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Chiong murder case

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People of the Philippines v. Francisco

Juan Larrañaga et al

Court Supreme Court of the Philippines

Full case People of the Philippines versus

name Francisco Juan Larrañaga alias "Paco";
Josman Aznar; Rowen Adlawan alias
"Wesley"; Alberto Cao alias "Allan
Pahak"; Ariel Balanasag; Davidson
Ariel Rusia alias "Tisoy Tagalog";
James Anthony Uy alias "Wangwang" and
James Andrew Uy alias "MM"

Decided February 3, 2004

Citation(s) G R. No. 138874-75

Case history

Prior Respondents found guilty beyond

action(s) reasonable doubt of simple kidnapping
and serious illegal detention and are
sentenced to suffer the penalty
of Reclusion perpetua (Criminal
Case No. CBU-45303 and 45304)

Appealed Regional Trial Court, Branch 7 Cebu

from City
Appealed to Court of Appeals of the Philippines

Subsequent Lobbied by Fair Trials

action(s) International to the United Nations
Commission on Human Rights, European
Union, Amnesty
International and Spanish
Government. Respondent Larrañaga was
transferred to Spain to observe his
prison term, by virtue of Treaty on
the Transfer of Sentenced Persons

Related Abolition of Capital punishment in the

action(s) Philippines


Respondents are gulity beyond reasonable doubt of

the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious
illegal detention with homicide and rape and are
sentenced to suffer the penalty of death by lethal
injection, Motion for reconsideration were denied by
the Supreme Court En Banc

Court membership

Judges Hilario Davide Jr., Reynato

sitting Puno, Artemio Panganiban, Leonardo
Quisumbing, Consuelo
Ynares-Santiago, Angelina
Sandoval-Gutierrez, Antonio
Carpio, Alicia
Austria-Martinez, Renato
Corona, Conchita
Carpio-Morales, Romeo Callejo
Sr., Adolfo Azcuna, Dante
Tinga, Minita
Chico-Nazario, Cancio C. Garcia

Laws applied

Philippine criminal law

The Chiong murder case (People of the Philippines vs. Francisco Juan
Larrañaga et al.) was an incident on July 16, 1997 in Cebu, in which sisters
Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong allegedly were kidnapped, raped, and
murdered.[1][2] Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga (b. 1977), a man of
dual Filipino and Spanish citizenship was, along with six others, convicted of
murder, and sentenced to death by lethal injection on February 3,
2004. Capital punishment in the Philippines has since been abolished .

But with further studies and clarifications, this case was considered as flawed.

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 (This was later disputed as there was no formal
identification of the body, and later thought not to be the body of one of the
sister's.) [3] The other sister was never found.[3][4][5][6] The prosecutors' case
against Larrañaga centered on the testimony of a co-defendant, David
Valiente Rusia.[5] In exchange for blanket immunity, he testified. The trial
court only permitted Larrañaga’s counsel to cross-examine Rusia 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 the
prosecution and the court concerning his prior convictions. While Rusia had
claimed he had never been convicted of crime, in fact he had a record of
burglary and forgery. Rusia fainted when confronted with this evidence.
Davidson Rusia is a convicted felon who was a gang member and was
sentenced to prison twice in the United States for other crimes.[7] 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[7] and only
appeared as a “state witness” 10 months after the event.

Forty-two witnesses,[3] 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.[5][8][9] However, the trial court considered these testimonies
irrelevant, rejecting these as coming from "friends of the accused," and they
were not admitted.[1][3][5][6][8] 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.[3]

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.[3] 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.

Nevertheless, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction of the accused without
reasonable doubt.

The seven co-defendants were convicted of murder and sentenced to death
by lethal injection on February 3, 2004.[4][5][8]

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.[5] 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.[10] 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.[3] 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,[3] stated that Larrañaga had served a lengthy sentence for
a crime he could not have committed.

Years after the verdict, questions still linger, and there is dissatisfaction with
the outcome of events on both sides.[6][11][12][13]

Abolition of the death penalty[edit]

On June 24, 2006, capital punishment was abolished in the

Transfer of Larrañaga to Spain[edit]

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.[15]

Larrañaga is the son of Spanish pelotari Manuel Larrañaga and Filipino

Margarita González,[1][8] and, through his mother, 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".[5][16]

In September 2009, the Department of Justice approved Larrañaga's transfer

to a Spanish prison. Thelma Chiong, the mother of the 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,"[17] 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.[4]

Larrañaga, escorted by two Spanish Interpol agents,[11] left for Spain on

October 6, 2009.[2][18] 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.[2] According to Philippine Justice
Secretary Agnes Devanadera, Philippine law will continue to be observed for
the remainder of Larrañaga's prison term.[19] 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.”[11] He also expressed resentment that
he and his wife only learned about Larrañaga's departure through the

Less than a week after Larrañaga's transfer, two Filipinos incarcerated in the
Philippines stated their wish to also serve the rest of their sentences in Spain
under the provisions of the treaty.[15] A supporter of Larrañaga has also
sought a reinvestigation of the murder case in order to clear the six other

Thelma Chiong expressed the possibility of her and her husband, Dionisio,
visiting Larrañaga in Spain. Larrañaga, born in 1977, will be 61 when he is

Popular culture[edit]
Film Adaptations

 The episode of the untold story of Chiong Sisters for the 1998 TV
Drama series "Katapat: Mayor Fred Lim" on ABS CBN.
 Give Up Tomorrow, 2011 documentary film by Michael Collins and
Marty Syjuco

 Jacqueline Comes Home (The Chiong Story), 2018 biographical film

directed by Ysabelle Peach Caparas starring Meg Imperial and Donnalyn
Bartolome as the Chiong sisters

1. ^ Jump up to:a b c "Filipinas conmuta la pena capital de Larrañaga por cadena
perpetua · ELPAÍ". Retrieved 2010-07-26.

2. ^ Jump up to:a b c "Larrañaga será trasladado a la cárcel de Soto del Real cuando
aterrice en España · ELPAÍ". 2010-07-14.
Retrieved 2010-07-26.

3. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i "Fair Trials International: Cases: Francisco Juan

Larrañaga (Paco)". Archived from the original on 2009-07-10.
Retrieved 2010-07-26.

4. ^ Jump up to:a b c "'RP obliged to transfer rapist' -, Philippine News

for Filipinos". Archived from the original on 2009-09-09.
Retrieved 2010-07-26.

5. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h "The Chiong Sisters Rape-Murder Case - 9/05/09". Archived from the original on 2009-09-09.
Retrieved 2010-07-26.

6. ^ Jump up to:a b c "Trace of violence: The Chiong murder case - Public Affairs -
GMANews.TV - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine
News". GMANews.TV. Retrieved 2010-07-26.
7. ^ Jump up to:a b “”. "Case Unclosed "The Chiong murder case"". YouTube.
Retrieved 2010-07-26.

8. ^ Jump up to:a b c d "Pide un juicio justo para Paco Larrañaga, español condenado a
muerte en Filipinas". 2005-04-18. Retrieved 2010-07-26.

9. Jump up^ “”. "Framed for Murder? Filipino Paco Larrañaga Speaks from Jail".
YouTube. Retrieved 2010-07-26.

10. Jump up^ The EU itself forbids capital punishment and its abolition is a
requirement for any applicant state.

11. ^ Jump up to:a b c [1] Archived October 8, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

12. Jump up^ Editorial cartoon from the Sun.Star[permanent dead link]

13. ^ Jump up to:a b c [2] Archived October 11, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.

14. Jump up^ "Sun.Star Cebu - Arroyo kills death law". 2006-06-25.
Archived from the original on 2008-06-17. Retrieved 2010-07-26.

15. ^ Jump up
to:a b
ph/cebu/2-%E2%80%98-exchange%E2%80%99-paco. Archived from the
original on October 11, 2009. Retrieved October 9, 2009. Missing or
empty |title= (help)

16. Jump up^, Spaniard might be first beneficiary in prisons exchange
pact ArchivedJune 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.

17. Jump up^ "Convict in Chiong rape-murders to be transferred to Spain - Nation -

GMANews.TV - Official Website of GMA News and Public Affairs - Latest Philippine
News". GMANews.TV. Retrieved 2010-07-26.

18. Jump up^ [3][dead link]

19. Jump up^ "Convicted rapist Larrañaga leaves for Spain | The Philippine Star >>
News >> Headlines". Retrieved 2010-07-26.

20. Jump up^ "'After Paco, give break to six Chiong convicts' -,
Philippine News for Filipinos". 2006-04-16. Archived
from the original on 2012-07-13. Retrieved 2010-07-26.