Sunday, May 1, 2005
By Suzanne B. Salva                                                     .
REPORTER                                                        M .

The European Parliament in........... Brussels has approved a request.. to the Philippine government to.... review the death sentence of....... Farncisco "Paco" Larraņaga, a..... Spanish magazine recently........... reported.

      Larraņaga's case was taken up during the last plenary session of the parliament, the legislative body of the European Union (EU), which was deliberating on the human rights situation worldwide, the report said.

       According to "Que" a magazine circulated all over Spain, the 732 members of the parliament "unanimously approved the request to have the Philippine government review Paco's case." 

     Lawyer Javier Viada, Larraņaga's representative in Barcelona, described the European Parliament's act as "a giant step." According to Viada, the request "is crucial to changing the unjust situation of Paco."

     Larraņaga's case was included in the modified report of Irish Deputy Simon Coveney of the parliament's committee on foreign affairs, according to the magazine's article that was written in Spanish.

     Coveney's annual report tackled the human rights situation in the world in 2004 and the EU's policy on the matter.

     The magazine quoted Coveney's report condemning the trial of the Chiong case, a proceeding allegedly "plagued with irregularities."

     The EU document requesting the Philippine government, through the Supreme Court, to review Larraņaga's case, will be sent to the Philippines.

     Paco's mother Margarita said the action of the European Parliament, which "commands 450 million members, gives us hope."

     She and her son's supporters, who insist on the innocence of the 27-year-old Paco, have been waiting for a long time to have his name cleared, she said.

     "Paco is a Spanish citizen and a member of the European Union. The union is watchful over its citizens and its officials are concerned that Paco was deprived of his right to a fair trial, " Margarita said.

     "We are not asking for clemency, but for justice."

     Despite the fact that the Philippine Supreme Court had denied Paco's motion for a retrial, Margarita held out hope that some of the justices would reconsider their earlier stand.

      "I'm praying for them to realize the errors committed by the lower court. My son is innocent mmm

but is languishing in jail," she said.

     "The European Parliament's act of unanimously approving the request to the Philippine government lifts our spirit and gives us courage to carry on with this fight," she said.

     "I am praying that my own country (Spain) will give justice to my son," she said. 

      (NOTE: Mrs. Larraņaga called up the paper to clarify that  what she meant by "my own country" was the Philippines and not Spain..... the webmaster )

      Sought for comment, Thelma Chiong, mother of victims Jacqueline and Marijoy, said the news from Spain did not ruffle her at all.

     "Dili sila kahilabot, wala man gani kahilabot ang Pilipinas sa Flor Contemplacion. Maski presidente pa na sa Spain dili sila pwede mo intervene (They can't interfere. The Philippines did not interfere in the Flor Contemplacion case. Even the president of Spain can't intervene," she said.

     "Daghan na sila gibuhat, re open case, dili ko mahadlok ana. (They have done a lot of thing to try to reopen the case.) The decision is final and executory," she said.

     Mrs. Chiong said she remained confident that the high court would stand by its decision.

      Reviewing the case on Feb. 3, 2004, the Supreme Court not only affirmed trial judge Martin Ocampo's verdict, but also upgraded the penalty of Larraņaga and his co-accused from double life imprisonment to death.

     The late Judge Martin Ocampo ruled that they had been proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt of kidnapping and illegally detaining sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong on July 16, 1997.

     A majority of the justices decided to send Larraņaga, Jozman Aznar, a scion of the wealthy Aznar family here in Cebu, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Caņo, Rowen Adlawan and James Anthony to the death chamber.

     The seventh accused James Andrew "Wang-wang" Uy, who was minor at the time of commission of the crime, was meted out a life sentence.

     Based on the report of "Que" magazine, the signature campaign, directed at the Spain government to help Paco, has gathered over 94,000 supporters.

     Pat Cox, the President of the European Parliament, earlier wrote a letter to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, expressing concern over Paco's situation.

     In his letter to Arroyo dated May 10, 2004, Cox asked for a review of the trial on the ground of "procedural irregularities."

     The Belgium-based European Union or EU is an intergovernmental organization of European countries, which currently has 25 member states.

      The Union was established under the name by the Treaty on European Union (commonly known as the Maastricht Treaty) in 1992. However, many aspects of the EU existed before that date through a series of predecessor organizations, dating back to the 1950s. 

     The European Union's activities cover all policy areas, from health and economic policy to foreign affairs and defense.

     A key activity of the EU is the establishment and administration of a common single market, consisting of a customs union, a single currency (adopted by 12 of the 25 member states), a Common Agricultural Policy and a Common Fisheries Policy.

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