WHATWENT BE­FORE: The Chiong Sis­ters Rape- Mur­der Case

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - Second Frontpage - By Inquirer Re­search

ON MAY 5, 1999, CEBU RE­gional Trial Court Judge Martin Ocampo found seven young men guilty of kid­nap­ping sis­ters Jac­que­line and Mar­i­joy Chiong on July 16, 1997, in Cebu City.

He sen­tenced to two life terms each Fran­cisco Juan “ Paco” Lar­rañaga, 19, great-grand­son of the late Pres­i­dent Ser­gio Os­meña Sr. and scion of the prom­i­nent Os­meña clan; Jos­man Az­nar, 24, whose fam­ily owns sev­eral prop­er­ties in Cebu, in­clud­ing South­west­ern Uni­ver­sity, Sa­cred Heart Hospi­tal, and Alta Vista Golf and Coun­try Club; Rowen Ad­lawan, 21; broth­ers James An­drew, 17, and James An­thony Uy, 16; and van driver Al­berto Caño, 31, and con­duc­tor Ariel Balansag, 21.

Ocampo said the prose­cu­tion failed to es­tab­lish that the sis­ters were raped and killed by their ab­duc­tors.

In his tes­ti­mony in Au­gust 1998, sus­pect-turned-state wit­ness David­son Valiente Rusia re­counted the ab­duc­tion and con­se­quent rape of the Chiong sis­ters.

He said he was present at most of the episodes of the crimes, and pointed to Az­nar and Ad­lawan as the ones who seized Jac­que­line, 22, and Mar­i­joy, 20, while the sis­ters

Rented van


were wait­ing for a ride home at Ayala Cen­ter Cebu.

Rusia said the sis­ters were taken in a rented van to a house in Guadalupe, Cebu City, where they were raped in sep­a­rate rooms by Az­nar, Ad­lawan, Lar­rañaga and James An­drew Uy.

He said Balansag and Caño then drove the van to Car­car town where Mar­i­joy, her head wrapped in mask­ing tape, was pushed off a cliff. He said Jac­que­line was taken back to the city early the next day.

Mar­i­joy’s body­was found two days af­ter the ab­duc­tion. An au­topsy con­ducted on July 20, 1997, in­di­cated that she was raped by more than one man and, based on “ vi­tal tis­sues re­ac­tion” noted dur­ing the au­topsy, pushed off the cliff alive.

She was found to have died of brain hem­or­rhage and phys­i­cal in­juries that in­cluded mul­ti­ple frac­tures in the skull, left clav­i­cle and ribs; a dis­lo­cated right knee; lac­er­ated wounds on the fore­head and hand; con­tu­sions on the fore­head and ab­domen; and abra­sions in var­i­ous parts of the body.

Jac­que­line has not been found to this day.

All of the ac­cused de­nied the charges.

Lar­rañaga pre­sented wit­nesses and ev­i­dence, in­clud­ing pho­to­graphs, to prove he was in Que­zon City at the time of the crimes.

Years later, his friends con­tin­ued to pro­claim his in­no­cence. In a press con­fer­ence in Novem­ber 2004, they claimed that Lar­rañaga was with them at a culi­nary school in Que­zon City where he was en­rolled at around the time the crime was com­mit­ted.

Lar­rañaga him­self, in a let­ter he sent to the United Na­tions’ hu­man rights com­mit­tee in Au­gust 2005, made the same claim.

Death penalty

On Feb. 3, 2004, the Supreme Court im­posed the death penalty on the con­victs— ex­cept for James An­thony Uy, a mi­nor at the time of the crimes.

In­stead of merely af­firm­ing the sen­tences handed down by Ocampo, the high court said the seven were guilty of kid­nap­ping and se­ri­ous il­le­gal de­ten­tion with homi­cide and rape.

The case re­mained on ap­peal in the high court, and drew calls for a “ fair trial” from for­eign groups, in­clud­ing the Madrid Bar As­so­ci­a­tion, Basque Bar, Barcelona Bar, a rights watch­dog group from the Euro­pean Union, and the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. Lar­rañaga, who is half-Span­ish, also found al­lies in the Span­ish In­terPar­lia­men­tary Union del­e­ga­tion con­sist­ing of leg­is­la­tors from Spain’s rul­ing and op­po­si­tion blocs.

In Fe­bru­ary 2005, the Supreme Court de­nied “ for lack of merit” Lar­rañaga’s pe­ti­tion to have his case heard at the Court of Ap­peals.


On Easter Sun­day 2006, Pres­i­dent Ma­ca­pa­gal-Ar­royo com­muted all death sen­tences to life terms, thereby sav­ing the six con­victs from lethal in­jec­tion.

In Novem­ber 2007, the Se­nate rat­i­fied a pris­on­ers ex­change treaty with Spain. The treaty on the Trans­fer of Sen­tenced Per­sons pro­vided for the re­turn home of the con­victed cit­i­zens of each other’s coun­try.

Sen. Miriam De­fen­sor-San­ti­ago, the treaty’s spon­sor, said the rat­i­fi­ca­tion would ben­e­fit Lar­rañaga.

In her visit to Spain in De­cem­ber 2007, Ms Ar­royo was lauded by King Juan Car­los I for be­ing a “ hu­man rights de­fender.” He cited her abo­li­tion of the death penalty.


BOYSONTHE BUS The con­victs in the rape and killing of the Chiong sis­ters ar­rive in Manila on their way to the Na­tional Bili­bid Prison in Muntinlupa City on May 15, 1999.

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