Online petition urges Duterte, SC to reopen ‘Chiong sisters’ case

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com
Online petition urges Duterte, SC to reopen �Chiong sisters� case
Seven men dubbed as the “Chiong Seven” were imprisoned for the alleged rape and kidnap of the Chiong sisters.
Screenshot from documentary "Give up tomorrow."

MANILA, Philippines — A netizen recently launched an online petition calling for the review and reopening of the case of the Chiong sisters, allegedly kidnapped, raped and one of them murdered in 1997.

Last July 11, a netizen with username “Case Review” started an online petition on Change.org, urging President Rodrigo Duterte and the Supreme Court to review or reopen the controversial case.

“There are 3 sides to every story and in this case: The Chiong sisters, The Chiong Seven and the TRUTH. Let the witnesses be heard! Review/Reopen the case!” the petition’s description read.

The petition is initially calling for 25,000 signatures. As of posting, supporters of the petition reached over 57,000 and the target signatures increased to 75,000.

Over the weekend, the Chiong sisters’ case made a buzz on social media after Viva released the trailer of its newest film “Jacqueline Comes Home” which prompted calls to boycott the movie.

READ: Why upcoming movie ‘Jacqueline Comes Home’ is creating some buzz

The latest film is based on the true-to-life tragic story of the Chiong sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline, who were allegedly kidnapped, raped and in Marijoy’s case, killed in Cebu City.

Only Marijoy's body was allegedly recovered by the authorities.

The sisters’ case also marked the 21st year last July 16.

Seven men dubbed as the “Chiong Seven” were imprisoned for the case. Most of them were from prominent families in Cebu City.

The accused are: Francisco Juan “Paco” Larañaga, Jozman Aznar, Rowen Wesley Adlawan, Alberto Allan "Pahak" Cano, Ariel Balansag, James Andrew "MM" Uy and James Anthony Uy.

The alleged mastermind of the crime was Spanish-Filipino Larrañaga, who happens to be the great-grandson of Sergio Osmeña Sr.

Calls for boycott of Viva’s film emerged as several netizens claimed there was a mistrial in the case of the Chiong Seven as another documentary titled “Give Up Tomorrow” produced in 2011 showed Larrañaga’s side of the story were also resurfaced by netizens.

The documentary detailed the story of Larrañaga from the day of his arrest to relocation in Spain.

Larrañaga’s camp claimed he was in Quezon City on July 16, 1997, the day the Chiong Sisters were allegedly kidnapped. He got more than 40 witnesses to back him up but these witnesses were not heard by the court.

All accused men except James Anthony, who was then a minor, were initially given 80 years in prison. However, in 2004, they were imposed death penalty which was later on lifted by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after the appeal of the Spanish government. 

READ: Cebu scions get death for Chiong murders

To this day, Larrañaga is still in prison. In 2015, he was reported to have been allowed to work as a part-time chef in Spain, although he would return to his Spanish jail cell by night.

Netizens also raised concerns that the kidnap of the Chiong sisters was related to a supposed drug dealer case since their father, Dionisio Chiong, was supposed to testify against a "powerful druglord." Dionisio, according to reports, previously worked for a trucking company.

Due to the alleged mistrial and unfair conviction of the suspects, several netizens called to revisit the case of the seven. Some even launched a page calling to free Larrañaga, whom they claim as “innocent.”

"There has been an obstruction of justice due to the fact that witnesses and evidences weren't accepted during the trial. The accused were sentenced because they weren't able to present a concrete evidence beyond reasonable doubt. However, the judge after the trial said that there was no evidence that the dead body was Marijoy Chiong's which is already a beyond reasonable doubt. There was a mistrial and a reopen of the case is a must!," netizen Jamie Uy commented in the petition.

"There was no strong and sufficient evidence and DNA that tied and linked them to the crime scene that would implicate the 7 accused," netizen Maria Jonabell Russel commented.

Larrañaga's family is hopeful that the president will grant clemency as only a pardon can give freedom to their son.

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