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Opinion

EDITORIAL - Larrañaga case may encourage vigilantism

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Like toothpaste out of the tube, Paco Larrañaga is off to Spain, and there is no getting him back. The Philippines, a Spanish colony for more than 300 years, capitulated to its former masters who never believed Larrañaga, who holds dual Filipino-Spanish citizenship, was guilty.

Larrañaga, along with six others, was convicted in connection with the abduction, rape and murder of sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong in 1997. Marijoy was found dead shortly after the crime at the bottom of cliff. Jacqueline has never been found even up to this day.

The Philippine Supreme Court not only upheld the lower court conviction of Larrañaga, a great grandson of the late former president Sergio Osmena Sr., it also increased his sentence as well as those of the others.

But a lobby by a few but influential locals of Spanish descent apparently succeeded in convincing Spanish legislators and other government officials about the supposed innocence of Larrañaga. Eventually an exchange-prisoners treaty quietly materialized between both countries.

When the story broke that Larrañaga secured approval to avail of the exchange, the whole right-thinking nation was floored. But it was too late. A deal had been struck and there was no backing out from it.

So early last Tuesday, Larrañaga, convicted of one of the most heinous crimes the country has ever had to endure, was allowed to leave the country to serve the remainder of his prison term in better facilities in Spain.

Spain has reportedly promised to abide by the provisions of the treaty, as well as the terms of his conviction. It reportedly will not move to tamper with the judgment of Philippine courts. But that remains to be seen, having already taken a position that Larrañaga is innocent.

The giving up of jurisdiction over Larrañaga is perhaps one of the most deflating and disappointing judicial episodes in the history of this country. It underscores more clearly how justice in this country can easily be compromised by power and influence.

The emotional and psychological pain felt by many Filipinos over this loss will eventually drain whatever remaining confidence they have in the justice system. No case can be more forcefully in favor of those prone to violence to just take the law into their own hands.

AGA

COUNTRY

FILIPINO-SPANISH

JACQUELINE AND MARIJOY CHIONG

LARRA

MARIJOY

NTILDE

PACO LARRA

PHILIPPINE SUPREME COURT

SERGIO OSMENA SR.

SPANISH

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