THE CRIME, AND PACO LARRAÑAGA'S ALIBI
The sisters were last seen at Ayala Center Cebu on the night of July 16, 1997. Witnesses stated under oath that they saw Paco and another man talking to the Chiongs at the West Entry of the commercial establishment.
On the other hand, Paco’s alibi placed him in Quezon City that night. Attendance records show that he attended class on the 16th, and then took his midterms exam at the Center for Culinary Arts on the 17th. (The court noticed, however, that his memory on what classes he took that day did not align with his instructors' testimonies.) His friends also swore that they were with him that night, as they hung out in a bar in Katipunan. They even took photos together. These photos were shown as evidence. The prosecutor later on dismissed these photos, suggesting that the photos were manipulated because in one photo, Paco wasn’t looking at the camera and that he was sitting in a chair that had a different color.
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The logbook from his condominium records him arriving home at 10:15 p.m., which the security guard on duty attested to. However, this entry was written on the uppermost portion of the logbook and sandwiched between two entries recorded at 10:05 p.m. It was as if the entry was written there later on, according to the en banc decision.
Despite these discrepancies, however, there were also over forty witnesses who claimed that they had seen Paco in Quezon City on July 16. Their testimonies were not given weight by the court, which decided that they were Paco’s friends, and are therefore interested parties.
The prosecution’s attack focused on the fact that Paco couldn’t prove that he wasn’t in Cebu the same nights. They claimed that the travel time from Manila to Cebu via plane just takes an hour. There were four flights going to Cebu from Manila that night, flight records showed. There were also regular flights going back to Manila the next day.
“Indeed, Larrañaga's presence in Cebu City on July 16, 1997 proved to be not only a possibility but a reality,” the 2004 decision read.
The defense wanted proof. Where are the records showing that Paco flew? Even if he used a private plane, there must be a record somewhere. Even then, did he really have enough time to fly to Cebu, rape and murder the girls, then fly back to Manila to take his test the next day? These questions fell on deaf ears. Representatives of these four airlines later testified that Paco did not get on any of their flight for the 16th. Paco did fly to Cebu but it was on the afternoon of the 17th. Was he just flying back and forth this entire time?
On September 15, 1997, four men in plainclothes, armed and claiming to be policemen, went to Paco’s school. They wanted to take him to Camp Crame. According to Paco’s sister, Mimi, who rushed to the scene, the men had expired police IDs and had no warrant. It was only then that they also found out that Paco was being investigated related to the Chiong case. At that time, they even went to the registrar’s office which produced attendance records of Paco during the said dates. The men released Paco on condition that he would go to Cebu the next day for questioning.
In the documentary, Paco confessed that he considered fleeing the country then. He could have easily gone to Spain or the US, where his dad and brother were living. Instead, he remained in the Philippines so that he could clear his name.
The documentary includes the revelation that these young men, most of whom came from well-to-do families, had records with the police for getting into trouble
In Cebu, Paco was rounded up with Josman Aznar; Rowen Adlawan, alias "Wesley"; Alberto Cao alias "Allan Pahak"; Ariel Balanasag; James Anthony Uy, alias "Wangwang"; and James Andrew Uy, alias "MM" who were also convicted of participating in the crime; they were dubbed "the Chiong Seven" by the media. According to Paco, he only knew Josman and Rowen. He also insisted that he wasn’t acquainted with the Chiong sisters, despite allegations from the Chiong family that Paco was one of Marijoy's suitors. Despite these claims and the lack of hard evidence tying the boys to the crime, the trial commenced.
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The documentary includes the revelation that these young men, most of whom came from well-to-do families, had records with the police for getting into trouble. Facing the camera, Paco admits his troublemaking streak, though the documentary never presents any other crimes he might have been was accused of.
But that past allegation may be why he was also allegedly singled out by the NBI as a probable suspect. Paco had been accused of attempting to abduct a high-school student from the University of San Carlos Girls High School. The evidence presented to court was a letter dated September 25, 1996, addressed to the Student Affairs Office, University of San Carlos.
The parents of the first-year high school student complained that their daughter and two other friends were waiting for their ride home near the school campus when a black Honda Civic with five young male teenagers, including the driver, suddenly stopped beside them. One of the men was allegedly Paco, who was a college student in the same university at the time. He allegedly grabbed the girl by her hand and tried to force her into their vehicle. “She resisted and got away from him. Sensing some people were watching what they were doing, they hurriedly sped away,” the letter states.
This incident did not certainly help Paco’s defense, but things only got worse ten months later, when a witness appeared. Davidson Valiente Rusia claimed to be part of Paco’s gang, and testified that he met Adlawan at the mall, thinking that there would be a party. At 10:30 p.m., he said, they boarded a white car with Aznar. When they reached Archbishop Reyes Avenue, they grabbed Marijoy and Jacqueline from the waiting shed and forced them into the car.
These girls were brought to the so-called Jozman Aznar Group safehouse located in Guadalupe, Cebu City. After which, they were brought to Tan-awan, where Paco and his gang allegedly drank and had a pot session. According to Rusia, they took turns raping the victims before pushing Marijoy into the 150-meter deep ravine.
Rusia never relayed what happened to Jacqueline, nor was he ever asked by the prosecution. When he was up for cross-examination, he suddenly asked to be excused, claiming he wasn’t feeling well. Rusia was a convicted felon in the US, and there were whispers that time that Rusia had been beaten into a forced confession. Other witnesses were said to be paid, and others who signed affidavits, stating that they saw the van or the witnesses in places where the crime took place, later on admitted that they didn’t understand what they were signing.
On May 5, 1999, Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo sentenced all accused of two life terms, while Rusia got away by virtue of his blanket immunity as star witness.
The verdict was passed on May 5, 1999 by Cebu Regional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo. He sentenced all accused of two life terms, while Rusia got away by virtue of his blanket immunity as star witness. Ocampo’s reasoning was there was indeed kidnapping, but the murder can’t be proven because he wasn’t convinced that the body found was Marijoy’s. (During the trial, fingerprints analyzed were said to have matched those in Marijoy’s voter's records. The defense, however, questioned the validity of this evidence.) The police officers and prosecutors involved in the case were promoted shortly after.
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The Chiongs were not happy. They had wanted a death sentence. On October 7, 1999, Ocampo’s body was found lifeless in a room in Waterfront Hotel in Mactan. The judge left a suicide note, explaining his feeling of hopelessness and loss of purpose. The Senate asked for a re-autopsy of the body and it was eventually declared to be suicide. Yet rumors persisted that Ocampo was murdered, since the note was never analyzed, and because there were reports that he may have been accompanied by a woman that night.
While the documentary didn’t delve much further into Ocampo’s death, it did refute the claims that the Chiongs were powerless compared to Paco who came from a political family. It was shown in the docu that Cheryl Jimenea was at that time Estrada’s personal secretary and that Thelma also had connections to a Supreme Court judge.
Paco’s camp appealed to the Supreme Court on the grounds of a mistrial, but it was a fruitless appeal. Paco wasn’t even allowed to defend himself during the regional trial proceedings. Instead, the Supreme Court elevated their sentence to death penalty by lethal injection on February 3, 2004. James Uy was made an exception because he was a minor when the alleged crime was committed. They were also asked to pay the amounts of P100,000.00 as civil indemnity, P25,000.00 as temperate damages, P150,000.00 as moral damages, and P100,000.00 as exemplary damages.
On October 7, 1999, Ocampo’s body was found lifeless in a room in Waterfront Hotel in Mactan...The Senate asked for a re-autopsy of the body, and it was eventually declared to be suicide. Yet rumors persisted that the judge was murdered