Sunday, September 19, 2004 issue

"Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted but when criminal trials are fair" 

     Saying false premises may cost the life of an innocent man, the lawyers of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larra�aga have asked the Supreme Court to "revisit" the sensational case.

     In what could be their last chance to save Larra�aga from lethal injection, Sedfrey Ordo�ez, William Chua and Sandra Marie Coronel exhorted the high court to call the case for oral arguments.

     "An injustice can never be corrected by another injustice. The call for blood may be loud and popular, but justice demands that only the guilty be punished," they said. The SC not only affirmed last February 3 the verdict of conviction handed down by the late RTC Judge Martin Ocampo, it also upgraded the penalties of six of the "Chiong Seven" from two life terms to death.

     Sentenced to die were Larra�aga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, James Anthony Uy, Ariel Balansag and Alberto Ca�o.
     James Anthony's brother, James Andrew, was spared from the death row because of minority, and sentenced to life imprisonment.

     The men were found guilty for the death of Marijoy Chiong on July 16, 1997 and the kidnapping and disappearance of her sister Jacqueline.

     In their 3-page reply to the comment of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) calling for the execution of the young convicts, Larra�aga's lawyers said their client was framed.

     The Office of the Solicitor General interposed its objection to the motion for reconsideration filed by the lawyers of the "Chiong Seven". The OSG said the convicts' motion for reconsideration was just but "a rehash of their old arguments."

     Contrary to the claim of the solicitor general, Larra�aga's counsels said they had raised several valid legal questions in their motion for reconsideration. "These were even supported by direct quotes from court records," they said.

     They pointed to grievous errors committed by police, the prosecutors and the trial judge, "errors that either undermined or buried the truth."

      "Unfortunately, the Office of the Solicitor General refused to meet these issues and merely relied on the blanket but unjustified assertion," the lawyers said.  

      Lawyer Ordo�ez, Chua and Coronel said the high tribunal must revisit its decision "because certain facts on which the court based its resolution to impose the death penalty are not accord with the records. "

                         "IRREGULAR BEHAVIOR"
     They said they would have wanted the OSG to engage them on these matters "with legally tenable explanations on the irregular behavior displayed by the policemen, the prosecutors and the judge in this case."

      "We wanted answers to many of our doubts. The OSG skirted the issues, gave no explanations, and merely praised the correctness of the disputed decision," they lamented.  

      By filling the motion for reconsideration, Larra�aga's lawyers requested the SC justices to give the questioned decision "a second look, a more thorough review.

October 25, 2006
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La presidenta de Filipinas se compromete a salvar la vida del espa�ol condenado a muerte (The president of the Philippines assures to save the life of the Spanish condemned to die ) A video news report.

"In his motion, Larra�aga raised "compelling constitutional issues regarding the most basicelements" of his rights to substantive and procedural due process.  

     The lawyers said they had painstakingly raised 11 points that should be looked into by the high court.

      On top of their questions was the conduct of the late Judge Martin Ocampo, who, they claimed, "bullied the defense" by disallowing their scheduled witnesses and pronouncing the defense to have waived the presentation of further evidence.

     "No less than Larra�aga raised and waived his hands in one of the hearings to express his desire to testify," they said, "but the court did not relent and refused to hear his testimony."

                       'USELESS' TESTIMONY
     The lawyers brought to the court's attention the transcript of stenographic notes of the Feb. 1, 1999 hearing showing that the trial judge maintained his refusal to allow Larra�aga to take the witness stand, branding his testimony as "useless."

     "It was proper for the movant to question the validity of the court's reliance on the findings of a trial judge who was not interested in what the accused had to say or to observe his demeanor on the stand," they said.

     The lawyers said Ocampo had "made up his mind on what weight he would give Larra�aga's testimony even before he heard it and despite the fact that he did not hear it."

     They insisted that it was physically impossible for Larra�aga to be in Cebu at the time of the commission of the crime.

     During the trial of the case, defense lawyers insisted that on the evening of July 16, 1997, Larra�aga was with his friends at R & R Restaurant, and stayed there until the early morning of July 17.

     "Are we going to send six young men to the death chamber on the say-so of a drug addict and a convicted criminal? Is the trial judge correct in placing greater weight on Rusia's word over that of an entire class of law-abiding students who vouched for Larra�aga's presence in their cooking school in Quezon City?" they said.

Rusia's confession came out almost 10 months after the alleged kidnapping. He then tailored his confession to conform to the physical evidence, Larra�aga's lawyers said.

They cited the result of the examination of University of the Philippines Prof. Jerome Bailen who conducted that the body found in Tanawan, Carcar might not have been that of Marijoy's.

Bailen said there was neither physical evidence to conclude that the woman was raped nor proof that she had been thrown off a cliff while still alive, as claimed by witness Rusia.

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