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Introduction

Due Process is a fundamental human right. Due process refers to a fair


judicial process, which includes a fair trial, qualified legal representation, and the
ability to appeal. Due Process stands to safeguard the people from arbitrary denial of
life, liberty or property by the government outside the sanction of law.

The 1987 Philippine Constitution contains provisions on due process of law


which means that the State recognizes the indispensability of due process in the
State’s dealings with its constituents especially when it potentially involves
deprivation of life, liberty or property. This fundamental right is enshrined in the Bill of
Rights.

Section 1.

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of


law, nor shall any person be denied the equal protection of the laws. 1

It is under the same Article that the essentials of due process in criminal
prosecution is laid down.

Section 14.

No person shall be held to answer for a criminal offense without due process
of law.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall be presumed innocent until the
contrary is proved, and shall enjoy the right to be heard by himself and
counsel, to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against
him, to have a speedy, impartial, and public trial, to meet the witnesses face
to face, and to have compulsory process to secure the attendance of
witnesses and the production of evidence in his behalf. However, after
arraignment, trial may proceed notwithstanding the absence of the accused:
Provided, that he has been duly notified and his failure to appear is
unjustifiable. 2

1
Section 1 Article 3 1987 Philippine Constitution
2
Section 14 Article 3 1987 Philippine Constitution
Up until now, the kidnap, rape and murder of the Chiong Sisters continue to
perplex police investigators and forensic experts despite a guilty decision handed
down by the Supreme Court in 2004.The 1997 Chiong sisters’ kidnap, rape-murder
case has been a polarizing one. Each camp posits conflicting accounts and even
resorting to artistic retelling.

In 2011, the documentary “Give Up Tomorrow” depicting the side of the


accused, surfaced. The documentary film exhibited the ordeal of Francisco “Paco”
Larrañaga who was convicted with six other young men in Cebu City for the 1997
kidnapping and murder of the Chiong sisters. Very recently this year, 2018, the film
“Jacqueline comes home”, which presented the case from the Chiong’s point of view,
was shown in cinemas nationwide.

Twenty-one (21) years has passed since the commission of the crime, but the
case still continues to be controversial and divisive. Many have taken their sides
based on what they have watched or read. Some have sympathized with the
accused after they have watched the “Give Up Tomorrow” documentary, and some
have felt for the Chiongs after watching the “Jacqueline Comes Home” film. There
are others who have read articles regarding the case and there are those who have
suspended judgment until they have taken into account the opposing arguments of
both sides.

The researcher of this case study is of the position that the accused,
Francisco “Paco” Larrañaga is guilty of the crime and that the Supreme Court’s
decision should stand. This paper will attempt to exhaustively explain the
researcher’s position regarding the case. The researcher, in taking a stance, has
taken into consideration the following materials:

a. People vs. Larranaga G.R No. 138874-75


b. Francisco Juan Larranaga vs. The Philippines
c. Give Up Tomorrow Documentary
d. Jacqueline Comes Home Film
e. Inquirer, Rappler and GMA Network News Articles
The Case

The trial of the century involves the kidnapping and illegal detention of
a college beauty queen, Marijoy Chiong along with her comely and
courageous sister, Jacqueline Chiong.

Onset of the case, the rest of the accused pleaded not guilty to the
charge. Francisco Juan Larranaga refused to plead, hence, the trial court
entered for him the plea of not guilty.

The Regional Trial Court, Branch 7, Cebu City in Criminal Case CBU
45303-45304 found the accused, Francisco Juan Larranaga and seven (7)
others guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crimes of kidnapping and
serious illegal detention and sentencing each of them to suffer the penalties of
two (2) reclusiones perpetua and to indemnify the heirs of the victims.

All other accused raised issues pertaining to the charges they were
convicted for. In appealing his case before the Supreme Court, Francisco
Juan Larranaga alleges seven (7) issues or errors against the Regional Trial
Court which are as follows:

"6.1 The trial court erred in ignoring and violating due process rights
of the accused.

6.2 The trial court erred in allowing the discharge of accused


davidson rusia.

6.3 The trial court erred in giving partial credibility to the testimony of
davidson rusia.

6.4 The trial court erred in considering the testimonies of the other
witnesses.

6.5 The trial court erred in giving credence to the testimonies of


other witnesses.

6.6 The trial court erred in finding that the prosecution has overcome
the constitutional presumption of innocence.

6.7 the trial court erred in disregarding and rejecting, even at direct
testimony stage, the accused-appellant's defense of alibi.

Appellants' assignments of error converge on four points, thus: (1) violation of


their right to due process; (2) the improper discharge of Rusia as an accused to be a
state witness; (3) the insufficiency of the evidence of the prosecution.

The researcher will probe around these converged issues.

I. Violation of Appellant’s Right to Due Process

The accused alleges that his right to due process has been denied because
his rights as an accused were not observed. Of the enumerated rights of the
accused at the trial under Rule 115 of th Revised Rules of Court, what appellants
obviously claim as having been trampled upon by the trial court are their: (a) right to
be assisted by counsel at every stage of the proceedings; (b) right to confront and
cross-examine the prosecution witnesses; (c) right to produce evidence on their
behalf; and (d) right to an impartial trial.

On their right to be assisted by counsel at every stage of the proceedings,


appellants fault the trial court: first, for appointing counsel de oficio despite their
insistence to be assisted by counsel of their own choice; and second, for refusing to
suspend trial until they shall have secured the services of new counsel.

Appellants cannot feign denial of their right to counsel. The Court has held in People
vs. Macagaling that there is no denial of the right to counsel where a counsel de
oficio was appointed during the absence of the accused's counsel de parte, pursuant
to the court's desire to finish the case as early as practicable under the continuous
trial system.
The court said that the unceremonious withdrawal of appelants’ counsel de
parte during the proceedings of August 24, 1998, as well as their stubborn refusal to
return to the court for trial undermines the continuity of the proceedings. It was their
strategic machinations which prompted the trial court to appoint counsel de offiicio.

The court even went on to say that the appointment of counsel de oficio under
such circumstances is not proscribed by the Constitution , and that the "preference in
the choice of counsel" pertains more aptly and specifically to a person under
investigation rather than an accused in a criminal prosecution. And even if the Court
is to extend the "application of the concept of "preference in the choice of counsel" to
an accused in a criminal prosecution, such preferential discretion is not absolute as
would enable him to choose a particular counsel to the exclusion of others equally
capable.

In People vs. Barasina3, the Court Ruled:

"Withal, the word 'preferably' under Section 12 (1), Article 3 of the 1987
Constitution4 does not convey the message that the choice of a lawyer by a
person under investigation is exclusive as to preclude other equally
competent and independent attorneys from handling his defense. If the rule
were otherwise, then, the tempo of a custodial investigation, will be solely in
the hands of the accused who can impede, nay, obstruct the progress of the
interrogation by simply selecting a lawyer, who for one reason or another, is
not available to protect his interest. This absurd scenario could not have been
contemplated by the framers of the charter."

If the chosen counsel deliberately makes himself scarce, the court is not
precluded from appointing a de oficio counsel whom it considers competent and
independent to enable the trial to proceed until the counsel of choice enters his
appearance. Otherwise, the pace of a criminal prosecution will be entirely dictated by
the accused to the detriment of the eventual resolution of the case.
3
People vs. Barasina, G.R No. 109993, January 21, 1994, 229 SCRA 450

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Any person under investigation for the commission of an offense shall have the right to be informed of his
right to remain silent and to have competent and independent counsel preferably of his own choice. If the
person cannot afford the services of counsel, he must be provided with one. These rights cannot be waived
except in writing and in the presence of counsel.
Neither is there a violation of appellants' right to counsel just because the trial
court did not grant their request for suspension of the hearing pending their search
for new counsel. An application for a continuance in order to secure the services of
counsel is ordinarily addressed to the discretion of the court, and the denial thereof is
not ordinarily an infringement of the accused's right to counsel. The right of the
accused to select his own counsel must be exercised in a reasonable time and in a
reasonable manner.

In the present case, appellants requested either one (1) month or three (3)
weeks to look for new counsel. Such periods are unreasonable according to the
court as appellants could have hired new lawyers at a shorter time had they wanted
to. Constitutional guaranty of right to representation by counsel does not mean that
accused may avoid trial by neglecting or refusing to secure assistance of counsel
and by refusing to participate in his trial.

The court may deny accused's application to discharge his counsel where it
appears that such application is not made in good faith but is made for purposes of
delay. The Court said that, certainly, it is wrong for these lawyers to abandon
appellants in the proceeding before the trial court and unceasingly represent them in
the appellate courts. Indeed, in doing so, they made a mockery of judicial process
and certainly delayed the hearing before the court below.

In Lacambra vs. Ramos5, the court ruled:

"The Court cannot help but note the series of legal maneuvers resorted to and
repeated importunings of the accused or his counsel, which resulted in the
protracted trial of the case, thus making a mockery of the judicial process, not to
mention the injustice caused by the delay to the victim's family."

The Court went on to further say, that, They cannot walk out from a case
simply because they do not agree with the ruling of the judge. Being officers of the
court whose duty is to assist in administering justice, they may not withdraw or be
permitted to withdraw as counsel in a case if such withdrawal will work injustice to a
client or frustrate the ends of justice.

5
G.R No. 100359, May 20, 1994 232 SCRA 435
I.A Right to Confront and Cross-Examine the Prosecution Witnesses

The Court ruled that the appellants' assertion has no factual and legal
anchorage. For one, it is not true that they were not given sufficient opportunity to
cross-examine Rusia. All of appellants' counsel de parte had a fair share of time in
grilling Rusia concerning his background to the kidnapping of Marijoy and
Jacqueline.

That the trial court imposed limitation on the length of time counsel for
appellants may cross-examine Rusia cannot be labeled as a violation of the latter's
constitutional right. Considering that appellants had several lawyers, it was just
imperative for the trial court to impose a time limit on their cross-examination so as
not to waste its time on repetitive and prolix questioning.

In People vs. Gorospe6, the court ruled:

“The court has always the discretion to limit the cross-examination and to
consider it terminated if it would serve the ends of justice.”

The transcript of stenographic notes covering Rusia's cross-examination


shows that appellants' counsel had ample chance to test his credibility. Records
show that the failure of the PAO lawyers to cross-examine some of the prosecution
witnesses was due to appellants' obstinate refusal in view of appellants’ insistence
that their new counsel de parte will conduct the cross examination. On September
24, 1998, appellants' counsel de parte entered their appearances merely to seek
another postponement of the trial. Thus, in exasperation, Judge Ocampo remarked:

"Every time a defense counsel decides to withdraw, must an accused be


granted one (1) month suspension of trial to look for such new counsel to
study the records and transcripts? Shall the pace of the trial of these cases be
thus left to the will or dictation of the accused - whose defense counsels
would just suddenly withdraw and cause such long suspensions of the trial
while accused allegedly shop around for new counsels and upon hiring new
counsels ask for another one month trial suspension for their new lawyers to

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G.R No. L51513, May 15, 1984, 129 SCRA 233
study the records? While all the time such defense counsels (who allegedly
have already withdrawn) openly continue to 'advise' their accused-clients and
even file 'Manifestations' before this Court and Petitions for Certiorari,
Injunction and Inhibition on behalf of accused before the Court of Appeals and
the Supreme Court? What inanity is this that the accused and their lawyers
are foisting upon this Court? In open defiance of the provisions of SC A.O.
No. 104-96 that these heinous crimes cases shall undergo 'mandatory
continuous trial and shall be terminated within sixty (60) days'?"

During the hearing on October 12, 1998, Larrañaga's new counsel de parte,
Atty. Villarmia, manifested that he would not cross-examine the prosecution
witnesses who testified on direct examination when Larrañaga was assisted by
counsel de officio only. The next day, the counsel de parte of Josman, and brothers
James Anthony and James Andrew adopted Atty. Villarmia's manifestation. Counsel
for Rowen, Alberto and Ariel likewise refused to cross-examine the same witnesses.
Thus, in its Order dated October 14, 1998, the trial court deemed appellants to have
waived their right to cross-examine the prosecution witnesses.

The Court emphasized that, if some of the prosecution witnesses were not
subjected to cross-examination, it was not because the appellants were not given the
opportunity to do so.

I.B Right to Impartial Trial

Appellants imputes bias and partiality to Judge Ocampo when he asked


questions and made comments when the defense witnesses were testifying.

In its ruling, the court reiterated Canon 14 of the Canons of Judicial Ethics
states that a judge may properly intervene during trial to promote expeditious
proceeding, prevent unnecessary waste of time and dilly-dallying of counsel or clear
up obscurities. The test is whether the intervention of the judge tends to prevent the
proper presentation of a cause or the ascertainment of the truth in the matter where
he interposes his questions or comments.

The Court said that it cannot fault Judge Ocampo for exhaustively reminding
appellants' counsel of the parameters of alibi to ensure that there will be an orderly
and expeditious presentation of defense witnesses and that there will be no time
wasted by dispensing with the testimonies of witnesses which are not
relevant. Remarks which merely manifest a desire to confine the proceedings to the
real point in issue and to expedite the trial do not constitute a rebuke of counsel.

The Court went on to say that Judge Ocampo’s comments were just honest
observations intended to warn the witnesses to be candid in the court.

I.C The Right to Produce Evidence

Appellants assail the trial court's exclusion of the testimonies of four (4)
airlines personnel which were intended to prove that Larrañaga did not travel to
Cebu from Manila or from Cebu to Manila on July 16, 1997. The trial court's
exclusion of the testimonies is justified.

In the same way, the Court said that it cannot fault the trial court for not
allowing the defense to continue with the" tedious process of presenting additional
witnesses to prove Larrañaga's enrollment at the Center for Culinary Arts, located at
Quezon City, does not negate the possibility that he went home to Cebu City
sometime in July 1997 and stayed there for a while.

Due process of law is not denied by the exclusion of irrelevant, immaterial, or


incompetent evidence, or testimony of an incompetent witness.

II. The Improper Discharge of Rusia as an Accused to be a State


Witness

Appellants claim that Rusia was the "most guilty of both the charges of rape
and kidnapping" having admitted in open court that he raped Jacqueline. It bears
stressing that appellants were charged with kidnapping and illegal detention, Thus,
Rusia's admission that he raped Jacqueline does not make him the "most guilty" of
the crimes charged. The Court said that his participation, as shown by the
chronology of events, was limited to that of an oblivious follower who simply "joined
the ride" as the commission of the crimes progressed. And that clearly, the extent of
Rusia’s participation in the crimes charged does not make him the most guilty.
The Court said that, what makes Rusia's testimony worthy of belief is the
marked compatibility between such testimony and the physical evidence. Physical
evidence is an evidence of the highest order. Indeed, the details he supplied to the
trial court were of such nature and quality that only a witness who actually saw the
commission of the crimes could furnish. What is more, his testimony was
corroborated by several other witnesses who saw incidents of what he narrated.

III. Appreciation of the Evidence for the Prosecution and the Defense

The Court said that it reviewed the records exhaustively and found no
compelling reason why we should deviate from the findings of fact and conclusion of
law of the trial court. Rusia's detailed narration of the circumstances leading to the
horrible death and disappearance of Jacqueline has all the earmarks of truth.
Despite the rigid cross-examination conducted by the defense counsel, Rusia
remained steadfast in his testimony. The other witnesses presented by the
prosecution corroborated his narration as to its material points which reinforced its
veracity.

As between their mere denial and the positive identification and testimonies of
the prosecution witnesses, we are convinced that the trial court did not err in
according weight to the latter. For the defense of alibi to prosper, the accused must
show that he was in another place at such a period of time that it was physically
impossible for him to have been at the place where the crime was committed at the
time of its commission. A thorough examination of the evidence for the defense
shows that the appellants failed to meet these settled requirements. They failed to
establish by clear and convincing evidence that it was physically impossible for them
to be at the Ayala Center, Cebu City when the Chiong sisters were abducted. What
is clear from the evidence is that Rowen, Josman, Ariel, Alberto, James Anthony and
James Andrew were all within the vicinity of Cebu City on July 16, 1997.

As for “Paco”, he did not produce any evidence to show the last time he went
to Manila from Cebu prior to such crucial date. No less than four (4) witnesses for
the prosecution identified him as one of the two men talking to Marijoy and
Jacqueline on the night of July 16, 1997.
Shiela Singson testified that on July 16, 1997, at around 7:20 in the evening,
she saw Larrañaga approach Marijoy and Jacqueline at the West Entry of Ayala
Center. The incident reminded her of Jacqueline's prior story that he was Marijoy's
admirer. She (Shiela) confirmed that she knows Larrañaga since she had seen him
on five (5) occasions. Analie Konahap also testified that on the same evening of July
16, 1997, at about 8:00 o'clock, she saw Marijoy and Jacqueline talking to two (2)
men at the West Entry of Ayala Center. She recognized them as Larrañaga and
Josman, having seen them several times at Glicos, a game zone, located across her
office at the third level of Ayala Center. Williard Redobles, the security guard then
assigned at Ayala Center, corroborated the foregoing testimonies of Shiela and
Analie. In addition, Rosendo Rio, a businessman from Cogon, Carcar, declared that
he saw Larrañaga at Tan-awan at about 3:30 in the morning of July 17, 1997. The
latter was leaning against the hood of a white van.

Salvador Boton, the security guard assigned at the lobby of Loyola Heights
Condominium, testified on the entry of Larrañaga's name in the Condominium's
logbook to prove that he was in Quezon City on the night of July 16, 1997. However,
a cursory glance of the entry readily shows that it was written at the uppermost
portion of the logbook and was not following the chronological order of the entries.
Larrañaga's 10:15 entry was written before the 10:05 entry which, in turn, was
followed by a 10:25 entry. Not only that, the last entry at the prior page was 10:05.
This renders the authenticity of the entries doubtful.

Rowena Bautista, a teacher at the Center for Culinary Arts, Quezon City,
testified that Larrañaga attended her lecture on Applied Mathematics on July 16,
1997 from 8:00 o'clock to 11:30 in the morning. This runs counter to Larrañaga's
affidavit stating that on the said date, he took his mid-term examinations in the
subject Fundamentals of Cookery from 8:00 o'clock in the morning to 3:30 o'clock in
the afternoon.

Rusia positively identified the appellants. The settled rule is that positive
identification of an accused by credible witnesses as the perpetrator of the crime
demolishes alib7i, the much abused sanctuary of felons. Furthermore, Inspector
Edgardo Lenizo, a fingerprint expert, testified that the fingerprints of the corpse
matched those of Marijoy. The members of the Chiong family personally identified
the corpse to be that of Marijoy which they eventually buried.

Finally, the Court ruled that from the evidence of the prosecution, there is no
doubt that all the appellants conspired in the commission of the crimes charged.
Their concerted actions point to their joint purpose and community of intent. Well
settled is the rule that in conspiracy, direct proof of a previous agreement to commit
a crime is not necessary. It may be deduced from the mode and manner by which
the offense was perpetrated, or inferred from the acts of the accused themselves
when such point to a joint design and community of interest.

In concluding its ruling over the case, the court reminded: “We must be
reminded that justice is not ours to give according to our sentiments or emotions. It is
in the law which we must faithfully implement.”

CONCLUSION

The researcher is of the position that the Supreme Court is correct in


rendering its judgment against the accused.

The law and jurisprudence has time and time again established that alibi is
still the weakest defense. In the case at bar, the accused availed of this defense to
counter a physical evidence, which is evidence of highest order. The court had
already stated that for the accused’s alibi to be tenable, it must be established that it
was physically impossible for him to be in Cebu City when the victims were raped
and slain. Unfortunately, the accused failed to meet his side of the burden.

Apart from this, the inconsistencies in his testimonies and his witnesses
contribute to the weakening of his defense. The discrepancy in his and his
witnesses’ version of testimony ultimately did not help his case as these

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In a criminal action, a defense that the defendant was somewhere other than the scene of the crime when
the crime was committed. The fact or state of being somewhere other than the scene of the crime when the
crime was committed. (Law.yourdictionary)
inconsistencies do not only weaken his case but also cast doubts on the credibility of
the witnesses.

Indeed, it is true that the prosecution must rely upon the strength of evidence
and that the weakness of Paco’s defense is not the lone basis of holding him guilty.
The researcher is of the position that the prosecution fulfilled its side of the burden
when it presented Rusia as state witness whose testimonies are corroborative of the
other witnesses’ testimonies. A lot of witnesses as presented, were able to attest to
the incidents which Rusia disclosed. There were those who identified the victims and
the accused, there were those who identified with particularity the items sold by the
perpetrators, the vehicle used and the place they stopped by. All these coincide and
add to the validity of Rusia’s testimony as compared to the alibi set forth by the
defense. The finding of Marijoy’s corpse and the testimony of Rusia corroborated by
the testimonies of other witnesses, meet the requirement that, in any given crime,
physical evidence is the strongest evidence one can present, and when this
coincides with the testimonies, it could establish a solid case for the prosecution.
UNIVERSITY OF SAN JOSE – RECOLETOS
SCHOOL OF LAW
HUMAN RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
ACADEMIC YEAR 2018-2019

PEOPLE VS. LARRAÑAGA: A CASE STUDY

Submitted to:
Atty. Mae Elaine T. Bathan
Course Instructress

Submitted by:
Ronilyn C. Montejo
LLB-2