The Department of Justice (DOJ), in behalf of Pres. Benigno Aquino III, rejected Francisco “Paco” Larranaga’s appeal for pardon, despite an acclaimed film manifesting his innocence, said film producer Marty Syjuco on Monday.
Larranaga is a Spanish-Filipino, who with 6 others were convicted of the rape and murder of Cebu’s sisters Marijoy, 23, and Jacqueline Chiong, 20, and sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 3, 2004. Capital punishment was abolished in the Philippines on June 24, 2006.
The unfortunate sisters, according to prosecutors, were kidnapped near a mall in Cebu at 10:00 p.m. on July 16, 1997.
David Rusia, a co-accused who turned state witness, testified that Aznar and Adlawan were the ones who seized Jacqueline and Marijoy while the sisters were waiting for a ride home at the Ayala Center Cebu.
The appeal was filed after the 2011 film showing of Give Up Tomorrow, which stressed major flaws in the case and gathered awards overseas, including one from the country’s arts and culture commission
At New York’s Tribeca Film Festival, the documentary captured the audience award, depicting a case that the 7 men were framed as part of a conspiracy linking corrupt police and judicial personnel.
Film producer Marty Syjuco, who’s related to Larranaga by marriage, told AFP that everybody was hoping the film would make a difference, saying the award by the Philippines’ arts and culture commission for bringing honor to the country had made Larranaga’s hopes dimmer.
DOJ rejected the appeal without even a note, said Syjuco, and per request by AFP for comment on the case, DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima made no response, the source said.
Larranaga, then 19, and six other young men Josman Aznar, whose family owns several properties in Cebu, including the Southwestern University and Sacred Heart Hospital; Rowen Adlawan; van driver Alberto Caño; van conductor Ariel Balansag; and brothers James Andrew and James Anthony Uy were arrested in 1997.
State witness David Rusia said Paco and the other accused allegedly dumped the bodies in a ravine.Another source said Marijoy’s remains were found in a ravine in Carcar City while Jacqueline’s body was never found.
Witnesses said Larranaga was 550 kilometers away in Manila at the time of the murders. But the judge ignored them, relying instead on one convicted criminal David Valiente Rusia who turned state witness.
Having a dual citizenship Larranaga is currently serving his jail term in Spain, where he was transferred as part of a prisoner exchange treaty in 2009, while his 6 Filipino co-accused were left behind bars in the country.
Unless pardoned by the president Larranaga can’t be given his freedom was the answer of the government to the Spanish government officials who lobbied for him.
The UN Human Rights Commission ruled in 2006 that Larranaga had been denied due process and cited multiple major flaws in the case against him.
Source: Philippines rejects appeal in high-profile murder case