Lacson: Some convicts in Chiong sisters murder case now out of prison

Aika Rey
(UPDATED) The senator says the release order was signed by somebody else, when the only person authorized to sign it was Bureau of Corrections Director Nicanor Faeldon

CHIONG MURDER. The Chiong family reacting to the life imprisonment sentence in 1999. Photo courtesy of Thoughtful Robot

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Friday, August 30, said that some of the convicts in the 1997 Chiong murder case are now out of prison.

Without naming who were released, Lacson said a certain “Marquez” signed their release order.

“Na-release na rin ‘yan, pero ang nakapirma roon iba. Hindi mismong si Nicanor Faeldon ang nakapirma. Ang balita ko a certain Marquez ang nagpirma roon. Pero ang may authority magpirma ng release order ay ang director ng BuCor (Bureau of Corrections),” Lacson told dzBB.

(They are already released, but another person signed their release order. It’s not Nicanor Faeldon. I heard that it’s a certain Marquez who signed it. But the director of BuCor is the only person authorized to sign such orders.)

In 1997, sisters Marijoy, 21, and Jacqueline Chiong, 23, disappeared while waiting for their ride home outside a mall in Cebu City. Marijoy’s heavily-decomposed body was found but Jacqueline’s body, to this day, is still missing. (WATCH: ‘Give Up Tomorrow’ documentary on Rappler)

In 1999, A Cebu court convicted Francisco Juna “Paco” Larrañaga, Rowen Adlawan, Alberto Caño, Ariel Balansag, Josman Aznar, James Andrew Uy, and James Anthony Uy. The Supreme Court upheld this decision 5 years later in 2005. 

Larrañaga is serving his prison time in Spain because of a transfer agreement as a dual citizen.

The case is controversial, as the Chiong 7 cried “injustice” over a “wrongful conviction.”

The release order was supposedly for Adlawan, Caño, and Balansag. Faeldon had denied signing any release orders. 

“Ngayon kung sinuman ang pipirma na underling, subaltern, or sinumang assistant doon, ang ultimate responsibility pa rin, ang director. So ‘yan dapat natin malaman kasi ang balita sa Chiong sisters, ang respondents doon, hindi mismo ang director nakapirma kundi pinapirma sa iba,” Lacson said on Thursday.

(Now, whoever signed that who is an underling, subaltern, or whoever assistant is there, the ultimate responsibility lies with the director. So that’s what we need to know because the news is that in the case of the respondents in the Chiong sisters case, it wasn’t the director who signed it but another person.)

The Department of Justice earlier said the Chiong 7 convicts may benefit from the Good Conduct Time Allowance law.

The GCTA law provided for new guidelines on how to compute “good conduct time” that is the basis for reducing prison terms.

The Chiong 7 convicts were supposedly among the 11,000 inmates lined up for reduced prison time because of the retroactive application of the GCTA law. But the plan was temporarily halted because of the pressure to review the inclusion of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez in the list.  

Senate President Vicente Sotto III and Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon filed resolutions seeking for a probe into the computation of the GCTA law. The Senate will conduct a hearing on September 2.

Faeldon confirms

On Monday, September 2, at the Senate hearing on the GCTA law, Lacson named Aznar, Balansag, and Caño as those who benefitted from early release based on good conduct.

Faeldon continued to deny signing any release order.

“i cannot remember ordering their release because I really cannot distinguish cases of PDLs (persons deprived of liberty),” Faeldon said.

But he confirmed that the 3 are already out of prison.

Reading a memorandum issued by Faeldon, Lacson said it’s similar to what prompted the release of rape-slay convict Antonio Sanchez.

Eh di pareho rin, ‘yun lang naunang release kay Sanchez. Na-preempt lang because of the public uproar. (It’s the same thing. It’s just that the news on Sanchez came out first. That was preempted because of the public uproar),” Lacson said.

“But in this case, this one got away,” he said. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey is a business reporter for Rappler. She covered the Senate of the Philippines before fully diving into numbers and companies. Got tips? Find her on Twitter at @reyaika or shoot her an email at aika.rey@rappler.com.