Death penalty vs. five in Chiong case affirmed
By Jomar Canlas, Manila Times Reporter
THE Supreme Court unanimously affirmed on Thursday the death sentence meted against those convicted in the Chiong murder case, namely Francisco Juan Larranaga, Josman Asnar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Cano and Ariel Balansag.
In a 21-page resolution, the High Court en banc dismissed the claims of those convicted that the lower court erred in not considering that the police planted evidence against them and that the defendants had an alibi. Larranaga, Asnar, Ad-lawan, Cano and Balansag, through their lawyers, also claimed that the prosecution's witness, David Rusia, was coached during their trial and that a corpse found was not one of the victims, Marijoy Chiong.
The High Court backed the Cebu City Regional Trial Court's death sentence that found defendants guilty of the special complex crime of kidnapping and serious illegal detention with homicide and rape.
According to law, the five face execution by lethal injection.
"This case presents to us a balance scale whereby per-ched on one end is appellants' alibi supported by witnesses who were either their relatives, friends and classmates, while on the other end is the positive identification of the herein appellants by the prosecution witnesses who were not, in any way, related to the victims. With the above jurisprudence as guide, we are certain that the balance must tilt in favor of the latter," said the Court's resolution.
The Court pointed out that Larranaga's claim that he was in Quezon City when the abduction of the Chiong sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline, occurred did not satisfy the proof of physical impossibility since it was proven during the hearing that it takes only one hour to travel by plane from Manila to Cebu. The Court explained that an alibi does not suffice against positive identification by witnesses.
Meanwhile, the Court ordered the Office of the Solicitor General to get records from the local civil registrar of Cotabato City and the National Statistics Office to verify the claim of brothers James Andrew and James Anthony Uy that they were minors when the crime was committed. The brothers are among the accused.
The Court gave the Office of the Solicitor General 10 days to reply to the motion of reconsideration filed by the Uy brothers, who claimed the privileged mitigating circumstance of minority.
The Uy brothers and the five accused were found guilty of abducting Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong from the Ayala Center in Cebu City on July 16, 1997. Marijoy's body was found but Jacqueline is still missing. Rusia testified that he saw Rowen and Ariel pushing Marijoy into a deep ravine, following Josman's instruction to get rid of her.