Cebu News

Chiong case: Gov’t junks Paco’s request for pardon

AJ de la Torre - The Freeman

MANILA , Philippines — The government has rejected an appeal to pardon a Spanish-Filipino serving life in jail for murdering two women despite an award-winning documentary showing his innocence, the film maker said yesterday.

Francisco “Paco” Larrañaga filed an appeal to President Benigno Aquino after the 2011 release of “Give Up Tomorrow” highlighted major flaws in the case and won a series of awards, including one from the government.

However the Department of Justice rejected the appeal without giving an explanation, said Marty Syjuco, the producer of the film who is also related by marriage to Larrañaga.

“Everybody was hoping this film would make a difference,” Syjuco told AFP, adding the recent award by the Philippines’ arts and culture commission for “bringing honor to the country” had raised false hopes for Larrañaga.

“On the one hand the Philippine government is saying we have brought honor to the country for highlighting this injustice, yet on the other it is continuing to perpetuate the injustice.”

Larrañaga, then 19, and six other young men were arrested in 1997 for the rape and murder of sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong aged in their early 20s in Cebu City. He has been in jail ever since.

The gripping documentary, which won the audience award at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, makes a compelling case that the seven men were framed as part of a conspiracy involving corrupt police and judicial figures.

Dozens of witnesses said Larrañaga was in Manila, the nation’s capital, 550 kilometers (340 miles) away, at the time of the murders. But the judge ignored them, relying instead on one convicted criminal who turned state witness.

The UN Human Rights Commission ruled in 2006 that Larrañaga had been denied due process and cited multiple major flaws in the case against him.

Larrañaga remains in jail in Spain, where he was transferred as part of a prisoner exchange treaty in 2009, while his six Filipino co-accused are behind bars in the Philippines.

The Spanish government has also lobbied the Philippines on behalf of Larrañaga but he cannot be released unless he wins a presidential pardon.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima did not respond to requests by AFP for comment on why Larrañaga’s appeal had been denied.


Thelma Chiong, the mother of the victims, said the DOJ decision “was expected.”

Chiong told The FREEMAN last night that the case has long been closed and nothing can change the verdict.

She stressed that even when the documentary was shown in Cebu, she has not paid much attention to it, saying that she has always been confident that nothing can be done to overturn the decision on the case.

“Dili naman gyud na siya ma pardon,” Chiong said

Chiong said if the director of the film would say that his efforts have all gone to waste since Larrañaga has not been granted pardon, he should have known this in the first place.

 â€œUseless bitaw gyud,” she said.  (FREEMAN)









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