Thursday August 16, 2018

Wenceslao: Chiong case, again

Candid Thoughts

THE internet has democratized and sped up the spread of both information and disinformation. It’s an anything goes world. Individuals or groups can report events or create their own truths through the internet, social media especially, and be able to gather believers and consumers. But the medium that many believe would help provide enlightenment to humankind can also be an agent of confusion.

We have seen time and again in this modern age how a group of people with enough resources and online shrewdness can subject history and the truth to a relentless assault and shake belief in them. In the country, the best example is the revisionism spread by the heirs of the “original Macoy,” Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Some of the clueless now see Martial Law and Marcos’s rule in a different light.

The same revisionism is being wrapped nowadays around the celebrated case of the Chiong sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline, who disappeared in 1997 and whose disappearance led to the filing of charges against seven young men, among them a scion of the Osmeña clan Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga and a scion of the Aznar clan, Josman Aznar, and their subsequent conviction.

While the case was propped up by the testimony of Davidson Rusia, it was also strengthened by the narration of other witnesses, something that the revisionists conveniently overlook. They told the story of a group of mostly rich youngsters abducting Marijoy and Jacqueline in a mall, raping them in a van and throwing their bodies somewhere. A body found in Carcar was said to be that of Marijoy.

Of those convicted, Paco was the only one who put up a spirited fight outside of the courtroom and the detention center, apparently because he was the only one who had the resources to do so. He was able to have his detention transferred to Spain where he got a more lenient treatment. The revisionist documentary, “Give Up Tomorrow,” was produced by a Filipino whose brother is married to Paco’s sister.

As the years passed since the conviction of the respondents after around two years of litigation, the narrative of the case shifted from time to time depending upon who made the narration, or depending upon the depth of the research the one doing the narration did. But like in the Marcoses’ revisionist job, those questioning the conviction of the so-called Chiong 7 have been very aggressive.

I was among those who followed the litigation of the case and who was hoping that the Chiong sisters’ family would get the justice they deserved. I was also particularly interested in Rusia because like him I experienced testifying in a case. I waited for him to exhibit the sign of one who tells the truth, old friendships be damned. It finally came when Rusia broke down in court one time.

Witnesses rarely tell the whole truth of an incident they are testifying to. They withhold certain information and even the participation of certain people in the crime. They do so for a number of reasons, like to protect friends. It is therefore possible Rusia was selective in what he divulged. But I say his testimony did give us a generally truthful narration of what happened to the Chiong sisters.