Chiong murder case
|People of the Philippines v. Francisco Juan Larrañaga et al|
|Court||Supreme Court of the Philippines|
|Full case name||People of the Philippines versus Francisco Juan Larrañaga alias "Paco"; Josman Aznar; Rowen Adlawan alias "Wesley"; Alberto Cao alias "Allan Pahak"; Ariel Balanasag; Davidson Ariel Rusia alias "Tisoy Tagalog"; James Anthony Uy alias "Wangwang" and James Andrew Uy alias "MM"|
|Decided||February 3, 2004|
|Citation(s)||G R. No. 138874-75|
|Prior action(s)||Respondents found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of simple kidnapping and serious illegal detention and are sentenced to suffer the penalty of Reclusion perpetua (Criminal Case No. CBU-45303 and 45304)|
|Appealed from||Regional Trial Court, Branch 7 Cebu City|
|Appealed to||Court of Appeals of the Philippines|
|Subsequent action(s)||Lobbied by Fair Trials International to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, European Union, Amnesty International and Spanish Government. Respondent Larrañaga was transferred to Spain to observe his prison term, by virtue of Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons|
|Related action(s)||Abolition of Capital punishment in the Philippines|
|Respondents are gulity beyond reasonable doubt of the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with homicide and rape and are sentenced to suffer the penalty of death by lethal injection, Motion for reconsideration were denied by the Supreme Court En Banc|
|Judges sitting||Hilario Davide Jr., Reynato Puno, Artemio Panganiban, Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Antonio Carpio, Alicia Austria-Martinez, Renato Corona, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Romeo Callejo Sr., Adolfo Azcuna, Dante Tinga, Minita Chico-Nazario, Cancio C. Garcia|
|Philippine criminal law|
The Chiong murder case (People of the Philippines vs. Francisco Juan Larrañaga et al.) was an incident on July 16, 1997 in Cebu, in which sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong allegedly were kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga (b. 1977), a man of dual Filipino and Spanish citizenship was, along with six others, convicted of murder, and sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 3, 2004. Capital punishment in the Philippines has since been abolished.
But with further studies and clarifications, this case is considered flawed.[by whom?] There is contestedly no solid evidence against Larrañaga.
According to the prosecutors, at 10:00 p.m. on July 16, 1997, Larrañaga and six other defendants kidnapped the Chiong sisters near a mall on the island of Cebu in the Philippines, raped them, and then threw one of the sisters into a ravine (This was later disputed as there was no formal identification of the body, and later thought not to be the body of one of the sister's.) The other sister was never found. The prosecutors' case against Larrañaga centered on the testimony of a co-defendant, Davidson Valiente Rusia. In exchange for blanket immunity, he testified. The trial court only permitted Larrañaga's counsel to cross-examine Rusia for half an hour, despite the fact that Rusia's direct testimony lasted for days. In that half-hour, Larrañaga's counsel established that Rusia had lied to the prosecution and the court concerning his prior convictions. While Rusia had claimed he had never been convicted of crime, in fact he had a record of burglary and forgery. Rusia fainted when confronted with this evidence. Davidson Rusia is a convicted felon who was a gang member and was sentenced to prison twice in the United States for other crimes. Rusia claimed that he was with Larrañaga in Ayala Center, Cebú early in the evening of July 16, the evening Larrañaga says that he was at R&R Restaurant in Quezon City with his friends. Rusia was not known to Larrañaga and only appeared as a "state witness" 10 months after the event.
Thirty five witnesses, including Larrañaga's teachers and classmates at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in Quezon City, testified under oath that he was in Quezon City, when the crime is said to have taken place in Cebu. However, the trial court considered these testimonies irrelevant, rejecting these as coming from "friends of the accused," and they were not admitted. During his trial in the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7, defense lawyers sought to present evidence of his whereabouts on the evening of the crime—that Larrañaga, at that time 19 years old, was at a party at the R&R Restaurant along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, and stayed there until early morning the following day. After the party, the logbook of the security guard at Larrañaga's condominium indicates that Larrañaga returned to his Quezon City condominium at 2:45 a.m.
Rowena Bautista, an instructor and chef at the culinary center, said Larrañaga was in school from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and saw him again at about 6:30 p.m on July 16. The school's registrar, Caroline Calleja, said she proctored a two-hour exam where Larrañaga was present from 1:30 p.m. Larrañaga attended his second round of midterm exams on July 17 commencing at 8 a.m. Only then did Larrañaga leave for Cebu in the late afternoon of July 17, 1997.
Airline and airport personnel also came to court with their flight records, indicating that Larrañaga did not take any flight on July 16, 1997, nor was he on board any chartered aircraft that landed in or departed from Cebu during the relevant dates, except the 5 p.m. PAL flight on July 17, 1997 from Manila to Cebu.
Nevertheless, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the accused without reasonable doubt.
Larrañaga's counsels Felicitas Aquino Arroyo and Sandra Marie Olaso Coronel urged the high court to admit the amicus curiae from the Basque Bar Council (BBC), Barcelona Bar Associations (BBA) and Bar Association of Madrid. The three organizations expressed their interests in the case of Larrañaga since he was a "Spanish citizen with origins in the Basque Country, and therefore a member of the European Union." The BBA mentioned that the execution of a Spanish citizen would be in breach of the violation of the principle of reciprocity in international law, noting that if a Filipino citizen is found guilty in Spain, no Spanish court would have imposed the death penalty, nor would have allowed him extradited to any country imposing capital punishment. Former Ambassador Sedfrey Ordóñez claims he is the victim of a mistrial.
Fair Trials International (FTI), an NGO working on behalf of those who face a miscarriage of justice in a country other than their own, entered an amicus brief which was submitted to the Supreme Court of the Philippines by the European Commission's Manila delegate. The amicus argued that under both international and Philippine law, Larrañaga had been the subject of an unfair trial and had never been given the opportunity to show his innocence. FTI has since represented Larrañaga before the United Nations, appealing against injustice in the Philippines. Sarah de Mas, spokesperson for FTI who brought the case to the attention of the European Parliament and successive presidencies of the European Union, stated that Larrañaga had served a lengthy sentence for a crime he could not have committed.
Abolition of the death penalty
On June 24, 2006, capital punishment was abolished in the Philippines.
Transfer of Larrañaga to Spain
On December 3, 2007, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos stated that Spain will be "happy" if Larrañaga spends his life sentence in a jail "here" as the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons comes into force: "We don't know when this will happen. We have no time period. We feel happy that Mr. Larrañaga can come back with this treaty." The treaty, which will allow convicted persons of either country to return to his home country and spend his sentence there, was ratified by the Philippines—17 affirmative and two abstentions—on November 26. The Philippines has signed similar treaties with Canada, Cuba, Hong Kong, and Thailand.
Larrañaga is the son of Spanish pelotari Manuel Larrañaga and Filipino Margarita González, and, through his mother, is a member of the influential Osmeña clan of Cebu. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that, "Larrañaga's case could be covered by the treaty only if the Supreme Court issued a final ruling on his conviction, which remained on appeal before the high tribunal".
In September 2009, the Department of Justice approved Larrañaga's transfer to a Spanish prison. Thelma Chiong, the mother of the victims, expressed shock over the decision, saying that, despite Larrañaga's Spanish citizenship, "If you committed a crime in the Philippines, you are jailed in the Philippines," despite the fact that this would constitute a breach of the treaty and thus of international law. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raúl González himself expressed concern that the Philippines might be branded a rogue state if it did not comply with the provisions of the treaty.
Larrañaga, escorted by two Spanish Interpol agents, left for Spain on October 6, 2009. His good behavior at the New Bilibid Prison was taken into consideration, and he will serve the rest of his sentence at the Madrid Central Penitentiary at Soto del Real. According to Philippine Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Philippine law will continue to be observed for the remainder of Larrañaga's prison term. Dionisio Chiong, the father of the victims, said in Cebuano, "I'm tired. The family is tired of this case. We fought to get a conviction but the government clearly wanted to bring him to Spain. We can't beat the government." He also expressed resentment that he and his wife only learned about Larrañaga's departure through the media.
Less than a week after Larrañaga's transfer, two Filipinos incarcerated in the Philippines stated their wish to also serve the rest of their sentences in Spain under the provisions of the treaty. A supporter of Larrañaga has also sought a reinvestigation of the murder case in order to clear the six other convicts.
Thelma Chiong expressed the possibility of her and her husband, Dionisio, visiting Larrañaga in Spain. Larrañaga, born in 1977, will be 61 when he is released.
- The episode of the untold story of Chiong Sisters for the 1997 TV crime-drama series Calvento Files hosted by Tony Calvento on ABS-CBN. Actor Niño Muhlach who played the role of Paco Larrañaga.
- Animal, 2004 film directed by Toto Natividad loosely based on the Chiong Sisters case.
- Give Up Tomorrow, 2011 documentary film by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco
- Jacqueline Comes Home (The Chiong Story), 2018 biographical film directed by Ysabelle Peach Caparas starring Meg Imperial and Donnalyn Bartolome as the Chiong sisters
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- The European Union itself forbids capital punishment and its abolition is a requirement for any applicant state.
-  Archived October 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- Editorial cartoon from the Sun.Star[permanent dead link]
-  Archived October 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Sun.Star Cebu - Arroyo kills death law". Sunstar.com.ph. 2006-06-25. Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
- https://web.archive.org/web/20091011154312/http://www3.sunstar.com.ph/cebu/2-%E2%80%98-exchange%E2%80%99-paco. Archived from the original on October 11, 2009. Retrieved October 9, 2009. Missing or empty
- Inquirer.net, Spaniard might be first beneficiary in prisons exchange pact Archived June 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
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- [dead link]
- "Convicted rapist Larrañaga leaves for Spain - The Philippine Star >> News >> Headlines". Philstar.com. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
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