25 November 2005 :Spanish Defence Minister José Bono said he had received assurances from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that a Spanish national sentenced to death by a court in Manila in 2004 would not be executed while she remained in power.
"While she is president the death sentence will not be carried out," Bono told the parents of 26-year-old Francisco Larrañaga by telephone from Manila after meeting Arroyo.
The Philippine president's promise represented the first major step forward in Spanish diplomatic efforts to aid Larrañaga, who had spent the last eight years in prison in the Philippines after being arrested in 1997 for participating in the rape and murder of two sisters on Cebu Island. Larrañaga had consistently denied being anywhere near the scene of the crime and during the trial he presented plane tickets and eye-witness accounts that placed him at a cooking class in Manila on the day the murder took place. Though originally sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999, the sentence was elevated to death by the Supreme Court in February 2004. His family said he was not given a fair trial.
"The news (from Bono) is positive and gives us reason for optimism but still more has to be done," Javier Viada, Larrañaga's lawyer, said. "What we want is a commitment that will ensure a total pardon and Francisco's freedom."