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Philippines: Court Decision on Vizconde Massacre Shocks Public

It has been 19 years since the gruesome murders and rape of the Vizconde women: Estrellita(47 y.o.) had suffered thirteen stab wounds; her two daughters Carmela(18 y.o.), seventeen stab wounds and had been raped before she was killed; and Jennifer(7 y.o.), nineteen stab wounds, took place and grabbed headlines. Since yesterday, the case has grabbed headlines once more after the Supreme Court has acquitted the accused suspects for the prosecution's failure to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Long thought of as a settled case with the suspects, Hubert Webb, scion of a political and wealthy family and his friends, having been in jail for the last 15 years, it's now back to square one as the High Court's decision underscores one crucial question: who are the real culprits behind the Vizconde massacre.

The Court's decision and almost-instant release of Webb, et al. from prison has left the Filipino public shocked, dismayed and wondering if justice could really be found in the country.

WillyJ writing at Random Thoughts and Musings is puzzled by the 7-4-4 decision of the Court:

What strikes me is the fact that some of the most educated, most intelligent people in the land see the case differently, and come up with contrasting conclusions. Same evidence, varying appreciations, contrasting conclusions. It doesn't give me any comfort in the fact that a majority decision prevails. I am more concerned that a decision was promulgated in a lower court; that decision was challenged yet was affirmed by the appeals court by the slimmest of margins (3-2); all of which was eventually overturned (after 15 long, long years) by a vote of 7 to 4. In essence, the 7 Supreme Court Justices say that the trial court judge was wrong, the appeals court was wrong, and the 4 dissenting Supreme Court Justices are wrong, and all those topnotch lawyers in one way or another, are all wrong. Grievously wrong. How come all these people under those circumstances, with the same hard facts before them, with the same rules of procedure, experience and jurisprudence behind them… disagree mightily in an epic manner? It is a horrible miscarriage of justice, regardless of whether one is for or against the decision.

Dine Racoma laments on The D Spot about how truth and justice remains elusive dreams due to its problem-ridden justice system:

In the end, it all boils down to the Philippine Judicial System. Like other countries, especially in the third world, the Philippines has immense problems in the criminal justice systems and in the law-implementing institutions like the police, prosecutors and courts. Had the police-officer Gerardo Biong not tampered the evidences in the crime scene, had the semen sample from Carmela Vizconde’s autopsied body still been in the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation and not lost, had the Philippine Judicial System been a little bit more dependable, justice to the Vizcondes could have been served.

JCC writing at Filipino Voices sums up the lessons learned from the Vizconde massacre:

1) that justice in the country runs so slow, 2) investigating officers are blundering fools, 3) the judges are corrupt, 4) and unlike the poor who rot in jail forever, the rich can always seek justice though how late that justice might be, 5) that we never ask the right questions on the acquittal of H. Webb and company.

Ilda at AntiPinoy writes that the Philippine mainstream media has been of little help as well:

The Philippine media for their part, never fail to sensationalize the news and conduct a trial-by-media just to fatten the bottom line of their CEO’s report. Whether it is about Hubert Webb or former President Gloria Arroyo, you cannot rely on the Philippine media to give a balanced view. Where else but in the Philippines is a movie made out of a case while the trial is still on-going? It’s safe to assume that most Filipinos who were old enough to care in 1991 know more about the details of the Vizconde massacre from the movie The Vizconde Massacre Story (God Help Us!). I wouldn’t even be surprised if the judge in Hubert Webb’s case based her decision on the movie. Hello! The crime was committed in 1991, the movie made in 1993, and star witness Jessica Alfaro emerged in 1995!

Aside from blogs, ordinary folks, particularly the younger ones Tweeted their response:

eeedsel IDK the whole thing that happened on that Vizconde massacre but I know that Vizconde family were the victims and I'm not into the result.

NokieVillanueva Re-Inbestigation of Vizconde Massacre Case? WTF? its 20yrs case, who your goin to investigate? Can they still remember what really happened?

oeeehreyes De Lima to order Vizconde massacre reinvestigation http://bit.ly/i2IdmA #news -UH OH BACK TO ZERO.

daynelov A WHOLE NEW WORLD: FIFTEEN YEARS after he and six others were imprisoned for the massacre of three Vizconde fami… http://bit.ly/grOkJI

With Department of Justice ordering a reinvestigation of the Vizconde case, lawyer Connie Veneracion writes on House on a Hill about the implications of the Court's decision to acquit Webb, et al. and the rule on double jeopardy:

The rule on double jeopardy states that no man may be tried for the same crime more than once. And it applies whether he has been previously acquitted or convicted. In the case of a previous conviction, he cannot be punished more than once for the same crime.

But it is also true than if a case is dismissed, meaning there is no ruling on the merits (no final judgment) and no clear acquittal, an accused can be tried again for the same crime. Hence, the term dismissed without prejudice which really means the People is not precluded from filing a new case. Double jeopardy does not apply.

In the case of Webb, et al., was there an acquittal which bars another trial? The decision says “ACQUITS” but it isn’t synonymous with a NOT GUILTY verdict. In fact, the decision says, “In our criminal justice system, what is important is, not whether the court entertains doubts about the innocence of the accused since an open mind is willing to explore all possibilities, but whether it entertains a reasonable, lingering doubt as to his guilt.”

Besides the reopening of the Vizconde case, lawyers for the acquitted suspects have started their legal moves at retribution of sorts, filing administrative cases against the then trial judge that handled the case and the prosecution's ‘star witness’ whose credibility was assailed in the Supreme Court decision.

At the current state of things, after two decades, the Vizconde case has just opened a new chapter and it seems that it will be far from being over.

5 comments

  • I saw on TV the De Leon sisters being interviewed on the U.S. edition of TV Patrol here in San Jose, California. At first I was glad to see these two women who reminded me of the 80’s as they were then minor players in the entertainment industry. Two weeks later, the shocking news came out about the acquittal of Webb & company (incuding Tony Boy Lejano). I then recalled what I heard the De Leon sisters said on that interview. “We are here to spend Christmas with Tony Boy.” Apparently, they are aware that Tony Boy will be acquitted two weeks later. They both sounded very confident that they will spend Christmas with Tony Boy when they were being interviewed. When they said that I couldn’t imagine them spending time in Bilibid being well-heeled and well-manicured. Now I realized they were aware of what was to come.

    • alfonso tengco

      You are very correct Eva. All of the convicts knew that they will spend christmas with their families, vice -versa. How come? Only the judges that aquits them know, and God of course. These Drug addicts can do anything. They can kill a young girl, Rape & kill, anything, without their conscience bothering them.
      They dont have conscience, that is for sure. Mr. Visconde can only wait for the Divine judgement which shall come for sure. Or he can ask for NPA’s help to deliver justice for him like they did with the mayor/ drug lord.

  • gerry

    my gosh ! my god ! my god !
    Can somebody save this country from total CHAOS…!

    How can we really get out of this rotten system, to many to count and say the least.

  • Rise of parliamentary institutions and of new conceptions of political liberty was accompanied by a darker counter movement.

  • Edward Castro

    i read the transcripts and decisiion of the lower court , court of appels and supreme court. if i were a jury, based on the evidence the rule of beyond reasonable doubt was not established. based on news data i judged them as guilty but what is reported in the news is incomplete

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