Convicted rapist Larrañaga leaves for Spain

- Sandy Araneta -

MANILA, Philippines - Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, convicted of raping and murdering two sisters over 10 years ago, flew to Spain yesterday after the Department of Justice approved his transfer to a penal facility in that country.

At about 10:30 a.m. yesterday, Larrañaga, escorted by two Spanish officers, boarded KLM Royal Airlines flight KL-804 bound for Amsterdam. He was the last passenger to board the plane.

In Cebu City, Thelma Chiong, mother of Larrañaga’s victims Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong, was surprised to learn that Larrañaga had already left the country.

“It’s a done deal, according to Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera,” she said. “But she had assured us that Paco would not be released from prison.”

Chiong said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo did not inform where Larrañaga would be imprisoned in Spain.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is the agency that could monitor the convict, she added.

Chiong said details of Larrañaga’s transfer are unclear except that two Filipino detainees in Spain will be returned to the country in exchange.

She is resigned to the likelihood of Larrañaga’s release, she added.

She plans to visit Larrañaga in the Spanish prison if she gets the money, Chiong said.

Six National Bureau of Investigation agents turned over Larrañaga to Spanish authorities at Boarding Gate 12 at the departure area of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 1. He was not handcuffed.

Larrañaga sat at the back of the economy class, flanked by his two escorts.

He was brought to the NAIA by officers of the Bureau of Corrections.

Larrañaga, a citizen of Spain by virtue of his father’s citizenship, still has to serve 14 years, nine months and more than 20 days in prison.

His good behavior at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa was taken into consideration.

Larrañaga, now 32, was 19 years old when arrested in Cebu 13 years ago along with his accomplices for the rape and murder of the Chiong sisters.

Justice Secretary Devanadera said Larrañaga’s transfer to Spain was effected yesterday pursuant to the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons between the Philippine and Spain.

The Cebu City Regional Trial Court Branch 7 has ruled that the 1997 hold departure order against Larrañaga has “lost its force” after the judgment of conviction  against him has become final and executory on Aug. 16, 2005, she added.

Devanadera said upon Larrañaga’s

arrival in Spain, he will be taken directly to the Centro Penitencario Madrid 5 Soto del Real to continue serving the sentence imposed on him in the Philippines.

Larrañaga will be serving the remainder of his 40-year prison term in Spain, she added.

In a diplomatic note, dated Sept. 16, 2009, the Spanish embassy in Manila said there will be no conversion of Larrañaga’s sentence, and that the Spanish government is bound by the terms of his judgment of conviction.

No justification whatsoever exists to revise the decision handed down by the Philippine judicial authorities, the embassy added.

Devanadera said Larrañaga has already served 12 years in prison in the Philippines.

Based on Philippine laws, with good conduct, he would serve less than 28 years, she added, Devanadera said Philippine law, not the law of Spain, would be observed in Larrañaga’s prison term.

A Philippine representative, as an observer, will be allowed to visit Larrañaga in Spain to make sure that he serves his sentence, she added.

Meanwhile, Devanadera said the Philippine government is working for the release from Spanish prisons of two Filipinos who have been convicted on drug charges.

The government plans to petition for their return to the Philippines, she added.

Devanadera said they have signified their intention to apply for repatriation under the same treaty that allowed the transfer of Larrañaga to Spain.

Seventeen Filipinos are detained in Spain for various offenses, she added.

At the Department of Foreign Affairs, spokesman Eduardo Malaya said the Department of Justice has notified the DFA that Larrañaga would depart yesterday.

“Yes, but these are matters for implementation and the DFA was informed by the DOJ of the transfer of Larrañaga to Spanish law enforcement officials for the continued service of his sentence of prison,” he said.

The Philippine embassy in Spain was instructed to monitor the arrival of Larrañaga and his transfer to Madrid Central Penitentiary, Malaya said.— Rudy Santos, Sandy Araneta, Pia Lee-Brago

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