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‘After Paco, give break to six Chiong convicts’

First Posted 10:13:00 10/08/2009

A staunch supporter of the Larrañaga family sought a reinvestigation of the 1997 rape and murder case of the Chiong sisters, saying this would give an opportunity to clear the six other men convicted for the crimes.

?I'm happy for the (Larrañaga) family, but there are still six others who are rotting inside the jail,? Cebu businessman Miguel del Gallego said in a text message to CEBU DAILY NEWS.

He said an independent body not connected with the Chiong family should reinvestigate the case.

His suggestion was brushed off as ?crazy? by the mother of the victims, Thelma Chiong.

?He doesn't know about our justice system. There is already a conviction. The case is over. It has been declared final by the Supreme Court,? Chiong told .

Francisco ?Paco? Larrañaga left for Spain on Tuesday to serve the remainder of his jail sentence at the Centro Penitenciario de Madrid as part of a treaty between the two countries.

Larrañaga, the great-grandson of the late president Sergio Osmeña, is a dual citizen of Filipino and Spanish descent.

Del Gallego's two daughters were among the witnesses who testified in court that Larrañaga was in Manila when the Chiong sisters were abducted, raped and killed in 1997.

Marijoy's body was later found in a secluded ravine in Carcar town, south of Cebu City. Jacqueline was never found.

Larrañaga, now 33, and six others were convicted of kidnapping and serious illegal detention? of the Chiong sisters.

The others convicted by then Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Martin Ocampo include Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Cano, Ariel Balansag and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy.

In 2004, the Supreme Court confirmed the conviction, expanding it to rape and murder, and imposed the death penalty on the convicts except for James Andrew, a minor at the time of the crime, who was sentenced to life in prison.

On April 16, 2006, President Arroyo commuted the sentences to double life imprisonment.

The Chiong family said they will spend every centavo just to make the trip to Spain and make sure that Paco stays in jail.

Dionisio Chiong, the father of the victims, said his wife Thelma or her sister will go to Spain this year to find a friend to help monitor Larrañaga.

Chiong said the Justice Department should identify the two Filipino prisoners who were exchanged for Larrañaga.

?Where are the two prisoners? It's supposed to be an exchange, where are they? How come they don't know which prison the inmates are from?? Dionisio said.

Thelma said the family hasn't lost anything with Larrañaga's transfer.

?A verdict has been given. (We) won the case. They were defeated. Although he is no longer in the country, Paco will still be called a convicted criminal, a rapist,? Thelma said.

The Philippine embassy staff will check on Paco Larrañaga at a prison facility in Madrid, officials said yesterday.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has directed the embassy in Madrid to make periodic checks on the convict at least once a month, Devanadera said.

The Spanish-Filipino mestizo was handed over by the Philippine government to Spain Tuesday morning under the RP-Spain Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement.

The treaty was heavily criticized by the Chiong family on grounds that it was negotiated to primarily to benefit Larrañaga.

The Spanish government declared in a Sept. 16 diplomatic note that there will be no modification of the prison term, that it is bound by the terms of the judgment of conviction, and that there's no justification to revise the decision.

There are three Spanish citizens incarcerated in the country for local crimes, but only Larrañaga has applied for transfer to Spain.

In Spain, there are 17 Filipinos serving time in prisons, two of whom have sought transfer to Philippine prisons, according to Devanadera.

/With stories from Correspondent Carine M. Asutilla and Inquirer

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