Filmmaker returns trophy to protest ‘injustice’

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FILMMAKER Marty Syjuco at the Board of Pardons and Parole office in Quezon City. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

You can have it back.

That’s what  filmmaker Marty Syjuco told the Board of Pardons and Parole  yesterday (Friday) when he returned the Ani ng Dangal trophy  for his documentary  “Give Up Tomorrow,”  in protest  against  the body’s decision to deny clemency to  the subject of his film.

Last week, the board denied the petition for pardon of Francisco Juan “Paco” Larrañaga, who is now serving a life sentence in a Spanish prison  for the 1997 rape and murder  of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong in Cebu City.

Six other accused are detained at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

Larrañaga, a citizen of the Philippines and Spain, along with six other c-oaccused, was sentenced in 2004 by a Cebu regional trial court to die by lethal injection but was spared with the abolition of the death penalty.

Syjuco arrived at the board’s office to return the trophy personally to chair Natividad Dizon and the members of the board.

But none of the officials, whom employees of the agency said only came to the office to attend scheduled board meetings, was there to accept the award and copies of the documentary Syjuco wanted them to view.

‘Symbol of honor’

“This award is a symbol of honor,” he told reporters. “They gave it to me because the government said my film has brought honor to the country. The Board of Pardons and Parole recently denied Paco’s petition for pardon so I cannot in all good conscience keep this award.”

Syjuco, whose brother is married to Larrañaga’s sister, added, “The  government presented it to us  for bringing honor to the country and yet they do the most dishonorable thing by continuing to perpetuate injustice.”

The filmmaker described his   documentary as a labor of love which took him seven years to make. “I made it because I wanted to show that this injustice happened in front of our eyes. Nobody was aware of it.”

Added Syjuco: “I did my own investigation. I spoke to over 42 witnesses. All of them said they were with Paco in Manila and in Quezon City while the alleged crime was happening in Cebu. How could he have been in two places at one time?”

He expressed hope that the members of the board could watch his documentary and reconsider their decision.

“The Ani ng Dangal award was meant to represent honor and that is why I am bringing it to the board because I want them to do the honorable thing,” he added.

Administrative officer Purita Adagio received the award on behalf of the board’s officials.

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