because "he used to sit behind me in class."

      "We were with Paco from 10 p.m. of July 16 until around 1 a.m. at the R and R restaurant along Katipunan," according to Francisco Jarque and Sebastian Seno.

      Chef Rowena Bautista, Paco's teacher at CCA, reiterated her testimony that she saw him at the center on July 16 at 6:30 p.m.

      The young Larraņaga is a nephew of Sen. Sergio Osmeņa III and Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeņa.

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