Sunday, October 14, 2012

Free Paco now!

I am no law expert, but this I learned and I can say with conviction that from the beginning of his arrest, a string of justice protocols were violated by the very same persons who swore to uphold them. I admit I am a journalist of this country yet honestly and lamentably, I know that his case was a glaring proof of the existing irresponsible and shameful shadow of the very same industry I live in. Lastly, I am a Filipino and until such time before seeing the film, I was one among the many who didn't care.

He fits the criteria of a hoodlum-in-the-making. Paco Larrañaga, a half Filipino, half Spanish teenage boy at that time, hailing from a popular clan in the Philippines, was the prime accused of the rape and murder of Chiong sisters, Jacqueline and Marijoy, in Cebu City. This was in 1997 and Paco was only 19. Fifteen years later, after being condemned to death by the Philippine Supreme Court, after spending years inside the hellish prison of the same country, Paco is now spending the rest of a seemingly unending sentence in some lonely Spanish cell.

The judge and justices, even the mob during then, didn't mind that Paco was 350 miles away from Cebu at the time the crime was said to have occurred. With at least 40 eyewitnesses plus supporting documents and photographs to prove it, nobody cared. This is what they saw and what the media that time portrayed: a privileged mestizo burly looking guy backed by a powerful political family and a record of petty offenses. Of course, he must be the criminal. No, they concluded instantly: he is the criminal.

Death! People shouted. Curses echoed making its way in every corner of Cebu's disturbed streets. Justice triumphed, they said. People celebrated, feasting at the thought if incarcerating the bad guy. Police was hailed for doing their job. David Rusia, the star witness who, based on his own testimony, raped and conspired to the murder of the Chiong sisters, was declared a hero.

The case is a web of inconsistencies, a disgusting mirror of a rotten criminal justice system always attached to the dingy politics. It did not matter that there was a system. It did not matter that there should be a hearing of the case. It did not matter that Paco had witnesses and that he himself wanted to testify but was denied because the judge was too sleepy to hear the defense. It did not matter that Paco is also protected by the very same laws they said they are trying to uphold. It did not matter that he should be presumed innocent. People wanted blood, and they game them that. From the moment Paco appeared before the public's eyes, he was already sentenced to death.

I understand that people should be angry, enraged of the thought of two innocent young ladies murdered in cold blood. But shouldn't we be angry at the thought of dragging a boy in the center of the arena of death just to satisfy our thirst for justice?

The government is at fault, the justice system and the media. Somehow I understand that because we are living in such harsh reality every waking day. But what I find appalling is our sick perversion to quickly judge. I couldn't fathom how people at that time missed the crucial points or did they really chose to ignore them? Blindly turned their backs to reason?

We wish not to belittle the suffering of the Chiong family, but I wish they did not conspire to the grand scheme of antagonizing an innocent man, coddling a questionable witness, just to have a bite of justice. And a fake one at that.

And so we march now and with conviction call for the release of Paco. I thank Marty and Michael because if not for their film, I would be one of those who didn't care. Free Paco. Now. Not only because Paco is innocent, not only because Paco could be anyone of us, but because Paco's story is happening as we speak now.

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Catch "Give Up Tomorrow" in its extended local screening: 

-SM Cebu and Greenbelt 3 until October 16
-Gateway Cineplex October 17-23

For more details visit

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