Wednesday, August 2, 2006
2 of Chiong convicts
‘can apply for parole’
Karlon N. Rama Sun.Star Staff Reporter
Not one but two of the seven Chiong case convicts can apply for parole and
secure their release from prison.
This is because the Supreme Court, in a
resolution promulgated in January this year, ruled that James Andrew Uy,
like his younger brother James Anthony, was a minor when they took part in
the abduction and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong.
The Jan. 31, 2006 ruling was not part of the
records endorsed by the Office of the Court Administrator to the Regional
Trial Court (RTC) and, as a result, was not mentioned in Regional Trial
Court Judge Simeon Dumdum’s July 31 order sentencing the seven convicts.
But, Dumdum said, James Andrew, through his
lawyer, can file a pleading and ask that he to be given the same sentence
as his brother.
Dumdum has sentenced six of the
convicts—Francisco Juan Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Aberto
Caño, Ariel Balansag and James Andrew— to reclusion perpetua, which has
a validity of 20 to 40 years of imprisonment.
According to the Supreme Court ruling in the
People vs. Baguio case, they will have to serve at least 30 years of the
sentence before becoming eligible for pardon.
other hand, James Anthony, who was found to be a minor at the time of the
crime on July 16, 1997, was given the lower penalty of reclusion temporal
and, under the newly enacted Republic Act 9344, the Juvenile Justice
Welfare Act of 2006, can apply for immediate parole.
Judge Dumdum issued the order following the
abolition of the death penalty, after President Arroyo signed the law on
this last June 24.
Eric Carin, the Uy family’s legal counsel, did not
when interviewed via mobile phone. He said the parties have yet to be
given their copies of Dumdum’s sentence.
The option of immediate parole for the Uy brothers highlights what some
sectors say are the “deficiencies” of the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act
“This (law) clearly wasn’t thought out
thoroughly when drafted,” said a lawyer who asked not to be named.
“The age of discernment was raised when we know
that kids today are a lot more mature and aware than kids of
yesteryears,” the lawyer said.
Likewise, the implementing rules and regulations
to back up the law are still being drafted but judges are already required
to take it into consideration when they hand down sentences.
Section 68 of the statute reads: “Children who
have been convicted and serving sentence at the time of the effectively of
this act and who are below the age of 18 years at the time of the
commission of the offense for which they were convicted and are serving
sentences shall benefit from the retroactive application of this act. They
shall be immediately released if they are so qualified under this act and
other applicable law.”
Right, not privilege
“It takes the discretion away from judges,”
Dumdum said, adding that the law makes release on probation “a matter of
right and no longer a privilege.”
Section 3(a) of Presidential Decrees 968 as
amended, the law that created the Parole and Probation Office, defines
probation as a privilege granted by the court; it cannot be availed of as
a matter of right by a person convicted of a crime.
The High Tribunal, in a 77-page decision handed
down last Feb. 3, 2004, affirmed the guilt of all seven accused and raised
to death the original penalty of two life terms imposed by then RTC judge
However, the enforcement of the ruling was put
off until President Arroyo signed the law abolishing the death penalty
last June 24, forcing a reduction of the sentences.