MANILA - The camp of Francisco Juan "Paco" Larrañaga is set to file a formal petition seeking clemency from President Rodrigo Duterte, following public petitions to free the Spanish-Filipino who figured in rape-slay case in the late 90s.
Maintaining that her client is innocent, lawyer Sandy Coronel said Sunday they are hoping Duterte will hear them out, especially since Larrañaga and his co-accused have been in prison for almost 20 years.
Larrañaga was among seven men imprisoned for allegedly raping and killing sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu City in 1997.
Public interest in the Chiong rape-slay case was rekindled after the film "Jacqueline Comes Home" hit theaters this month.
The film also generated interest in an earlier documentary "Give Up Tomorrow" which examined the Philippine justice system and the claim of innocence by those accused in the Chiong case.
"None of these kids ay may record ng drugs. Nawala 'yung drugs angle. Takot ba tayo kasi 'yun 'yung link sa pamilya Chiong? Nawala 'yung storya, 'yung link nung drugs," Coronel said.
Coronel called on Duterte to look into the possible links of the Chiong sisters' father Dionisio to illegal drugs, including alleged big-time drug lord Peter Lim.
"Baka naman ngayon with this government's renewed interest in curbing criminality na related to drugs, baka maungkat ulit ang investigation sa personality na ito," Coronel said.
Thelma Chiong, mother of the Chiong sisters meanwhile said she believes Duterte will deny clemency.
"Si Duterte ang ika-apat na presidenti na dinaanan nila. Si Duterte pa kaya who hates drugs and criminals. Tapos na ang kaso theres nothing they can do about it. Malabo ang PARDON they came from DEATH row, inabolish lang ang Death Penalty Law," the Chiong matriarch said in a text statement.
"Clemency naman is a presidential prerogative. So they (the Chiongs) can also file whatever they want to file in opposition, and that will also be considered," Coronel said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.
Coronel clarified that the current petition to free Larrañaga was not initiated by their camp. She said they just want to bring the petition to the proper forum, hoping for consideration from Duterte, who continues to wage war against illegal drugs.
Larrañaga's camp said a signature campaign to free Paco has gathered close to 150,000 signatures so far.
The six other accused are Jozman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Cano, Ariel Balansag, James Andrew Uy and James Anthony Uy—all members of prominent Cebuano families. Larrañaga is a great-grandson of Sergio Osmeña Sr.
Larrañaga and his co-accused were sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 for kidnapping and illegal detention, a conviction the Supreme Court later modified with additional murder and rape charges.
In 2009, he was moved to a Spanish prison because of his dual citizenship.
- Report from Angel Movido, ABS-CBN News