Friday, November 25, 2005  

James Andrew Uy was a minor when crime was committed, OSG says
by Suzzane Salva-Alueta

      AN early Christmas gift came for one of the accused in the Chiong case.

      The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has formally asked the Supreme Court to modify the penalty imposed on James Andrew Uy, one of the seven tagged for the Chiong sisters' kidnapping and serious illegal detention in 1997.

      From the original sentence of death, the OSG recommended for the imposition of life imprisonment for James Andrew, a penalty similar to what was given by the Supreme Court to his younger brother, James Anthony Uy.

      The Uy brothers, along with Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag were convicted of the crime in 1999. 

      James Anthony was spared the death penalty because of his being a minor at the time of the alleged commission of the crime.

"It's not over till it's over… this is a sign of hope because these people will continue the fight of justice in this case," said lawyer Eric Carin, the Uy brothers' legal counsel. 

      Carin said the parents of the brothers were so happy with the decision.  

      "We are elated with the decision of the OSG although it is not the ideal recommendation we would have wanted from the office. They should have recommended the acquittal of my clients, to include the others," Carin told Cebu Daily News.

      Carin said the issue of James Andrew's minority was raised even at the level of the Regional Trial Court, "but it was ignored and ignored."   

      "Why did it take a motion for reconsideration to make them notice of this important piece of documentary evidence that has been there all along?" he said.    

      When the SC upheld its Feb. 3, 2004 decision finding the seven accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes charged, it likewise ordered the OSG to look into the issue of minority of James Andrew Uy.

      "The OSG, as tribune of the people, is duty-bound to seek the implementation of the law to its fullest extent, though it may redound to the benefit of those who have been found guilty of the worst crimes," said Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo. 

      Thelma Chiong said she has long expected this decision.    

      "We conducted our own investigation and we know that Andrew was 17-years-old. Wala man tay nahimo ana, mo submit na lang ta (we can't do anything about that, we just have to submit to it) for as long as they are not cleared of the crime," he said.    

      Now that the OSG had resolved the issue on the minority of James Andrew, Chiong said there was no stopping now from acting on the implementation of the penalty imposed.   

      Benipayo, along with Asst. Solicitor General Amy Lazaro Javier and Beulah Coeli Fiel explained that when they earlier commented on the motion for reconsideration of the Uy brothers seeking reconsideration of the SC's decision, entries to James Andrew's birth certificate were not legible.  

      "There was no basis to conclude that the name appearing on the said birth certificate referred to one and the same James Andrew Uy," they said.   

When the SC denied all motions for reconsideration of the accused in its decision dated July 21, it likewise deferred resolution on the issue of minority raised by James Andrew Uy.     

      The highest tribunal directed the OSG to secure from the Local Civil Registrar of Cotabato City as well as the National Statistics Office (NSO) a clear and legible copy of James Andrew's birth certificate. 

      The OSG received the requested document on Sept. 20.    

      "Lest the arms of lady justice be stretched out for naught, the OSG respectfully recommends that the issue be resolved in favor of James Andrew Uy," Benipayo said.

      The birth certificate showed that at the time the crime was committed, James Andrew Uy was only 17 years and 262 days old or 103 days short of legal age.

      "…hence the privileged mitigating circumstance of minority should be appreciated in his favor," the OSG stated in its eight-page comment.

      The OSG's comment, Carin said, was a welcome development.

      "For now I am keeping my cards close to my chest. The OSG cannot do anything because that is a piece of documentary evidence that they cannot ignore," he said.

      "The parents are very happy, we welcome this development, kung tutuisin this is the lesser evil," he added.

                           DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.        
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