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Carmela Visconde


The Vizconde Case

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:27:00 11/09/2008

Filed Under: Crime

MANILA, Philippines ? The story was in the crime and the carnage?and in the names. On the morning of June 30, 1991, a mother and her two daughters were found slaughtered in their own home. Estrellita Vizconde, 47, sustained 13 stab wounds; Carmela, 18, had 17 wounds and had been raped before she was killed; and Jennifer, 7, had 19 wounds.

Tagged as the ?Vizconde Massacre,? the gruesome crime gripped the nation for years, made even more riveting by the involvement of scions of influential families: Hubert Webb, son of former senator and then incumbent congressman Freddie Webb; Antonio ?Tony Boy? Lejano, son of actress Pinky de Leon; Michael Gatchalian and Miguel Rodriguez, sons of prominent lawyers; Peter Estrada, son of a wealthy businessman; Pyke Fernandez, son of a retired commodore; Joey Filart, believed to be a relative of former Capital Region Command Chief Marino Filart, and Dong Ventura, son of a businessman.

The investigation and subsequent trial unfolded many angles and versions, but to Judge Amelita Tolentino, the eyewitness account of Jessica Alfaro?a confessed drug addict who only surfaced four years after the crime?proved superior to the defense of all the accused.

It all started with a small-time drug deal at the parking lot of the Alabang Commercial Center in Muntinlupa on the night of June 29, 1991, Alfaro testified in open court. She was with the suspects when they bought a gram of shabu from Ventura, her dealer. After a shabu session, Webb decided to proceed to Carmela?s house on Vinzons Street, BF Homes Subdivision. He wanted Alfaro to join them because Carmela?s mother only allowed her daughter to go out and entertain female visitors.

The gang was on board three vehicles?a blue Mazda pickup, a blue-gray Nissan Patrol and Alfaro?s white Mitsubishi Lancer. When they arrived, Alfaro talked briefly with Carmela, who said she could not entertain them then, but asked them to come back later.

After another shabu session at the Alabang parking lot, Alfaro and Estrada, then her boyfriend, returned to the Vizconde house. Again Carmela asked Alfaro to come back before midnight. On their way back to Alabang, however, Alfaro and Estrada saw Carmela driving to drop off a man, who seemed to be her boyfriend. Alfaro said she reported all these to Webb.

The group sniffed more shabu and cocaine before returning to the Vizconde house at around 11:45 p.m. By then, Alfaro said, Webb had hatched his plan to rape Carmela. Alfaro signalled their arrival by flashing her headlights twice. The gate had been left open for them to enter, and Alfaro, Webb, Lejano and Ventura alighted from their cars.

Alfaro recounted that as Webb followed Carmela into the dining room, she decided to step outside for a smoke. From there she saw Lejano and Ventura take a knife from the kitchen drawer, while the rest of the gang acted as lookouts.

By Alfaro?s account, Estrellita was killed before Webb began to rape Carmela. Jennifer was roused from sleep and, seeing Webb violating her sister, she jumped on Webb?s back. This angered Webb, who hurled the little girl to a wall and started stabbing her. Alfaro said that when she went back to the house, she saw the bodies of Estrellita and Jennifer on the bed and Webb raping Carmela on the floor. Lejano and Ventura also took turns raping Carmela, before finishing her off with numerous stabs.

The three vehicles sped away to a house at the BF Executive Village. There, Webb, Ventura and Lejano blamed one another for the crime, and it was because of their bickering, Alfaro said in her testimony, that she was able to piece together the order of events.

A policeman, Gerardo Biong, arrived while Alfaro was still with the group. Webb asked him to fix their ?mess,? and Biong later destroyed vital physical evidence, including bloodied bedsheets, carpets, clothing and other items at the crime scene.

Two sets of suspects were later arrested by the police?in October 1991 and June 1993?but, for lack of evidence, they were all released. It took her four years to muster the courage to testify in June 1995, Alfaro said, because she had to overcome her addiction to drugs. She also said she had been warned to keep silent. Her sworn statement did not mince any words. ?I saw Hubert with bare buttocks on top of Carmela,? she said.

The accused denied Alfaro?s allegations, but in August 1995, the Justice Department panel found probable cause against the accused, and rape with homicide charges were subsequently filed against Webb, Lejano, Rodriguez, Fernandez, Gatchalian and Estrada before the Paraaque Regional Trial Court. They were detained at the Municipal Jail, together with accessory Biong, while Ventura and Filart remain at large to this day.

During the trial, the prosecution presented only seven witnesses. Aside from Alfaro and the doctor who autopsied the victims? bodies, two former housemaids of the Webb family were presented. They testified that Webb was in the country on the day of the crime. One of them, Mila Gaviola, even claimed she washed the bloodstains off Webb?s shirt on the morning of June 30, 1991.

BF Homes security guards Justo Cabanacan and Normal White also testified at the trial. Cabanacan said Webb had entered the subdivision a few days before the massacre and that he even identified himself as the son of then Congressman Webb. White, on the other hand, said he saw the three cars enter the subdivision on the night of June 29, as Alfaro had testified.

There was also Lolita Birrer who testified that she had accompanied Biong, her former live-in partner, to the Vizconde house to destroy the evidence and to retrieve Webb?s jacket and the murder weapon. She also testified that Biong received money at a house that she later learned belonged to then Rep. Freddie Webb.

Questioning Alfaro?s credibility, the defense panel submitted voluminous documents and presented 95 witnesses, including Webb himself and his father, along with other relatives and friends, to establish the defense?s main argument: that Hubert Webb was in the US on the night of the crime. The arguments of Webb?s co-accused also hinged on this premise.

The defense submitted a number of documents to back this claim, among them certifications from the US government. The defense likewise filed successive motions to inhibit Judge Tolentino on the ground of bias, but no less than the Supreme Court dismissed the petition. The Court of Appeals also sustained the judge?s decision to deny the petition for bail.

On November 15, 1999, the motion for reconsideration was denied with finality, paving the way for the decision of the case.

The verdict: Guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The sentence: life imprisonment for the principal accused. They were also ordered to pay Lauro Vizconde, father of Carmela and Jennifer, more than P3 million for damages and legal fees. As an accessory to the crime, Biong was sentenced to 11 to 12 years of imprisonment.

In her decision, Judge Tolentino described the testimony of many defense witnesses as full of inconsistencies. Photographs and videotapes showing Hubert in America also appeared to be tampered, Tolentino said. The alibis presented by the accused failed to convince the court that they were not in the Vizconde residence on the night of the crime.

A day after the verdict was pronounced, Lauro Vizconde visited his family?s graves at the Holy Cross Memorial Park in Novaliches, Quezon City. Years of pursuit for justice have made him in an active member of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption. ?Finally, their souls can rest, and I can start life anew,? he said.

The accused, on the other hand, began a new life as convicts after they were transferred from the municipal jail to the New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa City.

The case, however, is far from over, with the defense saying they would pursue the fight for an acquittal. A motion was filed with the Court of Appeals but on December 16, 2005, the appellate court?s 76-page decision only upheld the guilty verdict: ?We find no reason to overturn the conviction of the said accused-appellants as we likewise find them guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of rape with homicide,? the CA said.

The defense moved for reconsideration, but two years later, in January 2007, the appellate court once again affirmed the conviction.

The hopes of the defense were not at all dashed, however. Vitaliano Aguirre II, Webb?s lawyer since the onset of the case in 1995, said that ?the next step is to go to the Supreme Court and file a petition for certiorari to have the case reviewed again.?
Vizconde is just as anxious to see finality in the case. ?I have learned to forgive them. I can sleep soundly now,? he said in a past interview. ?But I will only have closure when the Supreme Court affirms the decision. That?s when I shall feel fully vindicated.? Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research

Copyright 2015 Philippine Daily Inquirer. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.




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