Prison convict Paco Larraņaga, the young Spanish-Cebuano mestizo on death row with five others for the crime of rape and abduction, won't be executed any time soon.
Spain's visiting Defense Minister Jose Bono yesterday said he got the assurance of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that she would do everything in her power to spare Paco's life.
The news website "Think Spain" quoted the Spanish official as saying in a press conference following their morning meeting in Malacaņang: "She has promised me that, while she is president, the execution will not take place, and secondly, that she will do everything she can to try and help him."
Bono phoned Paco's parents right after to break the news "which Mr. Bono described as "highly satisfactory."
Cebu daily News confirmed with another source that Bono had an audience with the President yesterday for that purpose alone -- to plead for Paco's life.
With the Supreme Court's decision last July affirming the death penalty for six men found guilty of abducting and gang raping two young women in Cebu City in 1997, Paco's only remaining option would be a presidential pardon.
His parents left Cebu yesterday and flew to Spain to attend the Nov. 24 world premier of a documentary about his ordeal entitled "Atrapado en la injusticia: el caso Larraņaga." (See separate story)
Paco, now 26 years old , has been locked up in the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa for six years along with another son of a wealthy Cebu clan, mmmmm
Josman Aznar. His other co-accused, however arenot from influential or well-to-do families.
Spain's high interest in the 1997 case stems from Paco's Spanish citizenship and Spain's deep-seated opposition to the death penalty.
Born and raised in Cebu, Paco is the son of a former pelota Basque star, Francisco Larraņaga and Margarita Gonzales, a close cousin of former Cebu Gov. Emilio Osmeņa.
"Spanish and European institutions have been exerting increasing pressure on the Philippine government over the last few months to pardon Larraņaga and his defense team claims that there were a number of serious irregularities in the trial," said the banner story of the "Think Spain" website. It's report posted Nov. 21 was headlined "Philippine's president to try and save condemned Spanish man" and carried a photo of the Spanish defense minister shaking hands with President Arroyo.
The Spanish press has been closely watching the progress of the case and carried updates of last week's confession of retired Cebu City police officer Roy Codiņera as an important development.
The website "Think Spain" cited his interview with Cebu Daily News where Codiņera, in poor health after a stroke two years ago, admitted that Larraņaga and two others were innocent.
Codiņera said the prosecution team's main witness, Davidson Rusia, who testified against all the accused in exchange for his own freedom as a state witness, "had lied about the participation of Larraņaga and two others."
In the CDN interview, Codiņera said the accused brothers James Andrew and James Anthony "Wangwang" Uy and Paco, were never mentioned by Rusia during the initial interrogation, which he handled.
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