Thursday, August 11, 2005  

OPINION
         

      The Supreme Court in an en banc session recently affirmed the death penalty on five out of seven in the celebrated eight-year-old kidnap-rape-slay case involving sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong of Cebu City.

      Sentenced to die by lethal injection are Francisco Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caņo and Ariel Balansag, all scions of prominent families. 

      The decision in the case of James Anthony Uy was held in abeyance who claimed he was still 17 years old at the time of the incident, in July 1997. His brother James Andrew who was then 16 years of age was meted a 20-year prison term. 

      The ruling is particularly painful for Larraņaga because the eyewitness testimonies of several of his classmates in the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) along Katipunan Road, Loyola Heights, Quezon City - who said they had been carousing with him in a restaurant-bar in nearby Blue Ridge at the time of the crime - were not given any weight.

      

     The court said Larraņaga, who belongs to the rich Osmeņa clan, could have very easily fled from Cebu City immediately after participating in the crime and joined his CCA classmates for their get-together, thus establishing his alibi, considering the fact that Manila is only one hour's flying time away and that there are several airline companies serving the Manila-Cebu route.

      While the situation pertaining to Adlawan, Aznar, Caņo and Balansag appears to be cut and dried, that. of Larranaga's is the still the object of much debate, despite the ruling, due to the firmed belief that the legal dictum "guilty beyond reasonable doubt" was never really satisfied with his relatives and lawyers condemning the rationale used In sentencing him to death as mainly conjectural.

      Now, if government prosecutors had produced an airline ticket -bound for Manila with Larraņaga's name on it and the departure time just a few hours after the commission of the crime or, say, if an airline stewardess was brought forth to testify that he was indeed on such a Manila-bound flight, then that would haw been an entirely different story. Because then they would have had the goods to pin him down.

      We do not mean to be siding here with the Larraņagas, but their lament that their son was a victim of a variety of uncontrollable external events such as partisan politics, publicity and the gruesome nature of the crime, which ultimately pressured the judge into molding the facts and the law to arrive at a "publicly-acceptable but unfair and unjust result" does have a familiar ring to it. 

      Recall the Visconde case and the hardluck Webbs?

NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
                                  DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.                                        

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