Monday, November 28, 2005  

Crime victims score De Venecia’s meddling in case

POLITICIANS should not intervene with justice, said Dante Jimenez, founding chair of Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).

      Jimenez had only biting words for Speaker Jose de Venecia, who said the other day that he favored "giving the maximum punishment short of the death penalty" to Spanish-Filipino rape convict Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga, who was convicted along with six others in the brutal rape and murder of the Chiong sisters in Cebu City in 1997.

      "JDV (De Venecia) should keep his hands off the [affairs] of the judiciary. He should refrain from issuing irresponsible statements considering that he is the chief legislator of this country ... For me, his statements were foul and very revolting," Jimenez said.

      De Venecia had issued the statements after the Spanish newspaper El Pais reported on its website on Nov. 21 that he had promised "measures of grace" for Larrañaga. Like the Catholic Church and European governments, De Venecia is against the death penalty.

      Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself assured visiting Spanish officials that Larrañaga’s execution would be deferred while she was in power.

      An angry Jimenez felt that De Venecia had no business issuing such statements, saying that comments on a judicial decision amounted to a breach of the separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary.

      "It hurts us, victims of heinous crimes, that politicians are intervening with the wheels of justice.

justice. They are compromising the law for social democrats and the Church, that's why we have this very violent reaction ... We really abhor this. This is unfair and unjust," Jimenez said.

      Jimenez became active in the anticrime movement after his brother was murdered several years ago.

      He said Thelma Chiong, mother of the victims, called him yesterday morning to express her disgust over De Venecia's statements. Jimenez said the remarks further "lowers the morale" of families who had lost loved ones to crime.

       "This administration has no political will to implement the law. If he (De Venecia) wants to meddle with the death penalty, he should gather his fellow lawmakers and talk about amending the law," Jimenez said.

      He said the VACC would send a letter to the Supreme Court to officially question De Venecia's statements on a conviction the high court had already upheld.

      On Ms Arroyo's reported assurance to stay Larrañaga's execution while she was President, Jimenez said: "Well if she sticks to that position, that's very unfortunate."

      Larrañaga is the son of former Basque pelotari Manuel Larrañaga and Filipino Margarita Gonzalez and is a member of the influential Osmeña clan of Cebu. He along with six other scions of affluent families 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 Larrañaga.

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