The men convicted of gang-raping and murdering sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in 1997 have already been released from Muntinlupa’s New Bilibid Prisons, Senator Panfilo Lacson claimed today in an interview with radio station DZBB.
Lacson said the convicts, who he did not name, benefitted from Republic Act No. 10592 (aka Good Conduct Time Allowance or GCTA), a controversial 2013 law that deducts as many as 30 days from a prisoner’s term for every month served if they display good behavior during detention.
Only last Friday, President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel, Salvador Panelo, specifically said that the law was “categorical in excluding … persons charged with heinous crimes.”
So why are rape-murderers benefiting? According to Lacson, it’s “all about money.”
“So far from what I have seen, those who have been released have money,” he told radio station DZBB. “The convicts in the Chiong sisters’ [rape-murder], they are rich in Cebu. Antonio Sanchez, definitely. And those Chinese drug lords definitely have money.”
He went on to say that it was not Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Nicanor Faeldon who signed the release orders for the Chiong killers, but one of his underlings.
“They have been released but someone else signed [their release orders]. It’s not Nicanor Faeldon who signed them. What I heard is [it was this person] named Marquez who signed [the release orders],” Lacson said.
“Now, whoever signed that, the underling, subaltern or assistant, the ultimate responsibility for the release is [still] the director (Faeldon),” he added.
In 1997, the Chiong sisters were raped and murdered after they were abducted from Ayala Center in Cebu City. A body believed to be Marijoy’s was discovered in a ravine in the neighboring city of Carcar. To this day, Jacqueline’s body hasn’t been found.
Convicted for kidnapping the sisters in May 1999 were Rowen Adlawan, Aberto Caño, Ariel Balansag, Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, Josman Aznar, and brothers James Andrew and James Anthony Uy, all of whom were sentenced to two life terms each.
The judge said, however, that the prosecution failed to establish that the suspects killed and raped the Chiong sisters.
Things changed in February 2004 when the Supreme Court imposed the death penalty on all suspects except James Anthony Uy, who was a minor when the crime was committed. The Court found all convicts guilty not just of kidnapping but also of homicide and rape.
The seven were spared lethal injection in 2006 when then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo commuted their sentences to life terms.
All of the men have insisted that they’re innocent of the crime, especially Larrañaga, the subject of a 2011 documentary titled Give Up Tomorrow, which argues that he was the victim of a frame-up. A Spanish citizen, he was transferred in 2009 to a prison in Spain.
It was late last week when Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said that all seven convicts in the Chiong case could possibly benefit from the GCTA, reported The Philippine Daily Inquirer.
But he walked that back a bit yesterday when he said that three convicts — Adlawan, Caño, and Balansag — can’t be released yet because the authenticity of their release orders are still being verified by Faeldon, reported SunStar Manila.
To this point, no media outlets have been able to confirm if the men have indeed been released.