[PHOTO - Lauro Vizconde weeps after learning that the men convicted for the murder of his wife and two daughters would be freed. ERNIE PEÑAREDONDO |MANILA, Philippines]

MANILA, DECEMBER 13, 2010 (STAR) By Aie Balagtas See - Lauro Vizconde’s biggest fear came true after Hubert Webb and five others convicted for the killing of his wife and two daughters in 1991 walked.

Vizconde fainted as news of the Supreme Court’s decision reached his Parañaque City residence, where they were holding a vigil in hopes that the tribunal would rule in his favor.

“Para akong pinagsakluban ng langit at lupa (It was as if heaven and earth caved in on me),” he wailed. “My fear has finally come true.”

Vizconde, who lost his wife Estrellita and daughters Carmela and Jennifer, repeatedly said that he has lost trust in the country’s criminal justice system and maintained that money could have been involved in the acquittal.

In contrast, it was festive at the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City as the families of Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez, Hospicio Fernandez, and Peter Estrada celebrated their kin’s freedom.

Webb – the main accused – was elated that “after 15 years, finally, the truth has come out.”

“From the start we’ve been saying that we were innocent,” he said, denying allegations that they used money and power to ensure their acquittal.

“We’ve been in jail for 15 years. We trusted the system and went through the process. If we really used money then I wouldn’t have stayed here that long,” he said.

Webb said he would “walk back” to the prison if anyone could prove that the evidence they presented in court was a hoax.

He said he does not have much plans after his release but will spend time with his 17-year-old son. “I need to make up for the lost time,” Webb said.

He refused to name his son, saying they had to protect him. But according to his brother Fritz, the son will definitely proceed to their parents’ house in Parañaque after school.


The SC decision reached the New Bilibid Prison after lunch and Webb said he only learned of it on TV.

“I still cannot believe it. Do you have a Tagalog word for surreal?” he said, adding that he will miss several prison employees “who had been nice to him.”

“What happened here was an eye-opener,” he said. “It taught me that we should not so easily judge people because there’s so much we don’t know.”

When asked what he was looking forward to as a free man, Webb said he just wanted to be with his family in their own house.

“After 15 years in our own house — wherever that maybe,” he said.

Webb’s mother Elizabeth and Lejano’s mother actress Pinky de Leon hailed the acquittal as the best Christmas gift.

“Up to the last minute we were apprehensive. When we heard the decision we just all burst into tears,” Elizabeth told The STAR, adding their family can finally spend a “normal” Christmas after 15 years.

“Oh boy, I’m so overwhelmed by the development. God has a perfect time for everything,” said Pinky, who has been living in the United States and has just gone home to spend the holidays in the country.

Elizabeth and Pinky were accompanied by their husbands and other children. Pinky’s brother, actor Christopher de Leon, was also at the Bilibid compound to show support for his nephew.

Most of the accused declined to talk about Jessica Alfaro, the star witness whose testimony put them behind bars. But Fernandez’s fiancée,Anna Crame said she will encourage her boyfriend to press charges against Alfaro.

“I’ll encourage him to do it. Her testimony put them here and that’s not right,” said Crame, who went with Fernandez’s father, former admiral Gil Fernandez.

Vizconde: Find the real killers

Through all these, Vizconde dared the seven SC justices who acquitted Webb and company to help him find the real killers of his family since they believe that the accused were innocent.

“That’s the end of it,” he sighed after hearing that the SC will not entertain any motion for reconsideration.

“Who will we approach to seek justice? There’s no one anymore,” Vizconde said.

Victims Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) president Dante Jimenez, using expletives and cursing the magistrates, encouraged the public to put on “something black” if they are one with them in condemning Webb’s release.

Jimenez said he is “declaring war” against the SC justices whom he accused of killing Lauro’s family for the second time.

Respect for SC decision

As this developed, an official of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday said he respects the SC decision and the justices who were involved (in making the decision).

“There really is no perfect justice in a democracy because doing the course of justice is the Supreme Court and it relies on human legislators, human judges. True justice only comes from God,” CBCP-Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) chairman Pampanga Archbishop Paciano Aniceto said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), on the other hand, said they would also respect the SC decision but would not make any plans until they have studied the decision.

“We want to see first the decision of the Supreme Court. We are still waiting for the copy of the decision. Once we receive the copy and have studied it, that’s the only time we will be able to make a statement and what step we would have to make, whether we will conduct a reinvestigation or not,” Special Investigator IV Cecilio Zamora, spokesman of NBI, said.

Zamora said the NBI is not admitting the alleged mistakes made by its investigators nor has it accepted defeat in the case.

He said he could not answer allegations about Alfaro’s testimony since he is not familiar with what happened when she testified.

Zamora also surmised that the two other suspects now at large will also be acquitted since the decision includes all suspects.

Human justice and human discretion

At the Senate, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said one cannot fault the country’s justice system after the High Tribunal reversed the decision of a local court in 1991 which early on found the six accused guilty of the killings.

“Well, you know human justice is not an exact justice, as I said, it is based on the appreciation of court of the evidence presented. The standard is that the person charged with the crime must be convicted on the basis of evidence that establishes guilt that is beyond reasonable doubt. But even that is addressed to human discretion. What is beyond reasonable doubt to me may not be so to another person,” Enrile said.

“The killer is on the loose. That’s an open case again. They have to look for the real killer or killers,” he said.

Sen. Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said it will be another big challenge for the authorities to look for the real culprits.

“The SC has spoken, it finally closes the chapter insofar as Hubert Webb et all is concerned. Nonetheless, the closing opens a new chapter for whodunits. The authorities are now challenged to find the real culprits by starting from the exculpatory evidence,” he said. “This will start a new journey in resolving the elusive truth.” – Evelyn Macairan, Sandy Araneta, Christina Mendez

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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