Sunday, March 23, 2005
IT'S NOW FINAL
rules: death for 5 of.. Chiong 7
Only President can save
By Grecar Nilles
Sun.Star Staff Reporter
decision comes more than eight years after sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy
Chiong were abducted and killed.
>In rejecting motion for reconsideration, the SC said no new matters
were raised and were "mere rehash" of the arguments already
"considered", weighed, and resolved" by the SC
>Maximum penalty of death affirmed on Juan Francisco "Paco"
Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag
>SC orders Office of Solicitor General to check if James Andrew Uy was
a minor at the time of the incident
MORE than eight years after
sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong were abducted and killed, the
Supreme Court (SC) upheld with finality the death penalty of five of the
seven convicts in the case.
In a “per curiam” resolution promulgated last Thursday, the SC en banc
affirmed their earlier ruling imposing the maximum penalty of death on
Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto
Caño and Ariel Balansag.
In the same ruling, the High Tribunal directed the Office of the Solicitor
General (OSG) to verify the claim of James Andrew Uy that he was still a
minor at the time of the incident.
James Andrew was earlier meted the death penalty, but the SC deferred the
ruling on his status after the OSG shall have checked on his claim.
His younger brother, James Anthony, was sentenced to life imprisonment
after the court found out that he was still a minor last July 16, 1997
when the Chiong sisters were reportedly kidnapped, sexually molested and
The seven accused earlier filed a motion for reconsideration on the SC’s
ruling last Feb. 3, 2004 affirming their conviction and raising their
penalty to death.
They argued that the court erred in giving credence to Rusia, in rejecting
appellants’ alibi, in holding that the trial court did not violate their
right to due process when it excluded the testimony of defense witness,
and in holding that the body found in Tan-awan, Carcar was that of
But in denying the four motions for reconsideration submitted by the seven
accused, the SC said that their arguments did not “demand new judicial
determination” and were “mere rehash” of the arguments that were
already “considered, weighed, and resolved” by the SC.
SC spokesman Ismael Khan, in a phone interview yesterday, said the
President alone can prevent the execution of the five accused, since she
has the power to pardon.
SC Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., whose wife is related to the Chiongs,
and Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna, who was once a lawyer of one of the parties,
did not take part in the review.
Legally, there is no more option left for the accused, since a second
motion for reconsideration is not allowed.
While the Chiong family and the Crusade Against Violence rejoiced over the
decision, the Larrañagas, and the other accused were “totally
devastated” when they heard of the SC resolution.
“In the beginning, we were told that this is going to be an uphill
battle. We may have lost the battle, but definitely the war is not over
yet. We would not want to consider this a closed thing. We do not want to
lose hope,” Paco’s mother, Margarita Larrañaga, said.
Since this case involves lives of young people, Margarita was expecting
and hoping that the SC would have carefully studied and reviewed the
documents, facts and circumstances regarding the case.
Margarita added that all the accused were so sad when she visited them at
the National Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa yesterday morning.
On the other end, spouses Dionisio and Thelma Chiong said they were doubly
happy with the recent SC resolution and immediately went to church to
Thelma said when they receive their official copy of the resolution, they
will immediately file a motion for execution of the decision so that the
execution by lethal injection of the five accused can be scheduled.
“I have accepted the fact that my daughters were kidnapped, molested and
killed. I hope they too can accept that it was the penalty for the crime
done to our daughters,” Thelma said.
But Margarita said they cannot admit something their son did not do.
She also said that she was expecting the SC could have taken note that the
prosecution’s star witness, Davidson Rusia, was convicted of a crime
involving moral turpitude and that Paco was prevented from testifying to
clear his name.
However, the SC, in the same resolution, said they could not find any
reason why they should not admit Rusia’s testimony.
“We reiterate our pronouncement in our decision that what makes
Rusia’s testimony worthy of belief is its striking compatibility with
the physical evidence. Physical evidence is one of the highest degrees of
proof. It speaks more eloquently than all witnesses put together,” the
The High Tribunal said the details Rusia supplied in court about the
incident are of “such nature and quality that only a witness who
actually saw the commission of the crimes could furnish.”
While the accused admit that only the President can stop their execution,
Margarita said it is not yet one of their options because asking for
clemency would mean admitting to the crime.
“But my son is innocent. We cannot admit to something my son did not
do,” Margarita said.
In the ruling, the SC said that Paco, who claimed he was in Quezon City at
the time of the incident, failed to convince the court that it was
impossible for him to be at the crime scene at the time of the incident.
The SC also noted that the defense witnesses corroborating their alibi
were their relatives, friends or classmates, while the prosecution’s
witnesses were not in any way related to the victims.
“Taking the individual testimonies of the witnesses in relation to that
of Rusia, we are convinced that Larrañaga was indeed in Cebu City at the
time of the commission of the crimes and was one of the principal
perpetrators thereof,” the SC said in its decision.
Lawyer Eric Carin, who is representing the Uy brothers, said the SC should
give more leeway to the accused since this involves lives.
Carin is confident, though, that James Andrew would be spared from the
lethal injection since the documents he submitted proving James Andrew to
be a minor at the time of the incident were “not fabricated.”
“In resolving the instant motions, we have embarked on this painstaking
task of evaluating every piece and species of evidence presented before
the trial court in response to appellants’ plea for the reversal of
their conviction,” the SC resolution read.
“But even the element of reasonable doubt so seriously sought by
appellants’ is an ignis fatuus (a foolish, idiotic fire) which has
eluded any intelligent ratiocination of their submissions. Verily, our
conscience can rest easy on our affirmance of the verdict of the trial
court, in light of appellants’ clear culpability which demands
retribution,” it added.