Thursday, February 17, 2005  


      Fr. Roberto Reyes, the so-called running priest, has picked up various causes, some I tend to support and others I don't. His latest caper, which is to generate sympathy for the seven persons convicted for the abduction and killing of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, is one of those causes I just could not pick up.

      But I understand the priest's predicament. He is against the death penalty and the Chiong 7 has been penalized with that. But he seems to have failed to temper that cause with objectivity, thus the feeling by many that he seems to be more concerned with the supposed perpetuators than with the victims of the dastardly act.

      The good priest should have stopped at pushing for the commutation of the death sentence to life imprisonment and not gone into claiming the convicts   were  innocent --- which  is  an   unfamiliar territory for him. The guilt or innocence of the mmm 

Chiong 7, especially Francisco Juan "Paco" Larraņaga, is a very tricky issue to be conclusive about.    

      When someone concludes after merely surfing the surface of an issue, he/she is being subjective. Father Reyes, as far as the Chiong case is concerned, is simply that. When asked why he was convinced that the Chiong 7 are innocent, the priest said he studied the documents of the case. Even journalists won't rely on that alone.     

      The Chiong case was not only about documents. It involved months of hearings, presentation of evidences, legal maneuverings, etc. Documents are lifeless. The Chiong case was a living process. Cebuanos saw it unfurl before their eyes are thus in better position to assess the case than a priest who was not here and only came in after the fact.

      Another thing, Reyes lacks the lawyer's eye to view in proper perspective the evidences presented and the legal processes observed in the case. He could not have been better than the late Judge Martin Ocampo, who convicted the accused, or the Supreme Court justices, who affirmed the conviction and raised the penalty from life imprisonment to death for six of the seven convicts, including Paco.

      As I said, had the priest dwelt mainly on the issue of life instead of going into unfamiliar terrain like the matter of innocence, I would have taken a second look at this particular cause of his. Because like him, I am for the abolition of the death penalty. 

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