One evening in July 1997, Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong left their home on Cebu Island in the Philippines and never returned.
Paco Larranaga, right, in a scene from Give Up Tomorrow .
A single female corpse was later found; the woman had been beaten and tortured almost beyond recognition. The two sisters were allegedly gang-raped and murdered, their bodies thrown into a ravine.
The case provoked public outrage and demands for the perpetrators of the crime to be arrested and severely punished. A few months later, the police picked up 19-year-old Paco Larranaga, a Spanish-Filipino youth, along with seven other suspects. Although more than 30 witnesses came forward to testify that Larranaga had been several hundred kilometres away _ in Manila, on a different island _ on the day the women were killed, he and several others were convicted of the murders and sentenced to death.
Questions were subsequently raised about the circumstances of Larranaga's arrest, however, and the manner in which the whole investigation had been conducted. This led to suspicion falling on the entire judicial system of involvement in corrupt practices and being swayed by powerful political interests.
Larranaga's ordeal during the trial was the subject of a powerful documentary titled Give Up Tomorrow, which was first released in 2011. Two special screenings of this gripping film are being organised tomorrow at the Lido cinema by Amnesty International.
Directed by Michael Collins and never shown in Thailand before, the film recounts how Larranaga may have been a pawn in a complex web of political score-settling that involved an assortment of flamboyant characters, from an anonymous drug kingpin and police officers of dubious character all the way up to the then president of the Philippines, Joseph Estrada.
The documentary, while sympathising with the plight of Larranaga (who is related to Marty Syjuco, the producer), is also a story about two families _ that of the convicted man and of the murdered girls. But Give Up Tomorrow is, more than anything, a damning indictment of a system that was designed to uphold justice, but which has possibly ended up doing the exact opposite.
_ Kong Rithdee
Give Up Tomorrow will be shown tomorrow at Lido, at 6pm and again at 9pm.
Call 02-513-8745 to reserve seats.
The screening will be followed by a talk by its director.