lauds Arroyo for... commuting death...........
The Spanish foreign ministry has thanked Ms Arroyo for staying the
execution of Francisco "Paco" Javier Larraņaga Gonzalez, who
was convicted along with six others of the 1997 rape-murder of sisters
Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in
Larraņaga, a scion of the politically entrenched Osmeņa clan of
"The [Spanish] government is pleased with the measure of commuting
the death penalty by the President of the
The statement was coursed through Philippine Ambassador to Madrid Joseph
"The situation of Mr. Larraņaga has been the object of maximum
attention on the part of the different institutions of the Spanish state
that has been all the time interested in his fate before the Philippine
authorities," it said.
It cited the messages of concern issued by the Spanish king and then
President Jose Ma. Aznar, as well as "the interest of the Parliament,
and the personal representations of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and
Cooperation, the Minister of Defense, and the Secretary of State for
"The Spanish government wishes to express its most sincere gratitude
to the government of the
The Chiong sisters were abducted on the evening of July 16, 1997, while
waiting for their father to pick them up at the Ayala Center Cebu.
The body of Marijoy, 20, was found two days later in a secluded ravine in
the nearby town of
Jacqueline, 23, has never been found.
Larraņaga's death sentence had drawn appeals for clemency from visiting
Spanish delegations, among them lawmakers and diplomats, as well as other
European groups opposed to the death penalty.
The lobbying apparently paid off early on. Last November, the Spanish
newspaper El Pais reported that Ms Arroyo had assured then visiting
Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono that Larraņaga's death sentence would
not be carried out "while she is President."
Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Cano, Ariel Balansag and
brothers James Andrew and James Anthony Uy drew two life sentences each in
May 1999 for the rape-murder of the Chiong sisters.
In a bizarre twist in the case, Judge Martin Ocampo, who had tried and
convicted the seven youths, was found dead in a hotel room in
Authorities later ruled his death a suicide and said that no foul play was
In February 2004, the Supreme Court upgraded the punishment of Larraņaga et al., except for one of the group, to death by lethal injection.
The life sentence on James Anthony Uy, who was a minor at the time of the crime, was retained.
In July last year, the Supreme Court en banc denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Larraņaga and four other convicts.
But according to New Bilibid Prisons Director Vicente Vinarao, only after
the Supreme Court had made an "entry of judgment" on his
sentence would Larraņaga join the 81 death row inmates whose penalties
had been "affirmed with finality," and who would be
automatically covered by the President's commutation.
Based on NBP records obtained by the Inquirer, at least 198 death row
inmates are waiting for their sentences to be "affirmed with
Larraņaga is included in this number, Vinarao said.
"Once entry of judgment is made by the Supreme Court and the order is handed down to us, that's the time the Office of the President will issue another order for commutation," he said.
But Vinarao expressed certainty that Larraņaga would benefit from the
commutation, saying that his sentence had been affirmed and that he was
"only waiting for the papers" from the high court.
Vinarao said the 81 convicts ready for commutation -- among them four
women -- had been assigned to a separate cell in Building 1.
"When the President hands down the commutation order, they will be ready to undergo the one-month physical and neuro-psychiatric orientation," he said.
An inmate, who requested anonymity for security purposes, said he and
other death convicts with appeals pending in court were wishing that all
1,110 prisoners in Building 1 would be covered by the commutation.
"We are praying and hoping that the reprieve will not be
discriminating. We pray that even those whose sentences are under review
will be included," he said.
The inmate said most of the convicts on death row were farmers and vendors
from poor families who were convicted of kidnapping for ransom, murder and
violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act.
Others were convicted of car theft with murder, highway robbery and
parricide, he said.
"We and our families are really thankful to the President. Our
relatives working abroad have sent e-mail messages to the Office of the
President expressing our gratitude," the inmate said.
"We also pray that the victims of the crimes committed would have
space in their hearts for forgiveness," he said.
A DFA official, who declined to be named because he was not authorized to
speak to reporters, said the Spanish message praising Ms Arroyo for her
move was a welcome development for Philippine foreign service officers
lobbying to save Filipinos working overseas from death sentences.
He said the President's move put the Philippine government on a "moral high ground" in asking other states to spare the lives of condemned Filipinos for humanitarian reasons.
THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR CLEARER APPRECIATION.
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