Wednesday, June 15, 2005 
 
             

      SHE   looks   like   a   Spanish   telenovela   star,   but TV  reporter Laia Mestre is really hot on the trail of the truth.

                                                                                      

'Spanish people are.......
behind Paco' 
    
by Suzzane B. Salva-Alueta
            CHIEF OF REPORTER
      Three female Spanish reporters are in town to look deeper into the case of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, a Filipino and Spanish citizen whose conviction for the kidnapping of the Chiong sisters has drawn significant interest in Spain.

      Last June 9, reporters Laia Mestre, Mireia Pigrau and Ester Llaurado quietly started their research on the case, following a trail of witnesses and case players that soon led them to the Cebu Daily News (CDN) newsroom.

      But before they could interview us, we jumped the gun on the good-looking Ms Mestre, for this issue's Q and A.

Cebu Daily News: Tell us a short personal background and a little something about your television network.
     
Mestre: I am 26 year old and I have been working for TV3 for about a year now as a television reporter. This is my first time to travel outside Spain. Our network based in Catalonia, Barcelona has been operating for 23 to 24 years now.

      CDN: Is it your network's usual practice to send reporters on out-of-country coverage?
     
Mestre: For me, just now. But I know of other reporters who usually go out of the country depending on the assignment they are working on.

      CDN: How many teams have been sent to the Philippines to do special assignments?
     
Mestre: I have no idea. It depends on the news. If there is something important here, they will send a team.

      CDN: And, what brings you to Cebu?
     
Mestre: The Chiong case. Because there is a Spanish citizen Paco, (Francisco Juan) Larraņaga who is on the death row. In Spain, there are a lot of people interested in the case, so we decided to come here to see what happened, and what is happening. We do not have the death penalty in Spain.

      CDN: Some people are asking why the sudden interest? Why now? The case started in 1997 and decided on 1999. The Supreme Court affirmed Paco's conviction in 2004.
     
Mestre: Because people in Spain  did not know about the case until Paco was convicted and sentenced to die. Before the Larraņaga family did not ask for help. But when he was convicted, the family, went to the embassy and explained what happened. That was the time the Spanish government carne to know about the case.

      CDN: What was the reaction of your countrymen when they learned about Paco's case?
     
Mestre: There were some, senators and congressmen who came to the Philippines for a big congress (Inter-Parliamentary Union ), and when they returned to Spain that was when they started mmmmm

explaining to everybody and media about the case.

      There was a signature campaign in a newspaper, so everybody eventually knew about it.

                                            
                             Laia Mestre: We do not have
                             the death penalty in Spain.
                                                           
JUNJIE MENDOZA
they knew about the case, they visited and talked to Paco and they were convinced that Paco is innocent.

CDN: When you left Spain, how many people had signed up?
     
Mestre: (confer with her fellow reporters) Based on Que (Magazine), the collection was more than 100,000. In Spain everybody knows about the case, because of the signature campaign.  

      (As reported in Que, the campaign calls on the Philippine government to reopen the Chiong case).

      CDN: You are interviewing the major players in the case?
     
Mestre: We want to know what happened. That's why we want to interview everybody. We want to be objective. 

      We are doing a 30-minute news report focusing on this case. We are doing that because there is one Spanish citizen on the death row. Our country is against the death penalty. That's why they are talking about it.

      This case is important in Spain. Knowing that a Spanish citizen has been meted out the death sentence is very sad. The people want to know what they can do for Paco.

      CDN: Are you working to somehow change the Supreme Court's verdict, which did not only affirm the decision but upgraded the penalty to death?
     
Mestre: We do not want to change the decision of the Supreme Court. That is not our job. We just want to know more about the case, make a report and explain it to the Spanish people.

      No, we don't want to change the decision.  We are from another country. The Spanish people did not know why and what happened. That's why we are here. We are going to inform the citizens back home about it.

      The main reason why we are here is because Paco is a Spanish citizen.

      CDN: Before you left for the Philippines did you have any fear?
      Mestre: When we were in Spain, we were afraid that people would not want to talk to the Spanish media, fearing that we maybe one-sided. But when we are here, the Filipinos have been really nice to us.

      CDN: You arrived in the country on June 9. Describe your stay thus far.
      Mestre: Perfect. There is no problem. A lot of people have been helping us look for testimony and resource persons. 

      We went to the New Bilibid prison along with people from embassy. We talked to him (Paco) for three minutes without filming. We wanted to find out what the embassy is doing.

      It (talk with Paco) was short. We could not interview him because it was not permitted in your country. We talked to him. He was nice to us. It is important for him to know that the Spanish people are concerned about him.

NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
                                  DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.                                        

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