Thursday, November 24, 2005  

European Parliament pressures President Arroyo
By Suzzane Salva-Alueta

THE 626-member European Parliament is asking President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "to grant absolute pardon to Francisco Juan 'Paco' Larraņaga," the young Spanish-Cebuano mestizo convicted for the rape and abduction in 1997 of two sisters in Cebu.

      In a resolution adopted on Nov. 17, the legislative body of the European Union called on Arroyo "to secure (Larraņaga's immediate release from prison and commute the death penalty of all prisoners on death row."

      The resolution came six months after the European Parliament approved a request to the Philippine government for the review of Larraņaga's death sentence.

      But the latest resolution was more specific, veering away from requests for a review of the controversial Chiong case and focusing on pressing Arroyo to grant Larraņaga presidential clemency. 

      Larraņaga, whom European Parliament members referred to as an "EU citizen," enjoys dual citizenship, considering his father, Manuel, is Spanish.

      The resolution will be forwarded to the Philippines and other member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

In an interview, lawyer Honorato Hermosisima Jr. said the interference of other countries in how the Philippine government ran things "is a violation of our sovereignty."

      "They (European Union) are practically pressuring the President. Walay lain conclusion anang ilang gibuhat (There is no other conclusion to what they are doing)," he said.

      Hermosisima was part of the prosecution panel in the case against Larraņaga and his co-accused-Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo, Ariel Balansag, and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy.

      "It is purely a presidential prerogative. I can only hope that President Arroyo will be as stubborn as when she decided not to step down and as hardheaded in rejecting the plea of the Spanish government," he said. "But if she does give in, she will just be adding problems to what she is facing right now."

      Although the President has the power to grant pardons, this should be exercised with caution, Hermosisima said.

      "In this case, the Supreme Court had finally spoken, ila pang hilabtan (and they are going to disrupt it)? Dili magamit (The power cannot be used) indiscriminately, especially in the case of the Chiong sisters. The crime was so heinous, unya magpadaug (but the Chiongs would lose) politically?" he said.

      Bowing to the pressure will only create a bad precedent, the lawyer warned.

      "It would be a great insult to the SC, who had worked so hard in reviewing the case. And because of politics, ma-libre sila (the accused would be cleared)? It is bad for the country," Hermosisima said. 

      If the President grants the European Parliament's request, there will be no stopping other Filipinos who have dual citizenship and involved in crimes from asking other countries to help them, he said.

       Eric Carin, lawyer of the Uy brothers, however, shared a different view.

      Although the subject of the resolution is Larraņaga, any favorable action will benefit the other accused, Carin told Cebu Daily News.

      "The charge is conspiracy. The grant of pardon to one of the accused should also follow that the other accused be granted pardon. In conspiracy, the act of one is the act of all. The benefit granted would also accrue to the other accused," he said.

      In its resolution, the European Parliament issued a stand on the death penalty, particularly in third world countries like the Philippines, saying this was among "thematic priorities for assistance under the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights."

      The legislative body is also urging President Arroyo to revoke her Jan. 1, 2004 decision lifting the moratorium on the death penalty and the Philippine Congress to repeal the law on capital punishment.

                           DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.        
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