Give Up Tomorrow: A Man Wrongly Accused for the Chiong Sisters’ Case

Two Filipino-Chinese sisters, 23-year old Marijoy Chiong and 21-year old Jacqueline Chiong, disappeared on July 16, 1997. Two days later, the body of Marijoy was found at the bottom of a ravine, raped and murdered. The younger sister remains missing up to this date. Though, the “accused” mastermind Paco Larrañaga has been put to jail, the documentary “Give up Tomorrow” says otherwise. The documentary tells the side of the Paco and how he was wrongly accused for a crime he did not commit. This just proves how the justice system in the Philippines is.

On the day the sisters went missing, Paco was in Manila. He attended his culinary classes in the morning and went out with his classmates to party at night. The next day he was back at school for a day of exams.  Disappearance of the Chiong sisters happened three hundred miles way on the island of Cebu. Paco had a solid alibi, yet he was sentenced to life in jail.

Two months later, PAco was being arrested for the kidnapping, rape and murder of the Chiong sisters. Six other boys in Cebu were arrested. Although these boys were on a list of juvenile delinquents, there was no evidence linking them to the crime. Thelma Chiong, mother of the victims, claimed Paco had been dating and menacing Marijoy. Both Paco and his sister, Mimi both denied. Mimi began to suspect the Chiongs were hiding something.

Dionisio Chiong worked at a trucking company owned by an alleged drug lord. Dionisio had been scheduled to testify against the drug lord at a congressional hearing. But, he abruptly changed his mind. One would think that the murders were done to ensure Dionisio’s silence. It was later discovered that the police who arrested PAco were the alleged drug lord’s bodyguards and that the drug lord had ties to the police.

Police searched Larrañaga’s property to find any evidence to the crime. Nothing was found. Eight months later, Davidson Rusia confessed that he was part of the gang responsible for the murders. The prosecution questioned Rusia for days while Paco’s counsel was given 30 minutes for cross-examination. It was even stranger that Thelma Chiong called Rusia ‘a Gift from God’ and even delivered him birthday gifts in prison. Rusia’s cellmates later claimed that he had been repeatedly tortured by the police before confessing.

The Philippines has no jury system so the fate of Paco was dependent solely on the Judge Martin Ocampo who was assigned to the case. Paco’s classmates and instructors came to verify his alibi. The judge cut short their testimony, saying that there were “too many” witnesses”. Paco was never allowed to defend himself. Judge Martin Ocampo, who even seen sleeping through parts of the proceedings, took three months to write his decision. Paco and his co-defendants were found guilty and were sentenced to a life sentence in jail. Back then, if a suspect was found guilty he was sentenced to a death penalty. So was he only given a life sentence? He admitted that there was insufficient proof that the judge was Marijoy Chiong. Five months later, the judge committed suicide.

The Chiong family were outraged that the boy did not receive death penalty. They sought the help of their ally President Estrada who asked the Department of Justice to change the sentence. Meanwhile, Paco’s family appealed to the Supreme Court of his constitutional rights.

On February 3, 2004, Paco was sentenced to death by lethal injection. However, many students supported the innocence of the accused young men. The family sought out other avenues for justice. Being a Spanish citizen, they sought out the help of the Spanish embassy. Paco was then transferred to Spain where he is delivering the rest of his sentence.

 

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