SC upholds death sentence of 5 convicts in Chiong rape-slay

- Rene U. Borromeo () - July 24, 2005 - 12:00am
CEBU — The fate of the convicted rapist-killers of sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong eight years ago is now in the hands of President Arroyo after the Supreme Court reaffirmed its ruling last year imposing the death sentence on five of the seven convicts.

Supreme Court spokesman Esmael Khan has confirmed that the tribunal en banc presided by Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. denied the convicts’ motions to reverse its Feb. 3, 2004 decision because there was no new evidence to warrant its reversal.

But the Supreme Court decided to hold in abeyance its decision in the case of James Anthony Uy who, although he claimed no guilt, said he was still 17 when the Chiong sisters were kidnapped on July 16, 1997.

The tribunal has ordered the National Statistics Office to submit a copy of Uy’s birth certificate to prove his claim that he was still a minor at the time.

Uy’s younger brother, James Andrew, who was only 16 when the sisters was kidnapped, was meted 20 years in jail.

The tribunal insisted that the death penalty should be imposed on convicts Francisco "Paco" Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag, whose motions to spare them from death were dismissed for lack of merit.

Dionesio Chiong, chairman of the Crusade Against Violence and father of the kidnapping victims, was very happy about the Supreme Court ruling and said it is fine if the tribunal only imposes life imprisonment on the Uy brothers.

To recall, at least three lawyers’ associations in Spain appealed to the Supreme Court to spare Larrañaga — whose father has Spanish blood — from death, claiming that if the evidence was to be reviewed " a breach of procedural safeguards could be found, which would invalidate the proceedings."

Larrañaga said the lower court erred when he was denied his right to stand as a witness for himself. Such a fact, he argued, would have merited a mistrial.

"He was not allowed to personally answer the charges laid against him. He was not allowed to reply to any question material to his case," his lawyer, William Chua, said.

Larrañaga, a relative of the famous Osmeña clan of Cebu, also accused the police of planting evidence against him. He said the court disregarded the testimony of his classmates at the Center for Culinary Arts that he was in Manila when the incident happened.

But the Supreme Court said Cebu is only an hour away from Manila by plane and there are four airline companies plying the Cebu-Manila route every day.

Larrañaga said their case — described by the Supreme Court as Cebu’s trial of the century — was so influenced by the gruesome allegations, publicity, politics and many other factors that the judge "molded the facts and law to reach a publicly acceptable, but unfair and unjust result."

The Chiong sisters were waiting for a ride home along Archbishop Reyes Avenue on the evening of July 16, 1997 when a group of men came and forced them into a vehicle.

Before they were brought to Carcar, the sisters were brought first to a house in Guadalupe where they were raped.

From there, the group brought the sisters to the south bus terminal and met Caño, whose van-for-hire was used by the suspects in bringing the victims to Carcar.

Marijoy’s mutilated body was recovered the following day at the bottom of a cliff in Guadalupe, Carcar town. Until now, Jacqueline’s has not been found. Freeman News Service

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