The Chiong murder case (People of the Philippines vs. Larrañaga, et. al.) was a rape-murder case in the Philippines. On July 16, 1997, in Cebu, sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong were kidnapped, raped, and murdered.
According to the prosecutors, at 10:00 p.m. on July 16, 1997, Larrañaga and seven other defendants kidnapped the Chiong sisters near a mall on the island of Cebu in the Philippines, raped them, and then threw one of the sisters into a ravine. The other sister was never found. The prosecutors' case against Larrañaga centered on the testimony of a co-defendant, David Valiente Rusia. In exchange for blanket immunity, he testified. The trial court only permitted Larrañaga’s counsel to cross examine him for half an hour, despite the fact that Rusia’s direct testimony lasted for days. In that half hour, Larrañaga’s counsel established that Rusia had lied to both the prosecution and the court concerning his prior convictions. Rusia had claimed he had never been convicted of crime. He has a record of burglary and forgery. Rusia fainted when confronted with this evidence. Davidson Rusia is a convicted felon and was sentenced to prison twice in the United States for other crimes. Rusia claimed that he was with Larrañaga in Ayala Center, Cebú early in the evening of July 16, the evening Larrañaga says that he was at R&R Restaurant in Quezon City with his friends. Rusia was not known to Larrañaga, and only appeared as a “state witness” 10 months after the event.
Thirty-five (35) witnesses, including Larrañaga’s teachers and classmates at the Center for Culinary Arts (CCA) in Quezon City, testified under oath that he was in Quezon City, when the crime is said to have taken place in Cebu. However, the trial court considered these testimonies irrelevant, rejecting these as coming from "friends of the accused," and were not admitted. During his trial in the Cebu Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 7, defense lawyers sought to present evidence of his whereabouts on the evening of the crime—that Larrañaga, at that time 19 years old, was at a party at the R&R Restaurant along Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, and stayed there until early morning the following day. After the party, the logbook of the security guard at Larrañaga's condominium indicates that Larrañaga returned to his Quezon City condominium at 2:45 a.m.
Rowena Bautista, an instructor and chef at the culinary center, said Larrañaga was in school from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and saw him again at about 6:30 p.m on July 16. The school’s registrar, Caroline Calleja, said she proctored a two-hour exam where Larrañaga was present from 1:30 p.m. Larrañaga attended his second round of midterm exams on July 17 commencing at 8 a.m. Only then did Larrañaga leave for Cebu in the late afternoon of July 17, 1997.
Airline and airport personnel also came to court with their flight records, indicating that Larrañaga 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 the relevant dates, except the 5 p.m. PAL flight on July 17, 1997 from Manila to Cebu.
Larrañaga's counsels Felicitas Aquino Arroyo and Sandra Marie Olaso Coronel urged the high court to admit the amicus curiae from the Basque Bar Council (BBC), Barcelona Bar Associations (BBA) and Bar Association of Madrid. The three organizations expressed their interests in the case of Larrañaga since he was a "Spanish citizen with origins in the Basque Country, and therefore a member of the European Union." The BBA mentioned that the execution of a Spanish citizen would be in breach of the violation of the principle of reciprocity in international law, noting that if a Filipino citizen is found guilty in Spain, no Spanish court would have imposed the death penalty, nor would have allowed him extradited to any country imposing capital punishment. Former Ambassador Sedfrey Ordóñez claims he is the victim of a mistrial.
Fair Trials International (FTI), an NGO working on behalf of those who face a miscarriage of justice in a country other than their own, entered an amicus brief which was submitted to the Supreme Court of the Philippines by the European Commission's Manila delegate. The amicus argued that under both international and Philippine law, Larrañaga had been the subject of an unfair trial and had never been given the opportunity to show his innocence. FTI has since represented Larrañaga before the United Nations, appealing against injustice in the Philippines. Sarah de Mas, spokesperson for FTI who brought the case to the attention of the European Parliament and successive presidencies of the European Union, stated that Larrañaga had served a lengthy sentence for a crime he could not have committed.
Abolition of the death penalty
On June 24, 2006, capital punishment was abolished in the Philippines.
Transfer of Larrañaga to Spain
On December 3, 2007, Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos stated that Spain will be “happy” if Larrañaga spends his life sentence in a jail "here" as the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons comes into force: “We don’t know when this will happen. We have no time period. We feel happy that Mr. Larrañaga can come back with this treaty.” The treaty, which will allow convicted persons of either country to return to his home country and spend his sentence there, was ratified by the Philippines—17 affirmative and two abstentions—on November 26. The Philippines has signed similar treaties with Canada, Cuba, Hong Kong, and Thailand.
Larrañaga is the son of Spanish pelotari Manuel Larrañaga and Filipino Margarita González, and is a member of the influential Osmeña clan of Cebu. Philippine Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago said that, "Larrañaga's case could be covered by the treaty only if the Supreme Court issued a final ruling on his conviction, which remained on appeal before the high tribunal".
In September of 2009, the Department of Justice approved Larrañaga's transfer to a Spanish prison. Thelma Chiong, the mother of he victims, expressed shock over the decision, saying that, despite Larrañaga's Spanish citizenship, "If you committed a crime in the Philippines, you are jailed in the Philippines," despite the fact that this would constitute a breach of the treaty and thus of international law. Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Raúl González himself expressed concern that the Philippines might be branded a rogue state if it did not comply with the provisions of the treaty.
Larrañaga, escorted by two Spanish Interpol agents, left for Spain on October 6, 2009. His good behavior at the New Bilibid Prison was taken into consideration, and he will serve the rest of his sentence at the Madrid Central Penitentiary at Soto del Real. According to Philippine Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Philippine law will continue to be observed for the remainder of Larrañaga's prison term. Dionisio Chiong, the father of the victims, said in Cebuano, “I’m tired. The family is tired of this case. We fought to get a conviction but the government clearly wanted to bring him to Spain. We can’t beat the government.” He also expressed resentment that he and his wife only learned about Larrañaga's departure through the media.
Less than a week after Larrañaga's transfer, two Filipinos incarcerated in Spain stated their wish to also serve the rest of their sentences in the Philippines under the provisions of the treaty. A supporter of Larrañaga has also sought a reinvestigation of the murder case in order to clear the six other convicts.
Thelma Chiong expressed the possibility of her and her husband, Dionisio, visiting Larrañaga in Spain, but doubts whether the latter would ever tell the couple where the body of Jacqueline is. Larrañaga, born in 1977, will be 61 when he is released.
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- The EU itself forbids capital punishment and its abolition is a requirement for any applicant state.
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- Editorial cartoon from the Sun.Star
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