Cebu rapist’s impending transfer to Spain hit
MANILA, Philippines—It's like Smith all over again, but worse.
News about the prison transfer of Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga came like deja vu to lawyer Evalyn Ursua, who prosecuted and initially won a rape case against American Lance Corporal Daniel Smith until he was acquitted by the Court of Appeals.
Ursua saw parallels between the state's handling of Larrañaga's prison arrangement and that of Smith, who was detained under United States care even after conviction by a lower court until he was cleared of the charges on appeal in April of this year.
“When we were litigating and when the case was on appeal, there was already the idea of a prison transfer. Just like Smith, he [Larrañaga] was able to choose his place of incarceration and the government consented to that,” said Ursua.
Smith was among four US servicemen accused of raping a Filipino woman at the former US military naval base on November 1, 2005. The rest were acquitted but Smith was initially convicted to and sentenced to a prison term of up to 40 years.
But unlike other convicts, Smith was moved to quarters at the US Embassy in a midnight transfer just days after his December 4, 2006 conviction.
He stayed there until his acquittal on appeal five months ago, following an affidavit of the complainant virtually recanting her testimony against the sailor.
Larrañaga, a Spanish citizen, was allowed to be moved to a Spanish jail facility per an RP-Spain treaty providing for the transfer of convicts to their home states.
“[The treaty] is perfectly legal, but what is the wisdom of the treaty? If he were purely a Spanish national, maybe we could accept it but he is also a Filipino, our laws were violated. Why are we giving up custody?” Ursua said, echoing her earlier protests to Smith's stay under US custody.
She asserted that violators of Philippine law must be punished in the country's jails.
“I think we have to look into the wisdom of this particular treaty... I can also see the benefits if it involves foreigners, but I question the application of that to a Filipino,” said Ursua.
“We are giving up our right to have control of a prisoner. Beyond the legality of the transfer, we should consider how this frustrates our community's and victim's family's expectation that a crime committed here should be punished here and always subject to our system's institutional mechanisms and processes,” said Ursua.
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