Taiwan high court saves Filipina from death sentence

May 5, 2009 3:38 am 

MANILA, May 4 – The Taiwan High Court in Kaoshiung, Taiwan today reduced to life imprisonment the death sentence meted by the Kaoshiung District Court to Nemencia "Cecille" Armia Alcaraz for the slaying of a Taiwanese national in 2007.

Resident Representative Antonio I. Basilio reported the development after attending the High Court proceeding held earlier this morning (Monday, May 4).

He said Cecille, while not at the hearing room was able to hear the decision via live video feed. Basilio was able to talk to Ms. Armia shortly after the promulgation.

He said Cecille expressed her gratitude to the government for being with her all the way, and to all those who provided moral support during her difficulties. Basilio assured her that the government would continue supporting her in whatever subsequent court action might ensue.

Present with Basilio at the High Court were the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) legal team composed of Armia's lawyer hired by Meco lawyer Jiao, Wen Chen; Labor Attache Rodolfo M. Sabulao; Jr. and lawyer Edmund Tangco, head of MECO's Kaoshiung office.

Basilio expressed great relief over the High Court's decision, as this assuaged MECO's main concern, to save Armia from the death penalty.

"We will be holding further meetings with Cecille to discuss options available after this morning's development. But we are grateful for the High Court's understanding and compassion for striking down the district court decision meting death to Cecille," said Basilio.

In the last High Court hearing on April 20, Jiao asked the High Court to overturn the district court decision last Sept. 30, since there was reasonable doubt that Armia killed Taiwanese Mrs. Chiu, Mei Yun, the employment broker of Ms. Armia, a former English language instructor in Kaoshiung.

During the final hearing, Jiao argued that Armia did not have any financial difficulties that might compell her to kill Mrs. Chiu, nor was it logical for her to have invited Mrs. Chiu to Armia’s home and kill her there.

He said Armia did not have any cuts and bruises that would have indicated a death-struggle with Mrs. Chiu, and that the prosecution itself was initially uncertain that Armia could have killed Mrs. Chiu by herself.

Jiao also said Ms. Armia's failure to report Mrs. Chiu's death to her fear that she would face difficulties as an illegal alien.

He also cited the Philippines' having already set aside the death penalty for capital offenses.

The earlier district court ruling meting the maximum penalty of death was made based on evidence against Armia that she had not only killed Mrs. Chiu but robbed the victim by forcing her to reveal her ATM access numbers before she succumbed.

The Kaohsiung, prosecutor's office presented Armia's initial confession, professing her guilt (which she later recanted); receipts, surveillance camera and ATM records showing Armia had withdrawn funds from Mrs. Chiua's accounts after the time of her death and purchased items used to pack Mrs. Chiua's body before this was dumped in a Kaoshiung street; and DNA tests results showing blood traces in Mrs. Armia's hands and fingernails and in the alleged murder weapon found in her home.

In her recantation, Armia said two Taiwanese nationals had actually killed Mrs. Chiua and forced her to confess to the crime. The Kaoshiung prosecutors told the High Court that Armia had failed to present any evidence to bolster this defense.

The Kaoshiung prosecutor in the final High Court hearing called for the upholding of Ms. Armia's death penalty, and the victim's family had also appeared during the hearing to insist on Armia's execution. (PNA)

RMA/PR/utb

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