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SPEEDY TRIAL; DOUBLE JEOPARDY

The recent case of DANTE T. TAN vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, G.R. No. 173637,
April 21, 2009, deals with the issues of speedy trial and double jeopardy. Although the doctrinal
pronouncements therein are not novel, I deem it useful to digest the case, as a refresher material
for the legal researchers visiting this law blog.

(Note: As widely known in Philippine business circles, the criminal cases involving the
petitioner Dante Tan, who was a crony of past Philippine president Joseph Estrada, were
somehow related to the murder of publicist Bubby Dacer some years back. The recent reopening
of the preliminary investigation of the Dacer murder case by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez,
now the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel, will surely drag the names of Estrada and his former
national police chief and now Sen. Panfilo Lacson into the proceedings).

A digest of the abovementioned Supreme Court decision follows hereinbelow.

On 19 December 2000, a Panel of Prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ), on behalf of


the People of the Philippines (People), filed three Informations against Dante T. Tan the
Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City. The cases pertained to allegations that petitioner
employed manipulative devises in the purchase of Best World Resources Corporation (BW)
shares and the alleged failure of petitioner to file with the Securities and Exchange Commission
(SEC) a sworn statement of his beneficial ownership of BW shares. In two other related cases,
two Informations were filed against a certain Jimmy Juan and Eduardo G. Lim for violation of
the Revised Securities Act involving BW shares of stock. On the same day, the DOJ, through
Assistant Chief State Prosecutor Nilo C. Mariano, filed a Motion for Consolidation praying that
the cases be consolidated together which the trial court granted. Petitioner was arraigned on 16
January 2001, and pleaded not guilty to the charges. On 6 February 2001, the pre-trial was
concluded, and a pre-trial order set, among other things, the first date of trial on 27 February
2001.

At the crux of the controversy was the issue of whether there was a violation of petitioner Dante
Tan’s right to speedy trial.

Petitioner assailed the decision and resolution of the Court of Appeals which determined that he
“impliedly agreed” that his case would not be tried until after termination of the other related
cases.

Offhand, the Court stated that an accused’s right to “have a speedy, impartial, and public trial” is
guaranteed in criminal cases by Section 14(2) of Article III of the Constitution. This right to a
speedy trial may be defined as one free from vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays, its
“salutary objective” being to assure that an innocent person may be free from the anxiety and
expense of a court litigation or, if otherwise, of having his guilt determined within the shortest
possible time compatible with the presentation and consideration of whatsoever legitimate
defense he may interpose. The oft-repeated adage “justice delayed is justice denied” requires the
expeditious resolution of disputes, much more so in criminal cases where an accused is
constitutionally guaranteed the right to a speedy trial.
The Court added that following the policies incorporated under the 1987 Constitution, Republic
Act No. 8493, otherwise known as “The Speedy Trial Act of 1998,” was enacted, with Section 6
of said act limiting the trial period to 180 days from the first day of trial. Aware of problems
resulting in the clogging of court dockets, the Court implemented the law by issuing Supreme
Court Circular No. 38-98, which has been incorporated in the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure,
Section 2 of Rule 119.

The Court emphasized qualified that a balancing test of applying societal interests and the rights
of the accused necessarily compels the court to approach speedy trial cases on an ad hoc basis. In
determining whether the accused has been deprived of his right to a speedy disposition of the
case and to a speedy trial, four factors must be considered: (a) length of delay; (b) the reason for
the delay; (c) the defendant’s assertion of his right; and (d) prejudice to the defendant. Closely
related to the length of delay is the reason or justification of the State for such delay. Different
weights should be assigned to different reasons or justifications invoked by the State.

In the case at bar, it was established that from the initial hearing on 27 February 2001 until the
time the prosecution filed its formal offer of evidence for Criminal Cases No. 119831-119832 on
25 November 2003, both prosecution and defense admitted that no evidence was presented for
Criminal Case No. 119830. Hence, for a period of almost two years and eight months, the
prosecution did not present a single evidence for Criminal Case No. 119830. The question was
whether there was vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delay. To this, the Court applied the
four-factor test previously mentioned. It stated that in determining the right of an accused to
speedy trial, courts are required to do more than a mathematical computation of the number of
postponements of the scheduled hearings of the case. A mere mathematical reckoning of the time
involved is clearly insufficient, and particular regard must be given to the facts and
circumstances peculiar to each case.

In previous cases the Court ruled that there was no violation of the right to speedy trial and
speedy disposition where the delay was attended by the frequent amendments of procedural laws
by presidential decrees, the structural reorganizations in existing prosecutorial agencies and the
creation of new ones by executive fiat, resulting in changes of personnel, preliminary
jurisdiction, and the functions and powers of prosecuting agencies. The Court also considered the
failure of the accused to assert such right, the complexity of the issues, the conduct of the
lawyers of the accused, and the lack of prejudice caused by the delay to the accused.

Petitioner’s objection to the prosecution’s stand that he gave an implied consent to the separate
trial of Criminal Case No. 119830 is belied by the records of the case. No objection was
interposed by his defense counsel when this matter was discussed during the initial hearing.
Petitioner’s conformity thereto can be deduced from his non-objection at the preliminary hearing
when the prosecution manifested that the evidence to be presented would be only for Criminal
Cases No. 119831-119832. His failure to object to the prosecution’s manifestation that the cases
be tried separately is fatal to his case. The acts, mistakes and negligence of counsel bind his
client, except only when such mistakes would result in serious injustice. In fact, petitioner’s
acquiescence is evident from the transcript of stenographic notes during the initial presentation
of the People’s evidence in the five BW cases on 27 February 2001, which the Court quoted
extensively.

The Court stressed that although periods for trial have been stipulated, these periods were not
absolute. Where periods had been set, certain exclusions were allowed by law. After all, the
Court and the law recognize the fact that judicial proceedings did not exist in a vacuum and had
to contend with the realities of everyday life. In spite of the prescribed time limits, jurisprudence
continued to adopt the view that the fundamentally recognized principle was that the concept of
speedy trial was a relative term and must necessarily be a flexible concept.

As to the assertion that delay in the presentation of evidence for Criminal Case No. 119830 has
prejudiced petitioner because the witnesses for the defense may no longer be available at this
time, the Court stated that suffice it to say that the burden of proving his guilt rests upon the
prosecution. Should the prosecution fail for any reason to present evidence sufficient to show his
guilt beyond reasonable doubt, petitioner would be acquitted. Unless the prosecution discharges
its burden to prove the guilt of an accused beyond reasonable doubt, the latter need not even
offer evidence in his behalf.

On a related issue, the Court stated that there was no merit to petitioner’s claim that a reversal of
the RTC’s Order dismissing Criminal Case No. 119830 was a violation of his constitutional right
against double jeopardy which dismissal was founded on an alleged violation of his right to
speedy trial.

The constitutional protection against double jeopardy shields one from a second or later
prosecution for the same offense. Article III, Section 21 of the 1987 Constitution declares that no
person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense, providing further that
if an act is punished by a law and an ordinance, conviction or acquittal under either shall
constitute a bar to another prosecution for the same act.

Following the above constitutional provision, Section 7, Rule 117 of the Revised Rules of Court
found it apt to stipulate:

SEC. 7. Former conviction or acquittal; double jeopardy. – When an accused has been
convicted or acquitted, or the case against him dismissed or otherwise terminated without his
express consent by a court of competent jurisdiction, upon a valid complaint or information or
other formal charge sufficient in form and substance to sustain a conviction and after the accused
had pleaded to the charge, the conviction or acquittal of the accused or the dismissal of the case
shall be a bar to another prosecution for the offense charged, or for any attempt to commit the
same or frustration thereof, or for any offense which necessarily includes or is necessarily
included in the offense charged in the former complaint or information.

For double jeopardy to attach then, the following elements in the first criminal case must be
present:
(a) The complaint or information or other formal charge was sufficient in form and substance to
sustain a conviction;

(b) The court had jurisdiction;

(c) The accused had been arraigned and had pleaded; and

(d) He was convicted or acquitted or the case was dismissed or otherwise terminated without the
express consent of the accused.

In the case at bar, the Court held that double jeopardy had not attached, considering that the
dismissal of Criminal Case No. 119830 on the ground of violation of his right to speedy trial was
without basis and issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of
jurisdiction. Where the right of the accused to speedy trial had not been violated, there was no
reason to support the initial order of dismissal. Although it was true that in an unbroken line of
cases, the Court had held that dismissal of cases on the ground of failure to prosecute was
equivalent to an acquittal that would bar further prosecution of the accused for the same offense,
it stressed, however, that these dismissals were predicated on the clear right of the accused to
speedy trial. Double jeopardy did not apply to this case, considering that there was no violation
of petitioner’s right to speedy trial.

Indeed, the Court held that for justice to prevail, the scales must balance, for justice is not to be
dispensed for the accused alone. Evidently, the task of the pillars of the criminal justice system
was to preserve our democratic society under the rule of law, ensuring that all those who
appeared before or were brought to the bar of justice were afforded a fair opportunity to present
their side. The State, like any other litigant, was entitled to its day in court, and to a reasonable
opportunity to present its case. A hasty dismissal, instead of unclogging dockets, had actually
increased the workload of the justice system and unwittingly prolonged the litigation.

Finally, the Court reiterated that the rights given to the accused by the Constitution and the Rules
of Court were shields, not weapons. Courts were tasked to give meaning to that intent. There
being no capricious, vexatious, oppressive delay in the proceedings, and no postponements
unjustifiably sought, it dismissed the petition.
"Case closed" vs. "convicted": the difference.

EDITORIAL - Beyond reasonable doubt | The Philippine Star >> News >> Opinion

Opinion
EDITORIAL - Beyond reasonable doubt
The Philippine Star
Updated December 19, 2010 12:00

It may sound like music to the ears of the bereaved Lauro Vizconde, and perhaps the government
is onto something new in the celebrated massacre. Malacañang has issued marching orders to
several government agencies to solve the murders before the case prescribes in June 2011. That’s
all of six months to solve – really and truly, this time – a case of rape with triple homicide
perpetrated 19 years ago.

The Supreme Court has said the six men convicted of directly perpetrating the crime, plus a
seventh who destroyed evidence at the crime scene, could no longer be prosecuted for the same
offense, under the principle of double jeopardy, after their acquittal. The seventh man, former
Parañaque policeman Gerardo Biong, in fact finished serving his sentence and was freed last
month ahead of the principal convicts. No other personalities have been linked to the brutal
murders in the past 19 years. Unless the government has other suspects in mind, a reopening of
the case is unlikely to pin down anyone whose guilt can be established in court beyond
reasonable doubt.

It would be more useful to review what went wrong in the investigation and prosecution of the
case. The Supreme Court, burdened by perceptions that many of its decisions are based on
considerations other than law, pointed out the holes in the case. The court reminded the public
about the need to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt even as it stressed that acquittal did not
necessarily mean innocence.

The capability to establish guilt became compromised as soon as Biong destroyed evidence at the
home of Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela and Jennifer. DNA tests could have
identified the rapist of Carmela, but the evidence taken from her body was lost either by the
National Bureau of Investigation or the Parañaque Regional Trial Court.

This is but a high-profile example of the consequences of sloppy police investigation. Recent
studies have shown that there is a yawning gap between the number of criminal cases declared
solved by law enforcement agencies and the conviction rate. The acquittal of the Vizconde
convicts should prompt a redefinition of what law enforcers mean when they declare a case
closed. A crime is not solved with the arrest and indictment of a suspect; solution comes only
upon conviction. After 19 years, the Vizconde massacre is still waiting to be solved. This case
should compel law enforcers to do a
Insufficient Evidence to Convict Means INNOCENT! - Webb/Vizconde

I have stated in one of my earlier blogs concerning the Supreme Court ruling that the evidence
presented to the Supreme Court in my opinion means Hubert Webb is not guilty, but it does not
necessarily mean that all the men are innocent. The others may have been released on a
technicality because they were all tried together. I regret making that statement now. Insufficient
evidence to convict in a Democracy means innocent. A person should be judged innocent, unless
proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are guilty. One of the main problems with
Philippines justice is judges too often convict on personal opinions and not evidence

Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesperson, is doing an injustice to Hubert Webb and his
family by continuing to state publicly, “The Supreme Court said there was not enough basis to
affirm the conviction of the accused. The Court did not say that they were innocent and that they
did not commit the crime.” The Supreme Court did say they were innocent when they said there
was not enough evidence to convict them and not enough evidence to have ever brought them to
trial. Evidence decides a case and the personal opinion of any on the Supreme Court or Mr.
Midas Marquez is of no importance. It appears to me that the Supreme Court and Mr. Midas
Marquez is acting like cowards and trying to ease any backlash that may come against them over
their decision. They made the right decision now move on!

They are allowing the emotions of Mr. Vizconde to blur their reasoning. They are allowing the
backlash of an outspoken minority to make them act as cowards and not be willing to stand up
straight for the letter of the law. They have corrected an injustice by the NBI, original Trial Court
Judge and Appeals Court Judge now they should stand tall and be proud.

The Supreme Court spokesman should be saying, “The evidence against the accused was weak.
That is the way of democracy. That is the way of justice. Our decision makes them free, our
decision makes them innocent. We call upon the public to treat them as such. We call upon the
public to lift the veil of mistrust upon them.” These men cannot work towards a normal life until
they do.

These men should have never gone to trial in the first place. Not based on the evidence the State
Prosecutors presented. There were two crimes committed in this case, one against the Vizconde
family and one against the men that served fifteen years in prison. Now the Supreme Court is
continuing to inflict an injustice on the six men, especially Huber Webb and his family and what
they should be doing is bringing closure to their part in this case for once and for all.

I have read about many trials in the Philippine Courts and I have gathered from remarks made by
some judges and prosecutors following the verdict that the guilty verdict they obtained is not
really all that important to them. They believe they have done their job if they convict someone.
Often I have heard them remark if we made a mistake the Appeals Court or the Supreme Court
will correct our error. The lives of the Filipinos sitting in prison waiting justice, which often does
not come, matters not to them.

I agree Lauro Vizconde has suffered pain that I hope I will never know. I simply cannot accept
that men who should have never gone to trial for the murders of his family members should
spend one minute in jail in order to make Lauro Vizconde feel better.

People are also ignoring the fact that there were several groups of men that were considered
suspects in this case by the NBI and that prosecutors were ready to bring charges against several
of these groups until they settled on Webb. I think the fact that the six men were from prominent
families is the reason the prosecutors leaned more towards them. It would be more of a political
feather in his cap if he prosecuted prominent people rather than streets thugs.

I heard someone make the remark that Hubert Webb was running with a bad crowd at the time of
the murders. It is claimed that the Vizconde daughter was having an affair with Hubert Webb at
the time of the murders and if that is true then she too was obviously running with the wrong
crowd. That is not evidence to convict someone of murder, but unfortunately someone did. That
kind of remark is similar to the Mindanao Times journalist who says Webb is guilty because he
did not demonstrate anger when freed by the Supreme Court. He maintains he would have
demonstrated anger at the court system for robbing him of fifteen years of his life just as the
Vizconde's did over them being set free. Guilt or innocence's determined by how one responds
to their circumstances and he calls that JUSTICE? Judges cannot or should not disregard facts in
order to believe what they want to believe and get the outcome they want to get.

The weakness of Philippine judges is again reflected in Judge Oscar Pimentel’s decision to not
render a decision in the coup d’état case before him involving SENATOR Trillianes. He
obviously could not stand up to the pro and con pressures he would have gotten from some
militant groups, politicians and uninformed citizens. If the fine judge had found the men innocent
he would have most likely announced that decision, but since he believed the men guilty and
knew a guilty verdict would have gone against what members of Congress and the President
wanted he deferred judgment. If he would have rendered a verdict of innocence the men would
have immediately gone free before Christmas, but they now must apply for amnesty and wait for
the application to be approved before they can be set free. His causing the delay in there release
is one more reason I think Judge Pimentel thinks the men are guilty of treason, but he lacks
courage and is willing to ignore the oath he took in order to make his life easier.

The Public Attorney’s Office now claims the fact that four Supreme Court Justices did not agree
with the dismissal of charges against the defendants in the Vizconde case cast a shadow over the
Supreme Court’s decision. He wants the six retried on that basis. How many cases have gone
before the Supreme Court where every Justice agreed on the decision handed now? They always
issue a descending opinion. It is not unusual for four Justices not to agree with the majority.
Once again it is demonstrated that some Philippine prosecutors are only interested in getting the
verdict they want and are willing to ignore evidence or lack of evidence to get what they
personally want.

I have never heard of an acquittal of defendants being overturned and a new trial being held.
What about ‘double jeopardy’ which the Constitution protects defendants from? That is
Constitution Law 101. Even if evidence came forth today that the men were guilty they could not
be tried again for the same murders. A judgment of acquittal is immediately final and the case
cannot be reopened. The same would have been true if they would had been found guilty by the
Supreme Court they could not have pursued their freedom any further.
The Public Prosecutor cannot demonstrate ‘grave abuse of discretion’ by the Supreme Court
Justices in the Vizconde case and I do not know why he is tossing Mr. Vizconde a ray of false
hope. He is only making life more difficult for all parties involved in this case.

What Mr. Vizconde should be doing is asking for the cold case to be reopened and a new
investigation begin before the twenty year limitation from the time the case was first recorded
runs out and the case will be closed for ever. But, Mr. Vizconde this past weekend has chosen to
waste more time going after Webb and the other five men knowing he only has six months to
find the murders. If Mr. Vizconde had not been filled with such hate, bitterness and anger he may
have been more rational and considered a long time ago the wrong men may be in prison and
then perhaps real justice could have been had. Mr. Vizconde is as guilty as anyone that justice
did not prevail in this case. The Supreme Court has ruled there is reasonable doubt about the
guilt of the six and they are protected by the rule on double jeopardy and the DOJ is wasting time
by not looking for others to investigate for these murders.

One last comment and I know this will offend many, but it is the truth. According to Cannon
Law a person cannot partake of Communion when they have not sought forgiveness from their
sins and pledged to turn away from the confessed sin. Mr. Vizconde proclaims he is a devout
Catholic and he is seen taking Communion at Mass regularly, yet he remains filled with hate,
bitterness and non-forgivineness which are all serious sins and grounds for him not to partake of
Communion and grounds to prohibit priest from giving him Communion. In fact Catholic
doctrine teaches those that partake of Communion unworthy will be punished and those that give
Communion to people they know unworthy will be punished. The Catholic Church may have
been able to help Mr. Vizconde heal if they would have counsel with him and enforced Cannon
Law instead just sympathizing with him and ignoring Church Doctrine.

It’s tough to be Lauro Vizconde.

After the Supreme Court’s decision dated December 14, 2010 acquitting the six accused Hubert
Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel
Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Gerardo Biong of the murders of his wife and two daughters and
the rape of his elder daughter, it has now denied his motion for Rreconsideration and several
motions for intervention to reopen the acquittal.

The denial of the motion effectively places the six acquitted out of reach of re-prosecution.

However, it’s not necessarily a closed book for Mang Lauro.

He may still go after the two remaining accused who are at large or he may choose to make the
six acquitted accountable through another avenue—enforcement of civil liability, using
practically the same evidence already presented in the criminal case.
The Court’s Decision promulgated on December 14, 2010 was an acquittal based on reasonable
doubt. In the words of the Court:

“WHEREFORE, the Court REVERSES and SETS ASIDE the Decision dated December 15,
2005 and Resolution dated January 26, 2007 of the Court of Appeals in CA-G.R. CR-H.C. 00336
and ACQUITS accused-appellants Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael A.
Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada and Gerardo Biong of the
crimes of which they were charged for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond
reasonable doubt. They are ordered immediately RELEASED from detention unless they are
confined for another lawful cause.

Let a copy of this decision be furnished the Director, Bureau of Corrections, Muntinlupa City for
immediate implementation. The Director of the Bureau of Corrections is DIRECTED to report
the action he has taken to this Court within five days from receipt of this Decision.”

Under Rule 120, section 2, paragraph 2 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure, “(i)n case the
judgment is of acquittal, it shall state whether the evidence of the prosecution absolutely failed to
prove the guilt of the accused or merely failed to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt. In
either case, the judgment shall determine if the act or omission from which the civil liability
might arise did not exist.”

The Abad Majority Decision did the first, i.e., it stated that the acquittal was based on reasonable
doubt, but it failed to do the second, i.e., to state if the act or omission from which the civil
liability might arise did not exist.

The importance of that last portion is that it provides the basis or lack thereof for civil liability
arising from the commission of the crime despite an acquittal.

Rule 111, section 2 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure provides that an acquittal does not
necessarily relieve the accused of civil liability; however, the civil action to recover liability
based on the commission of the crime shall be “extinguished” if there is a finding in the final
judgment in the criminal action that the “act or omission from which the civil liability might
arise did not exist.”

The basis for civil liability is provided in Article 29 of the Civil Code: “When the accused in a
criminal prosecution is acquitted on the grounds that his guilt has not been proven beyond a
reasonable doubt, a civil action for damages for the same act or omission may be instituted.

Such action requires only a preponderance of evidence. x x x If in a criminal case the judgment
of acquittal is based upon reasonable doubt, the court shall so declare. In the absence of any
declaration to that effect, it may be inferred from the text of the decision whether or not the
acquittal is due to that ground.”

Double jeopardy would not bar this suit because it would be civil, not criminal, in nature.
In Justice Abad’s majority decision, the failure to mention that the “act or omission from which
the civil liability might arise did not exist” means that a civil action for damages arising from the
same facts may still be filed.

Double jeopardy would not bar this suit because it would be civil, not criminal, in nature.

For this reason, it would not result in trying the acquitted for a second time for the same offense.
Though it may involve the same evidence presented during the trial (even Jessica Alfaro’s
testimony, if they are able to get her to testify again), the defendants (no longer accused) will not
be placed in danger of being convicted. At most, the liability would be pecuniary.

Unlike the motion for reconsideration filed by Lauro Vizconde, through the PAO, this would
also not be a futile effort as the quantum of evidence is lighter.

In criminal cases, the weight of evidence required is “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” while in
civil cases, the weight of evidence required is “preponderance of evidence.”

The difference between the two is that “preponderance of evidence” simply requires one side’s
evidence to be weightier than the other even minimally whereas “proof beyond reasonable
doubt” requires that the evidence of the prosecution, never the accused, is such that it leads to a
certainty beyond any possibility or probability of an extenuating circumstance that the accused is
guilty.

In civil cases, the side that has preponderant evidence will win. In criminal cases, if the
prosecution fails to convince the court of the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the
accused must be acquitted even without presenting any evidence.

Because “preponderance of evidence” is much easier to prove, it is possible for a court in a civil
case to appreciate the testimony of the same witnesses as proof, not of guilt, but of entitlement to
damages arising from wrongful death.

That the Supreme Court has already stated that the same evidence is insufficient to produce a
conviction is not relevant because the Court did not rule out an entitlement to civil liability.

Those who remember the celebrated murder trial of O.J. Simpson may remember that Simpson
was acquitted because of reasonable doubt but was later held liable for “wrongful death” and was
ordered to pay civil damages to the victims’ families.

While the rules in the United States and the Philippines are not identical, the principle behind
being able to recover civilly despite an acquittal is the same.

I do not think that the money is important to Mang Lauro.

What I would suppose is more important to him would be the idea that those whom he believes
to be guilty are being held accountable in some way.
If that is what Mang Lauro believes, then the book isn’t necessarily closed.

'Appealing Webb acquittal violates double jeopardy


prohibition'
The camp of Lauro Vizconde may no longer seek the reversal of a Supreme Court
decision that acquitted seven men, who were convicted by a lower court for the
murder of his wife and two daughters almost two decades ago.

In a text message on Friday, SC spokesman and administrator Jose Midas Marquez


said that filing a motion for reconsideration would subject Hubert Webb and six
others to double jeopardy — being tried twice for the same offense — which is
prohibited by the Constitution.

Section 21, Article III of the 1987 Constitution prohibits double jeopardy. "No person
shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense," the provision
states.

"Acquittal in a criminal case is immediately final and executory upon its


promulgation. And the state may not seek its review without placing the accused in
double jeopardy," said Marquez.

Public Attorney's Office head Persida Rueda Acosta was earlier reported to have
said that Vizconde can still file a motion for reconsideration because a provision in
the Supreme Court's internal rules allows him to skirt the Constitution's double
jeopardy prohibition.

But University of the Philippines law professor and human rights lawyer Theodore Te
reminded Acosta that "internal rules cannot prevail over the Constitution."

Acosta used to be Vizconde's counsel while the massacre case was still on trial at
the Parañaque Regional Court Branch 278.

In January 2000, the trial court convicted Webb and Antonio Lejano, Michael
Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez, Hospicio Fernandez, Peter Estrada, and former
policeman Gerardo Biong — a verdict sustained by the Court of Appeals in
December 2005.
Vizconde puts to test double-jeopardy rule

NOTWITHSTANDING the rule on double jeopardy, Lauro Vizconde on Wednesday asked the
Supreme Court to reconsider its decision acquitting Hubert Webb and other accused in the
Vizconde massacre case.

In an 84-page motion for reconsideration, Vizconde, who was accompanied by Public Attorney’s
Office (PAO) chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, urged the High Court to reconsider its decision
finding Webb, Peter Estrada, Hospicio Fernandez, Michael Gatchalian,
Antonio Lejano 2nd and Miguel Rodriguez not guilty in the murders of his wife Estrelita and
daughters Carmela and Jennifer in 1991.

Filing a motion for reconsideration of a decision by the Supreme Court raises the issue of
violation of the double-jeopardy rule, which provides that an accused cannot be tried again for
the same offense if he had been acquitted of it.

Vizconde maintained that the double-jeopardy rule has exceptions, especially in cases where
there was misapprehension and grave error of appreciation of facts and the case is of great
importance.

“The gruesome killing of the Vizcondes and the beastly assault on Carmela’s person and honor
are undeniably of overreaching significance to our society, law-enforcement agencies and
judicial system,” the petition stated.

The petitioner pointed out that findings of fact by trial courts must be respected by higher courts,
except when there was grave error on the part of the lower tribunals.

“In a criminal case, factual findings of the trial court are generally accorded great weight and
respect on appeal especially when such findings are supported by substantial evidence on
record,” Vizconde said.

The Regional Trial Court of Parañaque City convicted Webb and his co-accused of the crime of
rape and murder on January 6, 2000.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling on December 16, 2004.

The trial court found prosecution witness Jessica Alfaro’s detailed narration of the crime and the
events surrounding it as believable and found as credible her “categorical, straightforward,
spontaneous and frank testimony, undamaged by grueling cross-examinations.”

The High Tribunal, which voted 7-4 in favor of acquittal on December 14, noted “significant
discrepancies between Alfaro’s affidavits” and found that Alfaro’s story “lacks sense or suffers
from inherent inconsistencies.”
“But was it possible for Alfaro to lie with such abundant details, some of which even tallied with
the physical evidence at the scene of the crime?” the Supreme Court asked.

“No doubt, yes,” it declared, saying that Alfaro, as the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI)
star witness, was given by the NBI “all the preparations she needed for the job of becoming a
fairly good substitute witness.”

“[A]lthough her testimony included details, Alfaro had prior access to the details that the
investigators knew of the case,” the NBI said.

The petitioner disagreed with this observation of the High Court.

“To infer that the NBI allowed an ‘asset’ to have free and unlimited access to evidence and
information is inconsistent with the legal presumption that public officers regularly perform their
official duties,” Vizconde said.

President Benigno Aquino 3rd has ordered reinvestigation of the case to find who the real killers
are after the High Tribunal acquitted Webb and his companions.

The Justice and Interior departments have formed task forces to conduct the new probe of the
case.
The task forces will focus on three groups of suspects, including that of Webb.

Authorities, however, have little time to bring to justice those who were really behind the crime.
Based on Article 90 of the Revised Penal Code, crimes punishable by death, reclusion perpetua
or reclusion temporal shall prescribe in 20 years.

The Vizconde massacre, which happened on June 30, 1991, will reach its 20th year on June 30,
2011.

SC denies Vizconde's appeal vs acquittal of Webb,


6 others
The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Lauro
Vizconde seeking the reversal of the high tribunal's recent acquittal of the seven
men previously convicted for the killing of three members of his family in 1991.

"In a vote of 7-4-4, the court denied the motion for reconsideration of Mr. Vizconde
for lack of merit," said Supreme Court spokesman and administrator Jose Midas
Marquez at a news conference.
Last Dec. 14, the SC acquitted Hubert Webb, son of former Sen. Freddie Webb, and
Antonio Lejano, Michael Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez, Hospicio Fernandez, Peter
Estrada, and former policeman Gerardo Biong for the killing of Vizconde's wife
Estrellita, and daughters Carmela and Jennifer.

Vizconde later appealed the ruling, saying the court committed a "grave error" in
handing down the acquittal.

Same voting pattern

The voting pattern on Tuesday is the same as that of Dec. 14, when the SC
acquitted Webb and the six others.

The seven justices who ruled against Vizconde were: Associate Justices Roberto
Abad, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza,
Jose Perez, and Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Those who dissented were: Chief Justice Renato Corona, Associate Justices Martin
Villarama, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Arturo Brion.

Those who took no part in the deliberations were: Associate Justices Antonio Carpio,
Mariano del Castillo, Eduardo Nachura, and Presbitero Velasco.

Contempt threat

In its voting on Tuesday, the SC also junked the separate motions for intervention
filed by Vizconde's supporters, namely former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr.,
activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption's Dante
Jimenez, and Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines head Sister
Mary John Mananzan.

The high court likewise gave Vizconde and lawyer Ferdinand Topacio 10 days to
substantiate their claims that SC justices received bribes in exchange for ruling in
favor of Webb and the six formerly accused. They were likewise ordered to explain
their allegations that Associate Justice Antonio Carpio lobbied for Webb's acquittal.

"Mr. Vizconde and Attorney Topacio are directed to submit proof of truth of the
statements they uttered," said Marquez.

Carpio, who was among the four justices who inhibited from the case, once testified
during the Vizconde massacre trial handled by the Paranaque City Regional Trial
Court Branch 274. Back then, Carpio was still a private lawyer and testified that
Webb was in the United States when the Vizconde murders occured on June 30,
1991.

Also on Tuesday, the SC ordered Jimenez to "show cause" why he should not be
cited in contempt for hurling invectives against the Supreme Court last December
14, immediately after the acquittal was voted upon.

"Mr. Jimenez is directed to show cause why he should not be held in contempt for
the statements he uttered after the case was decided," said Marquez.

Last Dec. 14, Jimenez, who is not party to the Vizconde massacre case, held a press
conference and hurled tirades against SC justices using thinly-veiled obscene
language.

"Kayo mga justices, mga PI kayo! Pinatay ninyo ang criminal justice system,"
Jimenez had shouted angrily in front of media. (You justices, you SOBs! You killed
the criminal justice system.)

Rule 71 of the Rules of Civil Procedure gives courts the power to cite in direct or
indirect contempt people or parties to a case.

Section 3 (d) of the rule states that "any improper conduct tending, directly or
indirectly, to impede, obstruct, or degrade the administration of justice" constitutes
indirect contempt.

A person found guilty of indirect contempt against a Regional Trial Court or a


similarly-ranked court "may be punished by a fine not exceeding P30,000 or
imprisonment not exceeding six months, or both."

Double jeopardy

Last Dec. 29, 2010, Vizconde filed his motion for reconsideration and said that
appealing the SC's ruling is exempt from the double jeopardy prohibition.

The Philippine Constitution prohibits double jeopardy or trying the accused twice for
the same offense.

The Charter and the Rule 117, Section 7 of the Rules on Criminal Procedure also say
that an acquittal can no longer be appealed because the acquittal "shall be a bar to
another prosecution for the offense charged...."

Vizconde then cited the Aquino-Galman case, where the SC allowed the appeal of
the acquittal of those involved in the 1983 killings of former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr.
and Rolando Galman.
But according to Marquez on Tuesday, the Supreme Court did not agree with
Vizconde because the Sandiganbayan's first trial for the Aquino-Galman case was a
mistrial.

"The [Aquino-Galman] case is different because it was held as a sham trial. In this
[Vizconde] case, there is no allegation to that effect," said Marquez.

He further said: "Jurisprudence tells us that acquittals are final except in that
particular case concerning Aquino-Galman. It's very clear here that while they
[Vizconde camp] tried to invoke that particular [Aquino-Galman] case, the court did
not agree." —

Why I'm satisfied with the SC decision on the Vizconde Massacre


I write this because I was among the millions who were glued to the television screen for the
"Trial of the Century" having doubts about the innocence of Hubert Webb but having no
available resource to research the facts of the case and come up with an informed opinion. With
information readily available now, I believe that any rational person who would bother to inform
himself will come to only one conclusion: that Hubert Webb et al are not guilty.

For me, the case against Hubert Webb rises and falls on the credibility of the testimony of Jessica
Alfaro. There are at least 14 separate points why I find that Jessica Alfaro is not a credible
witness and that this was a case of an overzealous and unscrupulous prosecution - a lot of which
have been exquisitely laid out in the Supreme Court Decision.

1) She supposedly offered to do errands for Hubert Webb despite the fact that they were
complete strangers prior to the night in question.

2) She supposedly witnessed Carmela dropping off a man along Aguirre Ave. whom she thought
was her boyfriend after trailing Carmela for some time. This was unlikely and hard to explain
given the limited errand that she was given. A much more likely explanation for this part of her
testimony is that she needed this to establish Hubert's motive for the crime, hence this unlikely
addition. (If you think about it, this is such a critical thing to corroborate and yet the man she
supposedly witnessed being dropped off has not ever come forward.)

3) Hubert was supposedly in a relationship with Carmela Vizconde and yet not a single person
(classmate, friend etc) can corroborate this relationship.

4) The group supposedly agreed on gang raping Carmela and yet her testimony as to what
happened in the house was inconsistent with this agreement. Those who agreed to the gang rape
where actually outside the Vizconde residence in plain view of anyone who steps out of their
residence. (There was a drinking party nearby at that time)

5) She testified that Ventura unscrewed the light bulb outside. This was highly unlikely given
that they have no need to do this since they were supposedly invited in freely and had no need to
cover any movements in the garage.

6) She testified that Hubert broke the glass paneled door just before leaving the crime scene.
Given that they were supposed to be trying to cover their trail, this was a stupid addition to
Alfaro's testimony. A more likely explanation of this testimony is that she was trying to
accommodate the physical evidence to her story.

7) She testified that Ventura rummaged through a bag ostensibly to look for the key to the front
door. Given that they were supposedly already in the house and that robbery was not the motive
for their going there, why look for the key to the front door and the car. A more likely
explanation to this testimony is that Alfaro was trying to fit the physical evidence for robbery to
her testimony.

8) From the SC decision: "She named Miguel “Ging” Rodriguez as one of the culprits in the
Vizconde killings. But when the NBI found a certain Michael Rodriguez, a drug dependent from
the Bicutan Rehabilitation Center, initially suspected to be Alfaro’s Miguel Rodriguez and
showed him to Alfaro at the NBI office, she ran berserk, slapping and kicking Michael,
exclaiming: “How can I forget your face. We just saw each other in a disco one month ago and
you told me then that you will kill me.” As it turned out, he was not Miguel Rodriguez, the
accused in this case". (Doesn't this give you an idea of how great Jessica Alfaro is at
manufacturing emotions and testimony?)

9) Her description of Hubert Webb as 6'3" and mestizo is quite inaccurate. He also left out the
mole. If you really saw him before, the first thing that will come up in your description is the
mole. How could she have left that out?

10) Jessica Alfaro was not able to identify Tony Boy Lejano in the courtroom without the
assistance of her handlers.

11) A gang rape was about to ensue and according to her testimony, Alfaro was the one leading
the gang to Carmela. Really?? Really???

12) She refuses to undergo a lie detector test while Hubert Webb was willing to do it at the get
go. Although not admissible, it shows you how confident Hubert is about his innocence and how
fearful Jessica Alfaro is about her testimony.

13) The defense have been willing from the get go to do DNA testing and the prosecution is not.
If the prosecution is after the truth, why object to DNA testing?

14) Gatchalian and Estrada were offered to turn state witness with the promise of reduced
sentences. They refused.

Remember that without the testimony of Jessica Alfaro, most guys ages 40 and older are in the
same position as Hubert Webb in that there exist no evidence to connect you (or Webb et al) to
the Vizconde Massacre. The truth is, Hubert Webb et al need not present any of their alibis for
them to demonstrate their innocence but they have. And the evidence they present is very strong
and uncontested.

Now ask yourself these questions:

a) How many of you can produce documentation from the US State Department that you were
not here at the time of the Vizconde Massacre?
b) How many of you can produce your passport showing that you were not in the country at the
time of the Vizconde Massacre?
c) How many of you can produce testimony from multiple witnesses attesting to the fact that you
were out of the country at the time of the murder?
d) How many of you can produce documentation that you brought a bike half a world away at
the time of the murder?

If you cannot do any of these things that Hubert Webb was able to do, ask yourself this: What if
the testimony of Jessica Alfaro was directed at you? How will you defend yourself? Do you
think it would be fair for you to be convicted based solely on a testimony that has been
completely discredited above? Do you think it's fair that you will live under a cloud of suspicion
for the rest of your life?

The way I see it, a lot of people have wronged the Webb family. And a lot are still continuing the
oppression by uninformed speculation and plain nastiness. That should stop.

Galman vs. Sandiganbayan, 144 SCRA 43 (1986)

FACTS: Assassination of former Senator Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr. He was killed
from his plane that had just landed at the Manila International Airport. His brain was
smashed by a bullet fired point-blank into the back of his head by an assassin. The
military investigators reported within a span of three hours that the man who shot
Aquino (whose identity was then supposed to be unknown and was revealed only days
later as Rolando Galman) was a communist-hired gunman, and that the military escorts
gunned him down in turn.

President was constrained to create a Fact Finding Board to investigate due to large
masses of people who joined in the ten-day period of national mourning yearning for the
truth, justice and freedom.

The fact is that both majority and minority reports were one in rejecting the military
version stating that "the evidence shows to the contrary that Rolando Galman had no
subversive affiliations. Only the soldiers in the staircase with Sen. Aquino could have
shot him; that Ninoy's assassination was the product of a military conspiracy, not a
communist plot. Only difference between the two reports is that the majority report
found all the twenty-six private respondents above-named in the title of the case
involved in the military conspiracy; " while the chairman's minority report would exclude
nineteen of them.

Then Pres. Marcos stated that evidence shows that Galman was the killer.

Petitioners pray for issuance of a TRO enjoining respondent court from rendering a
decision in the two criminal cases before it, the Court resolved by nine-to-two votes 11
to issue the restraining order prayed for. The Court also granted petitioners a five-day
period to file a reply to respondents' separate comments and respondent Tanodbayan a
three-day period to submit a copy of his 84-page memorandum for the prosecution.

But ten days later, the Court by the same nine-to-two-vote ratio in reverse, resolved to
dismiss the petition and to lift the TRO issued ten days earlier enjoining the
Sandiganbayan from rendering its decision. The same Court majority denied petitioners'
motion for a new 5-day period counted from receipt of respondent Tanodbayan's
memorandum for the prosecution (which apparently was not served on them).

Thus, petitioners filed a motion for reconsideration, alleging that the dismissal did not
indicate the legal ground for such action and urging that the case be set for a full
hearing on the merits that the people are entitled to due process.

However, respondent Sandiganbayan issued its decision acquitting all the accused of
the crime charged, declaring them innocent and totally absolving them of any civil
liability. Respondents submitted that with the Sandiganbayan's verdict of acquittal, the
instant case had become moot and academic. Thereafter, same Court majority denied
petitioners' motion for reconsideration for lack of merit.

Hence, petitioners filed their motion to admit their second motion for reconsideration
alleging that respondents committed serious irregularities constituting mistrial and
resulting in miscarriage of justice and gross violation of the constitutional rights of the
petitioners and the sovereign people of the Philippines to due process of law.

ISSUES:
(1) Whether or not petitioner was deprived of his rights as an accused.

(2) Whether or not there was a violation of the double jeopardy clause.

RULING: Petitioners' second motion for reconsideration is granted and ordering a re-
trial of the said cases which should be conducted with deliberate dispatch and with
careful regard for the requirements of due process.

Deputy Tanodbayan Manuel Herrera (made his expose 15 months later when former
Pres. was no longer around) affirmed the allegations in the second motion for
reconsideration that he revealed that the Sandiganbayan Justices and Tanodbayan
prosecutors were ordered by Marcos to whitewash the Aquino-Galman murder case.
Malacañang wanted dismissal to the extent that a prepared resolution was sent to the
Investigating Panel. Malacañang Conference planned a scenario of trial where the
former President ordered then that the resolution be revised by categorizing the
participation of each respondent; decided that the presiding justice, Justice Pamaran,
(First Division) would personally handle the trial. A conference was held in an inner
room of the Palace. Only the First Lady and Presidential Legal Assistant Justice Lazaro
were with the President. The conferees were told to take the back door in going to the
room where the meeting was held, presumably to escape notice by the visitors in the
reception hall waiting to see the President. During the conference, and after an
agreement was reached, Pres. Marcos told them 'Okay, mag moro-moro na lamang
kayo;' and that on their way out of the room Pres. Marcos expressed his thanks to the
group and uttered 'I know how to reciprocate'.

The Court then said that the then President (code-named Olympus) had stage-
managed in and from Malacañang Palace "a scripted and predetermined manner of
handling and disposing of the Aquino-Galman murder case;" and that "the prosecution
in the Aquino-Galman case and the Justices who tried and decided the same acted
under the compulsion of some pressure which proved to be beyond their capacity to
resist. Also predetermined the final outcome of the case" of total absolution of the
twenty-six respondents-accused of all criminal and civil liability. Pres. Marcos came up
with a public statement aired over television that Senator Aquino was killed not by his
military escorts, but by a communist hired gun. It was, therefore, not a source of wonder
that President Marcos would want the case disposed of in a manner consistent with his
announced theory thereof which, at the same time, would clear his name and his
administration of any suspected guilty participation in the assassination. such a
procedure would be a better arrangement because, if the accused are charged in court
and subsequently acquitted, they may claim the benefit of the doctrine of double
jeopardy and thereby avoid another prosecution if some other witnesses shall appear
when President Marcos is no longer in office.

More so was there suppression of vital evidence and harassment of witnesses. The
disappearance of witnesses two weeks after Ninoy's assassination. According to J.
Herrera, "nobody was looking for these persons because they said Marcos was in
power. The assignment of the case to Presiding Justice Pamaran; no evidence at all
that the assignment was indeed by virtue of a regular raffle, except the uncorroborated
testimony of Justice Pamaran himself. The custody of the accused and their
confinement in a military camp, instead of in a civilian jail. The monitoring of
proceedings and developments from Malacañang and by Malacañang personnel. The
partiality of Sandiganbayan betrayed by its decision: That President Marcos had wanted
all of the twenty-six accused to be acquitted may not be denied. In rendering its
decision, the Sandiganbayan overdid itself in favoring the presidential directive. Its bias
and partiality in favor of the accused was clearly obvious. The evidence presented by
the prosecution was totally ignored and disregarded.
The record shows that the then President misused the overwhelming resources of the
government and his authoritarian powers to corrupt and make a mockery of the judicial
process in the Aquino-Galman murder cases. "This is the evil of one-man rule at its very
worst." Our Penal Code penalizes "any executive officer who shall address any order or
suggestion to any judicial authority with respect to any case or business coming within
the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of justice."

Impartial court is the very essence of due process of law. This criminal collusion as to
the handling and treatment of the cases by public respondents at the secret
Malacañang conference (and revealed only after fifteen months by Justice Manuel
Herrera) completely disqualified respondent Sandiganbayan and voided ab initio its
verdict. The courts would have no reason to exist if they were allowed to be used as
mere tools of injustice, deception and duplicity to subvert and suppress the truth. More
so, in the case at bar where the people and the world are entitled to know the truth, and
the integrity of our judicial system is at stake.

There was no double jeopardy. Courts' Resolution of acquittal was a void judgment for
having been issued without jurisdiction. No double jeopardy attaches, therefore. A void
judgment is, in legal effect, no judgment at all. By it no rights are divested. It neither
binds nor bars anyone. All acts and all claims flowing out of it are void.

Motion to Disqualify/Inhibit should have been resolved ahead. In this case, petitioners'
motion for reconsideration of the abrupt dismissal of their petition and lifting of the TRO
enjoining the Sandiganbayan from rendering its decision had been taken cognizance of
by the Court which had required the respondents', including the Sandiganbayan's,
comments. Although no restraining order was issued anew, respondent Sandiganbayan
should not have precipitately issued its decision of total absolution of all the accused
pending the final action of this Court. All of the acts of the respondent judge manifest
grave abuse of discretion on his part amounting to lack of jurisdiction which
substantively prejudiced the petitioner.

With the declaration of nullity of the proceedings, the cases must now be tried before an
impartial court with an unbiased prosecutor. Respondents accused must now face trial
for the crimes charged against them before an impartial court with an unbiased
prosecutor with all due process.

The function of the appointing authority with the mandate of the people, under our
system of government, is to fill the public posts. Justices and judges must ever realize
that they have no constituency, serve no majority nor minority but serve only the public
interest as they see it in accordance with their oath of office, guided only the
Constitution and their own conscience and honor.
SC acquits Webb, 6 others
High Court finds 'reasonable doubt'

By EDMER F. PANESA and JONATHAN HICAP

December 14, 2010, 11:55am

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court, voting 7-4 with four other justices taking no part,
Tuesday acquitted Hubert Webb and six others charged with the murder of Estrellita Vizconde
and her daughters, Carmela and Jennifer, in 1991.

Also acquitted by the SC were Antonio Lejano Jr., Michael Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez,
Hospicio Fernandez, Peter Estrada, and Gerardo Biong.

The Webb family expressed gratitude to the SC for the vindication, while Vizconde expressed
dismay over the decision.

“Walang katarungan sa bansa natin,” said Vizconde, who almost lost consciousness and was
grasping for words upon learning about the SC verdict. (“There's no justice in our country.”)

In absolving the seven accused in the 19-year-old multiple murder case, the High Court cited the
failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

Court Administrator and SC Spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said the majority decision
essentially gave no credence to the testimonies of prosecution witnesses, particularly Jessica
Alfaro.

“Basically, the majority is questioning the quality of witnesses presented like Jessica Alfaro’s
being an NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) agent and not really an eyewitness, suspicious
details in her testimonies, the quality of testimonies showed inherent inconsistencies and the
supposed corroboration cannot be relied on,” Marquez said.

“There is reasonable and lingering doubt on the guilt of the accused,” he added.

The SC overturned the 2000 conviction ruling handed down by the Parañaque City Regional
Trial Court, which was later on upheld by the Court of Appeals (CA).

Webb and his co-accused were sentenced to life imprisonment by the RTC.

Except for Biong who was already freed last month, the five others were ordered released from
the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City. All of them have been detained since 1995.

“They should be released soon unless they are held for any other unlawful cause,” Marquez told
a press conference.
He said the decision is immediately executory as the court will no longer entertain a motion for
reconsideration in the case.

“There is no more motion for reconsideration can be filed. That would be tantamount to double
jeopardy,” Marquez said, noting that a second prosecution under the same offense after acquittal
or conviction is prohibited under the law.

Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad wrote the majority decision to which Associate Justices
Conchita Carpio Morales, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Jose P. Perez, Jose C.
Mendoza, and Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno agreed.

Chief Justice Renato C. Corona concurred with the dissenting opinion penned by Associate
Justice Martin S. Villarama Jr., as did Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Arturo
D. Brion.

Associate Justices Antonio T. Carpio, Mariano C. del Castillo, Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., and
Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura inhibited. Justice Carpio testified in defense of Webb during the
Vizconde massacre trial.

Marquez said the Court also took into consideration the testimonial and documentary evidence
presented by the defense proving that Webb was in the United States when the massacre
happened.

In 2000, the Parañaque court convicted Webb and five other scions of rich families of murder
and rape based on Alfaro’s testimony.

Their conviction was affirmed by the CA, prompting them to bring their case before the SC.

Earlier this year, the SC ordered to subject to deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) test the semen taken
from the body of Carmela. But the Court changed its mind after the NBI could no longer produce
the specimen.

The then 19-year-old Carmela was reportedly raped before being killed along with her mother
Estrellita and seven-year-old sister Jennifer in their Parañaque home on June 29, 1991.

In the 38-page majority decision, the SC doubted the credibility of Alfaro’s story even as it
described her as “lying witness.”

Alfaro, a confessed former drug addict, had testified that she knew the suspects and was at the
Vizconde house when Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela and Jennifer were killed on
June 29, 1991.

By Alfaro’s account, after a drug session with the group, Webb had hatched his plan to rape
Carmela.
But the SC found that Alfaro was an NBI asset who merely volunteered to act out the role of an
eyewitness.

The High Court even insinuated that the NBI coached and manipulated Alfaro’s testimony.

It held: “Alfaro was the NBI’s star witness, their badge of excellent investigative work. After
claiming that they had solved the crime of the decade, the NBI people had a stake in making her
sound credible and obviously, they gave her all the preparations she needed for the job of
becoming a fairly good substitute witness. She was their darling of an asset.”

The Court said Alfaro’s story “lacks sense or suffers from inherent inconsistencies.”

But in his 88-page dissenting opinion, Justice Villarama noted the findings of the RTC and the
CA that the eyewitness testimony of Alfaro was credible and competent proof that Webb and
other suspects were at the scene of the crime.

Villarama said Alfaro’s testimony on its material points was corroborated by five other
witnesses.

“Appellants’ (Webb and co-accused) presence at the scene of the crime before, during and after
its commission was duly established. Their respective participation, acts and declarations were
likewise detailed by Alfaro who was shown to be a credible witness,” he said.

Villarama said Webb’s defense of “alibi” that he was in the US from March 9, 1991 to October
26, 1992 “is inherently weak.”

“Given the financial resources and political influence of his family, it was not unlikely that Webb
could have traveled back to the Philippines before June 29-30, 1991 and then departed for the US
again, and returning to the Philippine in October 1992,” Villarama said.

“There clearly exists, therefore, such possibility of Webb’s presence at the scene of the crime at
the time of its commission, and his excuse cannot be deemed airtight,” he added.

According to Villarama, Webb’s travel documents and other supposed paper trail of his stay in
the US were “unreliable proof of his absence in the Philippines at the time of the commission of
the crime charged.”

He said: “The non-submission in evidence of his original passport, which was not formally
offered and made part of the records, had deprived the RTC, CA, and this Court the opportunity
to examine the same. Such original is a crucial piece of evidence which unfortunately was placed
beyond judicial scrutiny.”

Based his own findings, Villarama said the existence of conspiracy among the accused was
“satisfactorily proven by the prosecution.”

Free men
After 15 years, 3 months and 15 days, Vizconde accused Webb, Estrada, Fernandez, Gatchalian,
Lejano, and Rodriguez became free men.

“Salamat sa Diyos (Thank God)”, Hubert told reporters, adding he still could not believe that he
was now free.

At exactly 3:55 p.m. Tuesday, Webb and five others walked out of the New Bilibid Prisons as
free men.

“Katotohanan na ang lumabas talaga. Hindi kami tumakbo (The truth came out),” Hubert said.

It was an emotional moment as the Webb family and the families of the other accused
immediately went to the NBP upon hearing that the Vizconde suspects were acquitted.

Hubert and his brother Jason cried and hugged each other in an emotional moment. The Webb
family was there to fetch Hubert. Former Senator Webb was with his wife Elizabeth and
children.

It took four hours before Hubert and company were freed as Bureau of Corrections Director
Ernesto Diokno had to wait for the copy of the Supreme Court decision and process the release
of the prisoners.

At around 12 noon, Hubert was at the office of the Commander of the Guard inside the prison
and was seen talking to Pinky de Leon, mother of Lejano.

Celebrities Christopher de Leon and his wife Sandy Andolong were also there to witness the
release of Lejano.

One by one, the suspects emerged from the Maximum Security Compound and were brought to
the conference room of the NBP to meet the media.

Webb statement

The Webb family issued the following statement:

“We are deeply grateful to the Supreme Court for this vindication. We are also thankful to our
lawyers, the Ongkiko Manhit Custodio, and Acorda Law Offices, for joining us in our fight for
justice.

“The Supreme Court Justices looked at the evidence and made a judicious decision to uphold the
very strong testimonial and documentary evidence, which included Certifications issued by both
the U.S. and Philippine governments conforming that Hubert was in the Unites States on the
dates when the crime was committed and could not, therefore, have committed the felony.
Certainly, official certifications issued by the offices of US Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, US Attorney General Janet Reno and our
very own Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo, which all attested that Hubert
was in the United States from March 6, 1991 until October 26, 1992, are very strong evidence
that he was not in the Philippines when the crime was committed on June 29-30, 1991. The
Supreme Court Justices also decided correctly in not giving credence to the bogus eyewitness
testimony of Jessica Alfaro who has lied several times under oath and has made two
contradictory Affidavits, one of which admitted that she did not enter the Vizconde residence
and could not, therefore, have been an eyewitness to the crime.

“While we sympathize with Lauro Vizconde for the tragedy suffered by his family, we also
believe that his quest for justice should not be done at the expense of the innocent. Our family is
pained that Hubert, who was 27 years old when the case began, is now 42 years old and has
wasted the prime years of his youth languishing in jail for a crime that he did not commit. Our
family would like to ensure that this travesty of justice will not happen again to another Filipino.
Thus, those who are responsible for the wrongful incarceration of my son should not be allowed
to get away with it with impunity. We will continue with our fight for justice by making those
who are responsible to be held liable and fully accountable for the wrong conviction of an
innocent man.”

NBI did its best

Lawyer Mariano Mison, the NBI director at the time of the incident, said the bureau did its best
when it probed the Vizconde massacre.

“As a professional law enforcer, we did our best in the NBI,” the retired bureau director said.

He further said: “Sa palagay ko, di na observe ang demeanor ng witnesses.” (With reports from
Mitch Arceo and Jeamma E. Sabate)