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Is Convicted Rapist Francisco Juan ‘Paco’ Larrañaga Innocent in the Jacquelyn & Marijoy Chiong Rape & Murder?

The family of Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong victims of the most sadistic abduction, gruesome rape and vicious unspeakable murder by a group of affluent prominent scions of Cebu vows to take action in preventing the imminent transfer of Francisco Juan ‘Paco’ Larrañaga to Spain.

Paco Larrañaga a dual citizen (Filipino/Spanish) is the first beneficiary and the first convict to be transferred in a controversial treaty entered into by both countries on what is now known as the RP-Spain Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement. Paco is the son of former Basque pelotari Manuel Larrañaga, and Margarita Gonzalez, granddaughter of the late President Sergio Osmeña, and a cousin of former senator Sergio Osmeña III

Is this another travesty of justice that defines the administration of Gloria Arroyo? Instead of closure for the family of the victims, this controversy has definitely rekindled old wounds that will never heal. Here is a quote from The Chiong Case as lifted at Inquirer:

MANILA, Philippines - Case closed—as far as the police and the courts are concerned. But for a woman who has lived a mother’s worst nightmare, mercy is not spoken in the same breath as justice.

Two daughters raped and murdered—one body still unrecovered. Thelma Chiong still rages: “Don’t talk to me about justice being tempered with mercy. Bakit, naawa ba sila sa mga anak ko (did they have mercy on my daughters), whom they subjected to dehumanizing, brutal and sadistic acts? Jackie is missing until now. Now tell me the meaning of mercy.”

Eight have been convicted and sentenced for the crimes—all of them young men, most from landed and affluent families in Cebu. The most damning testimony against them was delivered on August 12, 1998 by suspect-turned-state witness, Davidson Valiente Rusia, 23, who recounted the abduction and consequent rape and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong.

The narrative begins in the Ayala Center Cebu on July 16, 1997 and ends at the top of a cliff in Carcar town, and involves Rusia’s former friends: Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, 19, great-grandson of the late President Sergio Osmeña Sr. and kin to the prominent Osmeña clan; Josman Aznar, 24, whose family owns several properties in Cebu, including the Southwestern University, Sacred Heart Hospital, the Alta Vista Golf and Country Club; Rowen Adlawan, 21; van driver Alberto Caño, 31; van conductor Ariel Balansag, 21; and brothers James Andrew, 17, and James Anthony Uy, 16.
Indeed this is the worst nightmare a doting mother will never imagine happening to them and for Thelma Chiong to relive once more such agony after all these years is just outright cruel. It is unfortunate that seeking justice in the Philippines is almost an impossible endeavor and if prominent influential families are not getting it what more with ordinary or worse, poor citizens of the nation. It does not help when the court system is perceived as corrupt which is exactly not without basis due to endemic corruption brought about by the system of patronage courtesy of greedy legitimate and illegitimate vested interest of the trapo (traditional politicians) kind.

Sexual predators are deviant cretins of the lowest of the low living forms whose existence is the biggest mistake and sorry excuse for the human kind. Hearing of the most contemptible gruesome crimes they have perpetrated will almost makes you wish that these sorry excuse for human beings that acts more like wild animals should be castrated so others will not suffer the same fate of their victims. Imagine the lives they have sadistically disrupted like the abduction of then 11 year old Jaycee Dugard in the hands of deluded sociopath Phillip Garrido for 18 long agonizing years horrendously disrupting and scarring her physically and psychologically for life.

The agony of the horrendous dehumanizing experience suffered by the victims is truly unimaginable or too disturbing to even imagine. Years of agony for those left behind as what Thelma Chiong is grappling right now but what happens if those that were convicted turns out to be innocent as they have claimed. Is it possible that Paco Larrañaga and his co-accused may have been victims of a raging lynch mob justice? All of the accused was found guilty of kidnapping and illegal detention by Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo sentencing all of them to 2 life terms. The crowd inside the court reacted with thunderous applause and tears while the accused cried and others sobbing uncontrollably like a child at the verdict as hundreds of onlookers jeered at the accused many of them yelling “You should rot in jail!”

What is interesting to note was the finding of the judge in not imposing the death penalty due to the prosecutors’ failure to prove the abductors raped and killed the sisters. Even worse is the failure to identify the corpse to be that of the victim and the possibility that the body was that of another woman. The sad fact is that police agencies even in highly industrialized country suffers from sloppy investigation and I can imagine the quality if ever it can be called as such even exist in Manila the capital of the Philippines much more in Cebu.

It will be a travesty of justice not only for the accused but the victims as well if an innocent man was wrongly accused and sentenced to suffer the death penalty which the higher court handed down instead of just affirming the life sentence. Had the Philippines not removed the death penalty the accused could have been executed by now? I can only imagine what goes through an innocent person’s mind that while they suffer facing execution the possibility that the actual criminal perpetrators maybe roaming the streets free as a bird to commit heinous crimes over and over again until justice caught up on them if ever it will even happen.

Paco Larrañaga now 32 years old languishing in Cebu jail for the past 12 years to this day declares he is innocent based on more than 35 witnesses’ sworn affidavit that at the time of the crime he was at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in Quezon City (located in Luzon island a plane ride away from Cebu in the Visayas island) dismissed by Judge Martin Ocampo as irrelevant. Did he receive a fair trial especially when even Airline and airport personnel also came to court with their flight records and passenger manifesto, indicating that Paco did not take any flight on July 16, 1997, nor was he on board any chartered aircraft that landed in or departed from Cebu during those times he was supposedly physically present during the commission of the crime.

Is this a case of mistrial? Former Ambassador Sedfrey Ordóñez claims he is a victim of mistrial and so are the Fair Trials International, an NGO working on behalf of EU citizens who face a miscarriage of justice, Madrid, Basque and Barcelona Bar Associations, have also thrown their support, each presenting an amicus curiae brief in support of Paco's petitions to the Supreme Court, Reprive conducted a substantive investigation, and even drawing the attention of Amnesty International. Here is another account that is disturbing to say the least why Paco may have been a victim of mistrial, to quote:

During his trial in the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7, defense lawyers sought to present evidence that on the evening of the crime, Paco, 19 at that time, was at a party with friends at the R&R Restaurant along Katipunan Avenue in Quezon City, and stayed there until early morning the following day. After the party, Paco returned to his Quezon City condominium at 2:45 a.m. the following day, as shown by the security guard's logbook. Many other witnesses - classmates and companions at the R&R restaurant, were not allowed to testify.

Chef Rowena Bautista, a teacher at the CCA, attested in court that she had seen Paco with a classmate in school at about 6:30 p.m. on July 16. He attended his second round of midterm exams on July 17 commencing at 8 a.m. These were scheduled exams, for which he has records to prove he took and passed. Paco did not leave for Cebu until late afternoon of July 17, 1997.
Did the judge succumb to the pressures of an angry hysterical lynch mob crying for blood? Or was he equally incensed that it clouded his conduct in presiding over a fair trial as shown below:

However, Cebu Judge Martin Ocampo disregarded the defense witnesses' testimonies as well as other documentary pieces of evidence supporting Paco's claim. Instead, Judge Ocampo placed Paco's lawyer in jail for contempt, and assigned a new lawyer from the Cebu City Public Attorney's Office to represent Paco, despite a lack of consultation and preparation and over the express desire of the accused to be represented by counsel of choice.

"To make matters worse, despite Paco's consistent offering to testify in his own defense, standing up and raising his arm to volunteer to testify during trial, he was disallowed and denied the chance by the trial court. The court did not even want to hear what he had to say," his mother Margarita Larranaga said in a statement.
Worse even the Supreme Court refused to accept receipt of the amici curiae briefs saying it did not need the cooperation of the international barristers according to the Department of Justice (DoJ). Are all the more than 35 witnesses lying? I highly doubt they are lying especially if we based it on this account below:

Cebu businessman Miguel del Gallego, whose three daughters executed sworn statements stating they were with Paco at the R&R restaurant on the night of July 16 until early morning of the next day, declined to accept what would have been his 11th term as chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress-Visayas Regional Committee, to work full-time on the Larranaga case. He heads the Crusade for Truth and Justice, campaigning for the acquittal of Paco and the other six accused

We can only hope that justice is served and cooler heads prevail instead of highly partisan battle that is looming and focus more on investigating to unearth and establish missing facts and evidence instead of unanswered questions and loose ends surrounding the case. Advance forensics nowadays should help in determining if the body indeed belongs to the victim and establish the fact if the accused was responsible for the rape.

Sadly, while people are angry and who can blame them due to Gloria Arroyo's generosity on high profile convicts the media is adding more to the frenzy than be useful in making sure justice is served. What may I ask is the relevance of comments coming from Evalyn Ursua, the former and fired counsel of Suzette “Nicole" Nicolas in the Subic rape case? Useless comments I should say that only adds fuel to a raging fire of controversy that is useful only in selling their newspaper with no value whatsoever in shedding more light to the issue. Why not concentrate on inquiring what and how can the police do or are doing in finding Jacqueline’s body. It does not help resolve the case when they turn this into a pseudo class war complete with opportunistic politicians turning this into their circus freak side show for the sake of the much needed sound bytes in the coming election.

How about digging deeper why Judge Martin Ocampo committed suicide and if his death has anything to do with the case? Pedestrian Observer GB has always been on the side of the victims and has always been and that includes having a clear conscience that an innocent person is not punished for the crime of others that only add more victims and serve to victimize the victims further. It is a shame that the timing of the treaty is under the watch of an administration with negative credibility but that should not stop us from exhausting all efforts to ensure that we did not or took part in condemning a man who may turn out to be innocent............incarcerated for life while the possibility of the real criminals are still out there.

Watch the Give Up Tomorrow video on PBS

Continue reading..... Paco Larrañaga the new Fixation for Tongressional Probe in Aid of Legislators

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