Thursday, December 1, 2005  

EU seeks death penalty abolition, not pardon of Chiong rape-slay convict
by Jolene R. Bulambot
       
CORRESPONDENT

      THE European Commission delegation to the Philippines yesterday refuted reports that it was pushing for the absolute pardon of Spanish-Cebuano rape convict Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga.

      But Ambassador Jan de Kok, head of the delegation, confirmed that there were efforts from European Union members to convince President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to absolve Larraņaga, who was sentenced to death last year for the 1987 rape and abduction of sisters Jacquelyn and Mary Joy Chiong in Cebu.

      De Kok clarified that "such calls are not an EU initiative."

      "First of all, it's not the European Union that is intervening. There are a number of individual members of the (European) Parliament, especially from Spain, who have taken up this case," he said.

      "There are resolutions passed in the parliament with the instigation of a number of individual parliamentarians on death penalty in general in the Philippines. The resolutions did not mention any particular case."

      "There are resolutions passed in the parliament with the instigation of a number of individual parliamentarians on death penalty in general in the Philippines. The resolutions did not mention any particular case."

      The European Parliament's website, www.europarl.eu.int, however, mentions one MMMM 

particular case out of several resolutions on the Philippines: "The sentencing to death of Francisco Larraņaga, an EU citizen.

      "Under the resolution that the parliament adopted on Nov. 17, the EU's member-states asked "the President of the Philippines, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to exercise her powers by granting an absolute pardon to Francisco Larraņaga and securing his immediate release from prison, as well as commuting the death penalty of the prisoners on death row, particularly the 18 child offenders."

      The resolution also urged "the European Commission to take all necessary initiatives to prevent the execution of this EU citizen (Larraņaga)."

      De Kok is in the country together with members of the European Commission to conduct a dialog in connection with the call for the abolition of the death penalty.

      He clarified, however, that yesterday's dialog was not linked to Larraņaga's case, pointing out that it was centered primarily on discussion on how to improve the Philippines' justice system and call for the repeal of the death penalty law.

      Meanwhile, the mother of the Chiong sisters yesterday lamented the European Union's purported intervention in case, saying the regional group had no right to demand for Larraņaga's pardon.

      "The European Union has a different view. The EU has no right to intervene because we never intervene with their laws there. It is very unfair for them to just intervene and pressure our country," Thelma Chiong said in a separate interview.

      Chiong said she was scheduled to meet with Arroyo next week in Malacaņang.

      She did not, however, elaborate on what they would discuss in the meeting.

      Chiong said she had already accepted the President's pro-life position and pointed out that Arroyo did not only refer to Larraņaga's case when she made an assurance to a visiting official of Spain that there would be no executions during her term.

      "It was a general statement from the President. She is pro-life, and we understand that. Her statement made to the Spanish defense minister could have been played up," she said.

NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
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