Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Paco pleads to Spain, ................ Europe for help
by Suzzane Salva-Alueta

A death row
convict's pleas, for his life continue. 

      The latest update on, a website operated by businessman Miguel del Gallego, shows a video of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga speaking in Spanish and asking Spain and the European Union (EU) to help him.

       Larraņaga is one of seven men found guilty by Philippine courts for kidnapping and illegally detaining sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong on July 16, 1997.  

      Larraņaga, 27, holds both Filipino and Spanish citizenships.

      In the video, Larraņaga was shown garbed in an orange prison shirt and sporting a light beard as he pleaded the Spanish government to help him.

      "I have been convicted to death for a crime I did not commit. During my trial, I was not allowed to testify," read the site's English translation of Larraņaga's plea.

      In the video, Larraņaga insisted that he was in Manila, 300 kilometers (km) away from Cebu on the day of the crime.

      Thirty five classmates, professors, that were with me taking the exams in Manila on the day of the crime, were not allowed to testify," he said in Spanish.

      I was not allowed to testify. They did not want to listen to me. Please listen to me," Larraņaga continued.

      Larraņaga said he sympathized with the Chiong family, "But, I have nothing to do " with what happened with their two daughters. I am innocent."

      "I ask the Spanish government and the European Union, please listen to me. Help me. Please do not abandon me," Larraņaga's video concluded.

      Cebu Daily News tried to contact Thelma Chiong, the mother of Marijoy and Jacqueline, for comment, but was told that she was already sleep.

      In a previous interview, Thelma was confident that the Philippine Supreme Court (SC) would affirm its decision against all the accused despite the support by the Spanish government behind Larraņaga.

      She said Spain has nothing to do with Philippines laws.

      "Maski presidente pa nila ang mo intervene wala na effect (Even if their president intervenes, it will have no effect)," she then said.

      Currently, the SC is deliberating on a motion filed by the accused for the court to, reconsider its judgment. 

      The SC, in its Feb. 3, 2004 decision, not only affirmed trial court Judge Martin Ocampo's verdict, but also upgraded the penalty of Larraņaga and his co-accused from double life imprisonment to death.

      The justices sentenced Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Caņo, Rowen Adlawan and James Anthony to the death by lethal injection.

       The seventh accused, James Andrew Uy, who was a minor at the time of the crime, was meted a life sentence.

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