De Venecia said he was against the death penalty and favored "giving the maximum punishment short of the death penalty" to Larraņaga, who was convicted along with six other scions of affluent families in the brutal rape and murder of two sisters in Cebu City in 1997.
"Consistent with the position of the Catholic Church and the European Union, I am against the death penalty, but we want the Spanish-Filipino rapist punished in the name of justice," De Venecia said in a statement.
He said that when Congress approved the death penalty for heinous crimes, the lawmakers intended capital punishment "only for a short period and as a deterrent."
De Venecia issued the clarification after the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported in its website on Nov. 21 that he had pledged "measures of grace" for Larraņaga.
The same newspaper said President Macapagal-Arroyo had given assurances to a Spanish delegation led by Defense Minister Jose Bono last week that the death penalty would not be carried out during her term.
Larraņaga is the son of former Basque pelotari Manuel Larraņaga (not Manuel Francisco Larraņaga as reported yesterday) and Filipino Margarita Gonzalez and is a member of the influential Osmeņa clan of Cebu. He and the others were convicted and sentenced to death for the rape and murder of the sisters Jacqueline, 23, and Marie Joy Chiong, 20, in Cebu City.
Defense lawyers charged that the trial was marred by irregularities but the Supreme Court eventually upheld the conviction and upgraded their original sentence of life imprisonment to death by lethal injection.
Spain and other European governments and institutions, which are averse to the death penalty, have been pressuring the Philippine government to pardon Larraņaga. Before Bono's visit, Spanish parliamentarians had come to Manila to appeal for clemency.
Besides Larraņaga, the others convicted were Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Cano, Ariel Balansag and the brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy. James Andrew, a minor at the time of the crime, was sentenced to life in prison.
The Chiong sisters were abducted in the evening of July 16, 1997, while waiting for their father to pick them up at the Ayala Center Cebu. Mary Joy's body was found two days later in a secluded ravine in Carcar town, south of Cebu City, but Jacqueline's body was never found.
The seven convicts appealed to the Supreme Court anew to reopen the case for oral arguments by the defense or refer the case to the Court of Appeals, but the high court, in a ruling last July, denied separate motions for reconsideration filed by five of the seven convicts.
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