Thursday, August 11, 2005  

From Sen. Ping Lacson came a text message last Thursday: "Dear Winnie, D chong sisters wer innocent, helpless gang rape victims. D kb grp wer notorious, merciless holduppers & murderers who sowed terror in the banking community in d 90s. Dey killed policemen, tellers, & innocent bystanders wyl robbing banks, D chong sisters wer killed helplessly after dey wer raped. D kb grp wer heavily armed wen encountered & killed by our men. D parallelism is simply not der, D kb case, by d way has bin dismissed 6 tyms by different courts of jurisdiction. Politics is d only reason y it kips on being revived. I hope I have enIightened u somehow. Respectfully (still), Ping."

      Sen. Lacson was reacting to my column last week where I gave two examples of what I called deaf, dumb, and blind (to the facts) justice: One which I had written about four years ago, also in this newspaper, regarding the decision of a Regional Trial Court (RTC) in the Kuratong Baleleng case, and which involved Sen. Lacson while he was still with the police; and the other regarding the decision of another RTC and the Supreme Court in the Chiong case, which involved Paco Larraņaga, who belongs to the Osmeņa clan in Cebu. 

      In the former case, the accused (Lacson plus others) got off scot-free because the case was dismissed even before it was heard on its merits (all the court cases that Sen. Lacson was referring to were resolved on technicalities, such as which court should have jurisdiction, whether or not the original dismissal was a provisional dismissal, whether or not the offended parties withdrawn their complaints, whether or not probable cause had been established, etc.). 

      In the latter case, the accused (Larraņaga and others) were meted, first, double life sentences by the RTC for kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and then later by the Supreme Court. the death penalty (for kidnapping and serious detention, homicide and rape).

      I agree with Sen. Lacson that the parallelism between the KB case and the Chiong case is "'simply not there"' - but only if we used his parameters: comparing the victims (allegedly hardened criminals in one, innocent college-age girls in the other), the accused (policemen in one, private citizens in the other), manner of death (by gunshot in one, not known in the other), place of crime (Quezon City in one, Cebu in the other). With all due respect, using those rather extraneous comparisons guarantees that there can be no similarities: They are two different crimes.

      The parallels between the two cases are very strong, though, when one considers- the following aspects: First, in both cases, some very crucial evidence were completely ignored. In the KB case, where Lacson was involved, the judge who finally dismissed the case before it was even heard on its merits, maintained that there was no probable cause - that it wasn't a rubout, or murder, it was a shoot-out (refer to Lacson's text message above that
the "KB grp

group were heavily armed when encountered and killed by our men"). This, in spite of evidence that showed the victims had been rounded up in a raid (and therefore were under custody, so how could they be heavily armed?); official autopsy reports that the KB had abrasions on their wrists (showing that they were either tied or handcuffed) and were negative for powder burns; and official reports to the effect that the path of the bullets was inward into rather than outward from the vans in which the victims died.     

      The judge in the KB case ignored all that, just as the judge in the Chiong case ignored all the evidence that showed Paco Larranaga was In Manila or could not have been in Cebu when the Chiong sisters disappeared: photographs, sworn statements of those who were in the same "bienvenida-despedida" party which he attended the night of the crime; sworn statements, and the log book of the guard in his condominium apartment; sworn statements of classmates and teachers in his school; manifests of the different airlines showing that he was not a passenger to Cebu until the day after the disappearance of sisters; no records that a private plane arrived and left Cebu on the night of the murder. The Supreme Court, moreover, ignored the fact that the bodies of the Chiong sisters were never produced (the one that was produced was not a Chiong), so that there was no basis for additional charges of rape and homicide that they levied on Larranaga.

That's a pretty strong parallel.

      The other parallel was pointed out by Sen. Lacson himself in his text message, albeit unwittingly, when he mentioned politics. "Politics is the only reason why it keeps on being revived," he says, referring to the KB case. Knowing how dirty politics is, he may have a point, although that point can cut both ways. Politics was mentioned as a major reason why the case against him was initially dismissed in the first place.

      When President Estrada came into power, the main witness against the Lacson group (SP02 Corazon de la Cruz) threw in the towel, filed an affidavit of desistance and emigrated to Canada (how he was able to arrange and financed that move, considering his financial circumstances is not known). And the original judge who dismissed the case because of this and other affidavits of desistance was promoted to the Court of Appeals with breathtaking speed (also during Estrada's time).

      In the same manner, politics also seemed to play a major role in the Chiong case. The sister of Mrs. Chiong was at the time the appointments secretary of the incumbent President (Estrada), who asked for a speedy disposition of the case, such that the judge even refused to hear the testimony of Paco Larranaga as a waste of time. And because the case was such a hot potato, the Osmeņas, politicians all, refused to lift a finger to help their relative (Paco and his mother). In so far as the Supreme Court is concerned, there are rumors, totally unverified, of some kind of relationship between a justice's family and the Chiongs.

      Finally, it turns out that I have written, over the past four years, at least nine times on some aspect or another of the Kuratong Baleleng case. Some of the points made in those columns bear repeating- if only to draw another set of parallels. that of the case against President Arroyo now and that of the case against Sen. then.

      Very interesting - and very revealing. But that's for later.

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