THE family of convicted murder suspect Francisco “Paco” Larrañaga is open to the idea of asking for executive clemency from President Rodrigo Duterte.
Larrañaga and six others were convicted in 1999 for the kidnapping, illegal detention, and murder of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong.
In an interview over radio dyLA, Larrañaga's mother, Margarita, admitted that the President's clemency could help expedite the release of his son from jail in Spain.
Executive clemency is a power of the President to commute sentences in criminal cases.
But in an interview Wednesday, July 18, Thelma Chiong, mother of Marijoy and Jacqueline, told SunStar Cebu that it is “impossible” for Larrañaga’s family to secure a presidential pardon from Duterte considering the President's “anti-crime” stance.
Chiong said the Larrañaga family had sought executive clemency from the administrations of former Presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III but to no avail.
Though Larrañaga never received executive clemency during Aquino’s term, it was during the term of former President Arroyo that the 41-year-old convicted murderer was given the approval to be transferred to Spain.
It was also during Arroyo’s time that capital punishment was repealed, which spared Larrañaga and the rest of the Chiong Seven from death row.
“Dili ko mutuo nga muhatag ug presidential pardon si President Duterte. Dili man gane siya mu-grant ug pardon sa mga criminals nga gawas sa prisohan, kana pa kahang napriso na,” Chiong said.
But Margarita said “whether or not they believe it, I know the truth that my son was in Quezon City on July 16, 1997. But I just leave it all to God. I hope one of these days, the truth will come out.”
She maintained that her son has nothing to do with the disappearance of Marijoy and Jacqueline, who were reportedly kidnapped outside Ayala Center Cebu on July 16, 1997.
The Chiong family commemorated the 21st death anniversary of Marijoy and Jacqueline on Tuesday, July 16, by offering a mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral and visiting the sisters’ columbary at the Alliance of Two Hearts in Barangay Banawa, Cebu City.
They also attended the premiere of "Jacqueline Comes Home" (The Chiong Story) at SM Cebu City Cinema 1.
The story focused on the ordeal of the Chiong family after the abduction, rape, and murder of Marijoy and Jacqueline.
Margarita said she respects the Chiong's family in helping produce the film, but she maintained that her son was in Quezon City on the day the Chiong sisters were abducted.
“Maybe, one day we will have a chance to watch it. But as of now, I am attending to my husband in the hospital,” said Margarita.
Prior to the Chiong sisters’ film, Larrañaga’s relatives and friends also produced a documentary titled "Give Up Tomorrow."
The film started with Larrañaga, wearing an orange shirt intended for inmates, being asked whether he is prepared to be jailed or die by lethal injection.
“No,” said Larrañaga, the great-grandson of the late President Sergio Osmeña.
In the film, Larrañaga also shared his frustration after he was not given the opportunity by the court to take the witness stand to air his side of the story. He said he was illegally arrested and portrayed as a leader of the gang.
Although still in detention, he had a chance to work as a chef in a restaurant in Spain, earning about 1,000 euros per month.
Margarita said their family continues to search for justice since they believe that Larrañaga is innocent.
She said she does not to speak ill about the Chiong family since both of them wanted justice.
Jacqueline and Marijoy were 21 and 19, respectively, when they disappeared outside Ayala Center Cebu in 1997.
Two days later, the body of a young woman was found at the bottom of a ravine in Carcar City, which the Chiong family said was that of Marijoy.
On May 5, 1999, the late Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo convicted Larrañaga and his six co-accused of kidnapping and illegal detention.
Dubbed as the “Chiong Seven,” the six other convicts were 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.
Ocampo sentenced them to two life terms, instead of death.
The Supreme Court upheld Ocampo's ruling and imposed the death penalty on convicts Larrañaga, Aznar, Adlawan, Caño and Balansag on February 3, 2004.
During his arrest, Larrañaga was 19 years old and taking up culinary arts in a school in Quezon City. (JKV/GMD/SunStar Cebu)