Wednesday, April 19, 2006

No pardon, no parole, no way...
By Jhunnex Napallacan

CITY -- Dismay was the reaction of the mother of rape-murder victims Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's decision to commute all death sentences to life terms.

      But Thelma Chiong, national vice president of the Crusade Against Violence (CAV), said she was not surprised. She said that she had known the President's position on the death penalty for a year now, and that she respected this stance.

      Thelma said she twice asked Ms Arroyo about capital punishment during the latter's visits to Cebu last year. She said Ms Arroyo repeatedly expressed a position against it.

      According to Thelma, she could accept albeit with a heavy heart the fact that the death sentences of Paco Larraņaga et al. would be commuted.

      But she said she would not take sitting down the possibility that all death convicts, including "the killers of my two daughters," would be pardoned or paroled.

      "I can agree to life in prison provided there is no way they can get out of jail; no pardon, no parole," she said.

Pressure from EU

      Thelma said she believed that the President's  

decision was also shaped by pressure from the European Union, which is campaigning against the Death Penalty Law.

      She lamented that the President did not conduct consultations on the matter before announcing the commutation of all death sentences.

      Thelma said that even if Congress decided to abolish the death penalty, she and the CAV would continue to lobby for it.

      She said her group wanted capital punishment for persons who had committed heinous crimes like rape and murder.

      Those who raped and killed her daughters deserved the death penalty, she said.

Audience with Arroyo

      Larraņaga's family welcomed the news about the President's decision.

      But his mother, Margarita Larraņaga, said the family still wanted the President to grant him an absolute pardon or executive clemency.

      She said their next move would be to try to have an audience with Ms Arroyo.

      Margarita said the family sent a letter to Ms Arroyo in February, through the Office of the Presidential Assistance for Central Visayas , asking her to make time to listen to the statements of witnesses attesting to her son's innocence.

      "The President has the prerogative to grant executive clemency or absolute pardon. We are hoping that perhaps she might listen to the witnesses that the court did not listen to... But there's no feedback [from the Palace] yet," the mother said.

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