Wednesday, July 18, 2018

LEOPAUL'S HEAVEN AND HELL: The Chiong Story, what is it?

Today, the controversial biopic of the infamous Chiong Sisters Murder Case of 1997 has now been shown in theaters but long before it hits theaters, it got stormed by negative comments about this film, saying that this so-called true crime story is based off from a false testimony of a convicted felon and bears no truth whatsoever, given the reports state that one of the men behind the rape-slay case 21 years ago is a 19-year-old male with Spanish and Cebuano blood.

So, as most Filipinos expressed anger over the biopic because of the strained pseudo-historical re-enactment of one of the most infamous cases in Philippine history, how did this murder case came to this and how it reflects today? As you may know, the views expressed in this segment do not reflect those who are involved in this mess, therefore, everyone is open to their own opinions.

It was mid-July 1997. I was six years old at that time and I was at school, although I don't like the concept of schooling at first, but I never forget what I saw in the news that time. The Chiong sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline, were kidnapped after dark, then they got raped at an undisclosed location, and then Marijoy got thrown to the ravine. Authorities found the remains of Marijoy Chiong but as for Jacqueline, well as of now, she remains missing in action following the rape-slay case.

Two months later, following the rape-slay case that rattled Cebu, one of the seven suspects behind this rape-slay case is Paco Larrañaga, a male with a Spanish and Cebuano blood whose family had ties with the Osmeñas was surrounded by armed informants, according to his relatives. Paco was in Metro Manila attending culinary classes at that time so the main question is, what's Paco doing in Manila at the time of the crime occurred in Cebu? There's so many conspiracy theories circulating about what's going on at the scene of the crime, not to mention the fact that the daughters' father, Dionisio Chiong, manages a trucking company whose individual is known to be one of the biggest drug lords in the Philippines and the girls' disappearance came amid his testimony against the drug lord in question. In fact, no one really understands what's going on around there.

Fast forward to the years of the Erap administration, a man named Davidson Rusia steps in, confessing to the authorities about how the Chiong murder case unfolds. Despite Rusia cleans his name to tell the truth, the suspects are not familiar about Rusia himself. What's even more bizarre is that because of the convicted felon Rusia told everything they need to know about the Chiong murder case, a certain TV show spawn an re-enactment of the said case during the trial before the defense presented their case. However, as we saw on reports, because Rusia felt exhausted while apologizing the Chiongs, the case got adjourned. When he was taken to the detention cell, Rusia got mauled and tortured, and with many weeks have passed, forensics managed to slice a part of the skin to find evidence that the fingerprint of the dead body matches Marijoy's voter ID fingerprint.

Two weeks after the hearings, enter Judge Martin Ocampo, whose controversial verdict forever changed the case as the November 17, 1998 hearing sees witnesses, mostly friends of Paco Larrañaga, gathered at the trial, saying that they were with Paco at the time of the murder. Ocampo stressed that Paco's case needs solid evidence that he wasn't involved in the rape-slay case in Cebu. When the trial is over, Judge Ocampo spent three months to write the verdict as well as freeing Davidson Rusia.

Come early 1999, the verdict has reached and after two hours, Paco Larrañaga and the others were found guilty for kidnapping and serious illegal detention and sentenced to two life imprisonment. However, this verdict enraged the Chiongs because she wanted death penalty against Paco Larrañaga and the others. Following the trial of the decade's end, some people involved in the trial got promoted while Judge Ocampo, well, he committed suicide at a hotel room.

At the time Joseph Estrada was ousted and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became the president of the Philippines in 2001, the Chiongs finally got what they have coming as Paco Larrañaga is facing death sentence, as ordered by the Supreme Court. That news saddened most of Paco's loved ones but because Paco's father is Spanish, making him a man with dual citizenship, he seeks help to the Spanish government, and with time running out, he drawn out his trump card; seeking help to the United Nations Human Rights Committee and they released a ruling to the Philippines. Spanish Defense Minister Jose Bono arrived in Manila in November 2005 to meet up with President Arroyo to discuss relations between Spain and the Philippines as well as Paco himself.

Because of that, on June 24, 2006, President Arroyo abolished the death penalty. Moments later, because Paco is classified as a "3rd grade prisoner" because of how much time he served during his imprisonment, he is allowed to serve his sentence outside prison on parole. At the twilight of the Arroyo administration, Paco Larrañaga finally switched prisons from Bilibid to Spain's Centro Penitencario.

And that is how the Chiong murder case unfolds and if most of you watched a certain documentary titled "Give Up Tomorrow", you'll know what it really means to you about this case and the man of the hour. Boy, what a drama this case really is. Two sisters got kidnapped and raped, one killed and one remained unaccounted for, a Spanish-Cebuano male got accused for the crime he didn't commit, judge committed suicide after the verdict, death penalty, Filipino-Spanish relations, and switch of prisons. 

That really is one of the most controversial cases ever to hit the history of the Philippines as the Chiong murder case demonstrates the tarnished legal system the Philippines possess and even in today's times, the legal system remains as what this case told us, making it harder to trust.

Paco Larrañaga forever changed the history of the Philippines but the true fate of the Chiongs remains to be disclosed with conspiracy theories about Jacqueline Chiong circulating around like the wind, but no matter which side you're on, this case shows that it is difficult to trust the Philippines' legal system in so many angles and that is the story of the day. 

If you have any questions about this case, it would be better to speak to it yourself, now that you're already familiar with the infamous case as portrayed in the Give Up Tomorrow documentary and the now showing Jacqueline Comes Home film. Until then, see you again.

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