The Cases Of Paco Larrañaga And Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi: Parallels? – Update: Malacanang Warns RP Can’t Risk Becoming A “Rogue State”
This may be a stretch.
But I am asking myself on this rainy Sunday if justice is not being waylaid in the impending release of a convicted rapist of two young girls to serve the remainder of the two life terms he is serving in a foreign jail by virtue of his father being national of that country.
The government of the day is saying nothing of this sort is happening since the action is based on a prisoner transfer treaty ratified by the Philippine Senate, with a crusading lawyer even giving the added justification that the convict has every right to be removed from “tortuous conditions” in the national penitentiary.
Should Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, the 32-year-old great-grandson of the late President Sergio Osmena Sr. indeed be shipped out to a Spanish jail over the protestations of the family of victims Jacqueline and Marijoy Chiong who were abducted, raped and murdered in 1997?V S
Aside from Paco, six other accused had been found guilty of the crimes.
Is Larrañaga qualified to be transferred to a Spanish jail considering that he was born and raised in the Philippines and was not Spanish by birth?
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had paid a state visit to Spain in December 2007 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Philippines-Spain relations.
Mrs. Arroyo came home from that auspicious trip bearing substantial assurances of development aid from the Philippines former colonial master, plus prospective deals expanding bilateral cooperation in the tourism, renewable energy and environmental technology, construction and medical services sectors.
But I can’t help but see a possible parallel in this emerging controversy over Larrañaga’s release and that of Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the man convicted of the terror bombing of a Pan Am jumbo jet over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people.
Al Megrahi was released on humanitarian grounds (and given a hero’s welcome in Libya) ostensibly because he is dying of prostate cancer.
But it has now emerged that trade and oil deals with Libya played a “very big part” in Britain’s decision to include the Lockerbie bomber in a prisoner transfer agreement between the two countries.
Megrahi was the only man convicted in the 1988 bombing of a U.S. airliner over the Scottish town of Lockerbie. The bombing killed 270 people.
This is not to argue that the young Larrañaga is not entitled to better prison conditiond but the Chiong family claims the Larrañagas and Osmeñas are so influential that the Philippines even ratified a prisoner-exchange treaty with Spain just for the convict.
Mrs. Margarita Larrañaga, for her part is reported as “very happy” over her son’s planned transfer to Spain, which, she says, has better prison facilities.
She says that compared to the Philippines, Spain can provide a “friendly environment” for her son, with the prison system in Spain allowing him to continue his studies.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde says Malacañang has nothing to do with the planned transfer of Larrañaga:
That kind of sentiment coming from the victims’ mother ( who was reported as saying the Arroyo administration is “criminal friendly”) is but natural. [But] what about the feelings of the mother of the accused?
It’s unfair to ascribe these things to the President or to the administration. The administration of justice is under the Supreme Court, which is a co-equal and independent branch of government.
Secretary Raul Gonzalez, the chief presidential chief legal counsel:
We have a treaty with Spain on exchange of prisoners. The President doesn’t have to be notified about it, as long as the requirements … are complied with.
We’re not criminal-friendly. We have the same treaty with Hong Kong. The people that will be transferred will still serve in jail.
We have a treaty that has been passed. Let’s not talk of something that has taken place already. This is a treaty that has been signed long ago. This was ratified by the Senate.
University of the Philippines law professor Harry Roque even agrees:
Under the UN torture convention, convicts can be repatriated to their homeland if there are tortuous conditions in their jails.
It’s not like he (Larrañaga) is getting away scot-free. He will serve his sentence in Spain.
Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera:
There are Filipinos who are detained in Spain and there are at least two Filipinos who would want to avail [themselves] of the treaty. Their applications are now being processed.
We are assuring the Chiong family that he would still be jailed when he is in Spain.
I realize this story may not be a gut issue for some readers since the opposing sides, the Larrañagas and Chiongs are both upper class families in Cebu.
But Lady Justice has a blindfold and is not supposed to discriminate, right?
Malacanang says the action in Larrañaga’s case cannot be undone.
Chief presidential legal counsel Raul Gonzalez:
It would make the Philippines a rogue country. We will all look like fools when we sign and ratify a treaty and not recognize it later on.
I see no possibility that the President would reverse Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera’s approval of Larrañaga’s transfer unless there is abuse on the part of the Department of Justice.
I don’t think the President will violate the RP-Spain Transfer of Sentenced Persons Agreement Treaty.
The government can always renegotiate or even abrogate the treaty, but not ignore its provisions while it was “valid and in existence.
The treaty was ratified by the Senate. Critics) should not raise new questions on matters debated on and settled already.
We may not agree with this but I think the cause of the Chiong’s is lost.