THREE of the seven convicts in the kidnapping and serious illegal detention of Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997 have been granted early release in August 2019, according to national reports quoting Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) documents.
CNN Philippines reported on Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, that it obtained copies of the release orders of Josman Aznar, Alberto Caño and Ariel Balansag—three of the seven convicts in the controversial Chiong case.
They were released on Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA), a provision in the Revised Penal Code that shortens jail time for good behavior, CNN Philippines reported.
The release orders, dated Aug. 16, said the three had served 40 years upon retroactive application of Republic Act 10592.
The three convicts, according to the documents, were “certified to have no other legal cause to be further detained” and “shall be released from confinement.”
Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, in a radio interview Friday, said BuCor had issued release orders for Aznar, Caño and Balansag.
In an interview over Radio dzBB, Lacson said a certain “Marquez” signed the order, not BuCor chief Nicanor Faeldon himself.
Faeldon has denied signing the documents.
In Cebu City, Chiong matriarch Thelma told SunStar Cebu that the news of the release of Aznar, Caño and Balansag devastated her.
“Murag gipatay balik ang akong mga anak. (It’s like they killed my children all over again.) Like I’m reliving the nightmare that my family felt 22 years ago,” Chiong said.
She also fears for her life especially since those involved in her daughters’ deaths are now out of jail.
Chiong earlier said that those convicted of her daughters’ abduction and murder should not have the privilege to avail themselves of early release through the GCTA, citing a provision in Republic Act 9346 that abolished the death penalty in 2006.
According to the law, those whose sentences were reduced to life imprisonment are not eligible for parole, she said. Only a presidential pardon can save the Chiong 7 from their sentences, Chiong added.
But Faeldon’s alleged act of signing the release orders for three of the Chiong 7 members was a “travesty of justice,” Chiong said.
“Four presidents have come and gone, but the Chiong 7 never got a presidential pardon. But here comes Faeldon who easily released them without considering the legal ramifactions of his act,” Chiong said.
Chiong, who has retired from her work as a member of the Crusade Against Violence (CAV) Visayas, said it’s up to the national government to correct Faeldon’s blunder.
But even if the national government attempts to re-arrest Aznar, Caño and Balansag, Chiong doubts if the three will surrender to the authorities.
In an interview, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said prisoners convicted of heinous crimes but granted a reduction in their time served through the GCTA will have to be sent back to jail.
Panelo said heinous crime convicts need to serve their full jail time as they are not eligible to avail themselves of the benefits granted under RA 10592.
“That cannot be done because the law is very clear. Republic Act 10592 is very clear that those charged and convicted of heinous crimes, escapees, habitual delinquents and recidivists are not covered by the law,” Panelo said in a press briefing held in China.
Aznar, Caño and Balansag were convicted in the Chiong kidnapping and serious illegal detention cases on May 5, 1999, along with Francisco “Paco” Larrañaga, Rowen Adlawan, and brothers James Andrew and James Anthony Uy.
Larrañaga was transferred to a penitentiary in Madrid, Spain after the Department of Justice approved his transfer there, citing the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons.
Sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline were kidnapped outside the Ayala Center Cebu Mall on the night of July 16, 1997.
Marijoy was found dead two days later. Her body was dumped at the bottom of a ravine in Sitio Tan-awan, Barangay Guadalupe, Carcar City.
Jacqueline’s body has never been found. (JKV/SunStar Philippines)