ON FEB. 3, 2004, the Supreme Court convinced the "Chiong 7" of, first the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and second, simple kidnapping and serious illegal detention.
Paco Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag and James Andrew Uy were sentenced for the first crime and life imprisonment first the second.
Because James Anthony Uy, James Andrew's brother, was a minor when the crimes against Mary Joy and Jacqueline Chiong were committed on July 16, 1997, the high court reduced his sentence to life imprisonment for the first crime and 12 years to 17 years imprisonment for the second.
That ruling modified the penalties imposed by the late Cebu RTC Judge Martin Ocampo, who handed down a double life terms to the accused on May 5, 1999.
All the seven convicts filed separate motions for reconsideration, saying that the court erred in barring Larraņaga and former NBI 7 director Florencio Villarin from testifying.
They accused police of manufacturing and planting evidence, insisted that Larraņaga sufficiently had proved his alibi, and claimed that the trial court had prevented the introduction of key evidence, the corpse found at the foot of a ravine in Carcar and believe to be of Mari Joy's.
They also alleged that the prosecution star witness Davidson Rusia, alias Tisoy Tagalog, was a coached witness, that the court erred in discharging Rusia from the case, and the high court erred in ruling that the RTC judge did not violate the rights of the accused.
The Supreme Court brushed these allegations aside, saying they had already been answered.
"They are mere rehash of the arguments set forth in their respective briefs which we already considered, weighed and resolved before we rendered the decision sought to be reconsidered," high tribunal said.
"Except for the motion filed by appellants Uy brothers with respect to James Andrew's alleged mmm
minority, we find all the motions bereft of merit," it added.
The SC also argued that while the appellants insisted that the court should not have believed Rusia's testimony because of his tainted record and reputation, stressing that Rusia's testimony was not viewed in isolation."
The court said it also considered the physical evidence introduced in the trial by prosecution witnesses and the corroborative testimony of other witnesses.
It added that Rusia's testimony became worthy because of it's "striking compatibility" with the physical evidence, one of the highest degrees of proof, presented against the accused.
The Court said it was clear that Adlawan, Aznar, Cano, Balansag and the Uy brothers were all within the vicinity of Cebu City on July 16, 1997.
On Larraņaga's claim that he was in a bar in Quezon City at that time of the abduction, the court said Larraņaga "failed to satisfy the required proof of physical impossibility."
It was established that it takes only one hour to travel by plane from Manila to Cebu, and there were four airline companies plying the route, said the court.
Four persons also identified Larraņaga as one of the two men seen talking to the two sisters on the day of the abduction, the Supreme Court said.
On the affidavit of Florencio Villarin, the court said the former NBI regional director "appeared to be a man trying to impress people that he was the one responsible for solving the Chiong case and for that, he deserved a promotion."
On the question on Mary Joy's identity, the court stated that a fingerprint expert had testified that the fingerprints of the corpse matched those of Mary Joy's.
The clothes on the corpse were identified by Mary Joy's mother Thelma as the same ones she had worn before she disappeared. The SC noted that until now, no one has claimed the body other than the Chiongs.
"Surely, if the body was not that of Mary Joy, other families who had lost someone of similar age and gender as Mary Joy would have surfaced and claimed the body", it stressed.
Of the 15 justices of the Supreme Court, two did not take part in the deliberations - Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr because the victims were related to his wife and Associate Justice Adolfo Azcuna because he was a former partner of one of the counsels in the case (whom he did not specify). /Jhunnex Napallacan
THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR CLEARER APPRECIATION.
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