Editorial: Revisiting a decided case

(Editorial Cartoon by Josua Cabrera)

THE case of sisters Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong was a celebrated one when it was heard by then Regional Trial Court Judge Judge Martin Ocampo, who committed suicide a few months after convicting the so-called “Chiong 7” for kidnapping and serious illegal detention (one caveat: there’s no information that the act was related to the conviction). It still is being discussed now.

Around 200 people led by activist priest Robert Reyes walked from the Casino Español to Fuente Osmeña to appeal to President Duterte to grant executive clemency to the seven: Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño, Ariel Balansag, and brothers James Anthony and James Andrew Uy.

The “Chiong 7” supporters naturally presented a one-sided view of the case to bolster the appeal for their release and the granting of executive clemency. The side of the Chiongs is being glossed over. Consider, too, that the Supreme Court eventually affirmed the conviction and even went for the higher penalty of death by lethal injection instead of “mere” life sentence.

Which is the problem with this business of looking back. It cannot substitute for actual observation when the event being looked back to, in this case the court trial, was unfolding. Meaning that it can’t be encompassing, making it vulnerable to efforts at revisionism. More so when the looking back involves judgment and not mere narration of facts, which can also be twisted or faked.

It is the right of supporters of the Chiong 7, though, to call for a review of the case—and the High Court has the power to do it. So, too, has the President the power to grant executive clemency. Both actions, though, can only be availed of in the interest of justice. These should not be resorted to in order to inflict injustice, which is why due care is needed in granting these.

“Let the wounds open in order for the truth to come out,” said Reyes. The priest put it well, but what if the truth has already come out and opening of the wound only serves to supplant it with untruth? Or if the case has already been well litigated and a review ends up becoming a process fraught with limitations?


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