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The Vizconde Massacre was the multiple homicide of members of the Vizconde family on June 30, 1991 at their residence in BF Homes, Parañaque, Metro Manila, Philippines.[1] Estrellita, 47, had suffered thirteen stab wounds; Carmela, 18, had suffered seventeen stab wounds and had been raped before she was killed; and Jennifer, 7, had nineteen stab wounds.[1] Lauro Vizconde, Estrellita's husband, and the father of Carmela and Jennifer, was in the United States on business when the murders took place. The lead suspect was Hubert Webb, whose father Freddie Webb was famous as an actor, former basketball player, and former Congressman and Senator. The other defendants were Antonio Lejano II, Hospicio Fernandez, Michael Gatchalian, Miguel Rodriguez, Peter Estrada, Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura.[2] In the Trial Court (People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Webb, et al., G.R. No. 176864), it became one of the most sensational cases in the Philippines, becoming the "trial of the century". The men were convicted by the Parañaque Regional Trial Court which the Court of Appeals affirmed. Except for Filart and Ventura who had been convicted in absentia, the men were later acquitted by the Supreme Court on December 14, 2010 for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Contents 1 Trial 1.1 Prosecution 1.2 Defense 1.3 Decision 2 Court of Appeals decision 3 Supreme Court decision 3.1 Concurring opinion 3.1.1 Loss of DNA evidence 3.1.2 Alfaro's testimony 3.1.3 Corroborating witnesses 3.1.4 Webb's alibi 3.1.5 Conclusion 3.2 Dissenting opinion 3.3 Composition 4 Aftermath 5 In popular culture 6 Timeline 7 See also 8 References 9 External links 9.1 Supreme Court decisions // Trial Prosecution The case remained unsolved for almost four years until witness Jessica Alfaro, a self-confessed former drug addict, came forward on April 28, 1995 to shed light on the killing of the Vizcondes. Alfaro had testified that she knew the suspects and was at the Vizconde house when the crime was committed. By Alfaro's account, after a drug session with the group, Hubert Webb allegedly had hatched his plan to rape Carmela Vizconde. Webb wanted Alfaro, the then girlfriend of one of the accused men, Peter Estrada, to join them because Estrellita Vizconde only allowed her daughter to go out and entertain female visitors. Alfaro testified that as Webb followed Carmela into the dining room, she decided to step outside for a smoke. From there she allegedly saw Lejano and Ventura take a knife from the kitchen drawer, while the rest of the gang acted as lookouts. Alfaro said Estrellita was killed before Webb began to rape Carmela. Jennifer woke up and, seeing Webb violating her sister, jumped on him. He then 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.[1] According to the footage of the trial, Alfaro had been able to identify all the defendants by their names. However, it was noted by the defense that Alfaro admitted to being under the influence of drugs when she allegedly witnessed the crime and had made inconsistent statements on her two affidavits. Aside from Alfaro, the prosecution relied heavily on the testimony of the Webb family's maids, Mila Gaviola and Nerissa Rosales, who both testified that Hubert Webb was at home on June 30, 1991. At about 4 a.m. on June 30, 1991, Gaviola woke up and entered the bedrooms to get the Webb's dirty laundry and wash it as part of her job. She said that when she entered Hubert’s room, she saw him wearing only his pants, awake and smoking in bed. While washing Hubert Webb's clothing, Gaviola said she noticed fresh bloodstains on his shirt.[1][3] Other prosecution witnesses were: Carlos J. Cristobal who alleged that on March 9, 1991 he was a passenger of United Airlines Flight No. 808 bound for New York and who expressed doubt on whether Hubert Webb was his co-passenger in the trip; Lolita Birrer, a former live-in partner of policeman Gerardo Biong, who narrated the manner of how Biong investigated and tried to cover up the crime. Birrer said she had accompanied Biong 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 Parañaque Congressman Freddie Webb; Security guards Justo Cabanacan and Normal White. 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; Belen Dometita and Teofilo Minoza, two of the Vizconde maids; and Manciano Gatmaitan, an engineer.[4] Defense The defense produced documents and presented 95 witnesses, including Hubert Webb himself and his father, along with other relatives and friends to support Webb’s alibi that he was in the United States from March 9, 1991, to October 26, 1992. On October 1, 1996, Judge Amelita Tolentino admitted only 10 of the 142 pieces of evidence the defense presented.[3] (Under Philippine law, generally, alibi is the weakest defense, especially where there is direct testimony of an eyewitness, duly corroborated by another. People vs. Bello, G.R. No. 124871, May 13, 2004.) Among evidence that was not admitted by Judge Tolentino, was the note verbale from the United States Embassy in Manila claiming that Webb was in the United States at the time of the massacre. This coincided with his passport and Philippine Immigration records but were dismissed by Tolentino's court, due to belief that these documents can possibly be falsified.[citation needed] Tolentino stated that she would accept this evidence only if then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright would testify as to the veracity of the note verbale's contents.(The Philippine Rules of Evidence require official attestation of the authenticity of any public document presented in evidence; as per Sec. 24, Rule 134, R. Evid.) Moreover, Judge Tolentino also denied Webb's request to subject semen samples to DNA testing on the belief that the samples may no longer be intact. The accused alleged that by rejecting 132 of the 142 pieces of evidence, Tolentino had set the tone for their conviction.[3] On July 24, 1997, the Supreme Court noted that Tolentino erred when she refused to admit the 132 pieces of evidence presented by the defense, although these were later admitted in court through an order issued by Tolentino.[3][5] Decision On January 6, 2000, Judge Tolentino rendered her decision, sentencing Hubert Webb, Peter Estrada, Hospicio Fernandez, Michael Gatchalian, Antonio Lejano II and Miguel Rodriguez to life imprisonment. They were also ordered to indemnify the Vizconde family Php 3 million for the murders.[1] In her decision, Judge Tolentino described the testimony of many defense witnesses as full of inconsistencies. Photographs and videotapes showing Webb in the United States also appeared to be tampered, Tolentino said.[1] Two of the accused remain fugitives from the law: Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura. Also found guilty of burning bedsheets and tampering with other evidence in the crime was Gerardo Biong, a Paranaque City policeman. He was sentenced to fifteen years in prison. Biong was released from jail on November 30, 2010 after serving his sentence.[6] Court of Appeals decision The Court of Appeals' Third Division voted 3-2 to deny Webb's motion for reconsideration and upheld the ruling of Judge Tolentino on December 16, 2005.[1][7] The court ruled that the Parañaque RTC was correct in sentencing Webb et. al. due to "overwhelming evidence that showed Webb and the other accused had conspired to rape Carmela and, in the process, kill her and the rest of the family." The court also amended the award of damages from 100,000 pesos to 200,000 pesos, and also upheld the conviction of Biong as accessory to the crime "by abusing his public functions... to conceal and destroy the physical evidence in order to prevent the discovery of the crime and by allowing the destruction of the physical evidence, Biong facilitated the escape of the principal accused."[8] Supreme Court decision The Supreme Court acquitted Webb and the others tried by the court: seven justices voted to acquit, four dissented, two inhibited, one did not participate in the deliberations and another was on official leave. In April 2010, the Supreme Court approved DNA testing to be performed on the semen specimen obtained during autopsy from Carmela Vizconde. This has resulted in the revelation by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) that they no longer had the specimens as these were remanded to the Parañaque courts.[9] On October 8, 2010, Webb filed an urgent motion for acquittal.[10] On November 26, 2010, Lauro Vizconde voiced his concern to media about the purported lobbying of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio for the reversal of the guilty verdict. Carpio testified for the defense during the trial. The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption(VACC) asked Justice Antonio Carpio and his cousin Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to take a leave while the case is being decided to avoid undue influence on the court's decision.[11] This was categorically denied by the Supreme Court as Justice Carpio had in fact inhibited himself from the case and was not going to take part in the deliberation.[12][13] On December 14, 2010, the Supreme Court reversed the earlier judgment of the lower court and Court of Appeals and acquitted seven of the nine accused, including Hubert Webb, finding that the prosecution failed to prove that the accused were guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The High Court put to question the quality of the testamentary evidence furnished by the witnesses. No acquittal has been made as to the two accused, Filart and Ventura, who remain at-large. Of the 15 Justices, 7 voted for acquittal while four dissented and four Justices, including Carpio, did not participate.[14] Concurring opinion Seven justices based its decision on the following points: Loss of DNA evidence not a ground for outright acquittal Unreliability of Jessica Alfaro's testimony: Alfaro had prior knowledge on the facts of the case having been an asset of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Alfaro was not able to explain why the house was ransacked if robbery was not Webb and company's motive Unreliability of testimony from other witnesses Webb's strong alibi that he was in the United States Alfaro's testimony will fall apart if Webb was not in the crime scene and will relieve the other accused of the crime Loss of DNA evidence Webb, citing Brady v. Maryland, said "that he is entitled to outright acquittal on the ground of violation of his right to due process given the State’s failure to produce on order of the Court either by negligence or willful suppression the semen specimen taken from Carmela." The court argued that the cited case has been superseded by Arizona v. Youngblood, "where the U.S. Supreme Court held that due process does not require the State to preserve the semen specimen although it might be useful to the accused unless the latter is able to show bad faith on the part of the prosecution or the police". The court considered the accused's "lack of interest in having such test done" in which they concluded that the state "cannot be deemed put on reasonable notice that it would be required to produce the semen specimen at some future time".[15] Alfaro's testimony The court ruled that Alfaro was "a stool pigeon, one who earned her living by fraternizing with criminals so she could squeal on them to her NBI handlers." The court also said that it was "possible for Alfaro to lie" on the details of the case. Alfaro, who had "practically lived" at the NBI's offices, would have been able to hear about the details, and gain access to the documents, without difficulty. The court noted the inconsistency between Alfaro's testimony of Webb being Carmela's girlfriend, who had no reason in breaking the glass panel of the house's front door to enter the house; Alfaro said that Webb "picked up some stone and, out of the blue, hurled it at the glass-paneled front door". Alfaro, upon explaining on how the house was ransacked, (the Parañaque police had earlier blamed house robbers as suspects), said that Ventura was looking for the front-door key and the car key. The court said the "portion of Alfaro's story appears tortured to accommodate the physical evidence of the ransacked house" adding that "it is a story made to fit in with the crime scene although robbery was supposedly not the reason Webb and his companions entered that house". The court also said the same for the issue of the garage light: she claimed that Ventura climbed the car's hood, using a chair, to turn the light off. But, unlike the house robbers, however the court points out that "Webb and his friends did not have anything to do in a darkened garage."[15] In general, the court said that Alfaro's story "lacks sense or suffers from inherent inconsistencies."[15] Corroborating witnesses The court held that security guard Normal E. White, Jr.'s testimony was unreliable. White was mistaken in saying that Gatchalian and company went in and out of the gated community many times, since they only entered once.[15] Justo Cabanacan, the security supervisor of the gated community, said that he saw Webb enter the gated community, although he did not record Webb entering in his log book.[15] The court also held that the testimony of the Webb's maid, Mila Gaviola, was also unreliable since she was not able to distinguish if it was Hubert whom she saw on June 30, 1991, nor "did she remember any of the details that happened in the household on the other days".[15] Webb's alibi The court said that "among the accused, Webb presented the strongest alibi". The lower courts, however, reasoned that "Webb's alibi cannot stand against Alfaro's positive identification of him." The court said that Alfaro was not a credible witness and that her "story of what she personally saw must be believable, not inherently contrived".[15] For the alibi to be established "the accused must prove by positive, clear, and satisfactory evidence... that he was present at another place at the time of the perpetration of the crime, and that it was physically impossible for him to be at the scene of the crime". The lower courts, the Supreme Court said, held that "Webb was actually in Parañaque when the Vizconde killings took place". However, the court pointed out that while Webb or his parents may be able to "arrange for the local immigration to put a March 9, 1991 departure stamp on his passport and an October 27, 1992 arrival stamp", they could not fix a foreign airlines’ passenger manifest, and the U.S. Immigration’s record system. The court also said that if Webb was in the U.S. when the crime was committed, the Alfaro's testimony would not hold together: "Without it, the evidence against the others must necessarily fall."[15] Conclusion The court maintained that for a person to be convicted there should not be "a reasonable, lingering doubt as to his guilt." As a result, the court reverses the decision of the Court of Appeals, and acquits Webb, et al.[15] Dissenting opinion In his dissenting opinion, Justice Villarama argued that the claim of Webb that he could not have committed the crime because he left for the United States on March 9, 1991 and returned to the Philippines only on October 26, 1992 was correctly rejected by the Regional Trial Court and Court of Appeals. 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 Philippines in October 1992. Webb's travel documents and other paper trail of his stay in the US are unreliable proof of his absence in the Philippines at the time of the commission of the crime charged. Webb's reliance on the presumption of regularity of official functions, stressing the fact that the US-INS certifications are official documents, is misplaced. The presumption leaned on is disputable and can be overcome by evidence to the contrary. In this case, the existence of an earlier negative report on the NIIS record on file concerning the entry of appellant Webb into and his exit from the US on March 9, 1991 and October 26, 1992, respectively, had raised serious doubt on the veracity and accuracy of the subsequently issued second certification dated August 31, 1995 which is based merely on a computer print-out of his alleged entry on March 9, 1991 and departure on October 26, 1992. Villarama noted that the alleged Passport, Passenger Manifest of United Airlines Flight and United Airline ticket of accused Webb offered in evidence were mere photocopies of an alleged original, which were never presented. He adds, this Court takes judicial notice of reported irregularities and tampering of passports in the years prior to the recent issuance by the Department of Foreign Affairs(DFA) of machine-readable passports.[16] Composition Concurred (7) Dissented (4) Did not take part (1) On leave (1) Inhibited (2) Roberto Abad Conchita Carpio-Morales Diosdado Peralta Lucas Bersamin Jose Perez Jose Catral Mendoza Ma. Lourdes Sereno Renato Corona Martin Villarama Teresita Leonardo-De Castro Arturo Brion Antonio Carpio Presbitero Velasco Jr. Antonio Eduardo Nachura Mariano del Castillo Aftermath President Benigno Aquino III ordered the law enforcement agencies to re-investigate the case six months before the prescription period lapses. He also ordered the Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima to study the possibility of giving compensation to Webb and others.[17] On December 28, 2010, new witnesses have come forward accusing Hubert Webb and others of allegedly being behind the Vizconde massacre.[18] Other witnesses say Webb was in the Philippines at the time of the murders.[19] In popular culture It was made into a movie in 1993 entitled Vizconde Massacre: God Help Us! starring Kris Aquino as Carmela Vizconde. A second movie released in 1994, The Untold Story: Vizconde Massacre II May The Lord Be With Us, starring Vina Morales as Carmela, and Joko Diaz as one of the assailants, is reportedly based on new evidence. The Jessica Alfaro Story in 1995 had Alice Dixson as the star witness. The case was featured on a Philippine TV show Case Unclosed as its 9th episode, entitled "Vizconde Massacre Case". Timeline Night of June 29–30, 1991: Estrellita, Carmela and Jennifer VIzconde were killed in their Parañaque home; Carmela was found to have been raped. April 28, 1995: Jessica Alfaro presents herself as a witness and accuses Hubert Webb, et al. of murder. October 1, 1996: Judge Amelita Tolentino of the Parañaque RTC rejected 132 of the defense's 142 pieces of evidence. January 6, 2001: Tolentino finds Webb, et al. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of murder and sentences them to reclusion perpetua. December 15, 2005: The Court of Appeals dismisses the defendants' appeal. December 14, 2010: The Supreme Court acquits Webb, et al., except for the two defendants tried in absentia. See also Hultman-Chapman murder case (People vs. Claudio Teehankee, Jr.), another high-profile criminal case decided by the Supreme Court, occurred a fortnight after the massacre. References ^ a b c d e f g Philippine Inquirer The Vizconde Case ^ Philippine Star coverage of the murders ^ a b c d Manila Times: Questions linger in Vizconde case ^ G.R. No. 121234 August 23, 1995 HUBERT J. P. WEBB, ET AL. vs. RAUL E. DE LEON, ET AL. ^ Supreme Court G.R. No. 127262 July 24, 1997 ^ "'Vizconde' convict freed" ^ Court of Appeals Decision ^ "CA upholds ruling on Vizconde slays". The Philippine Star. 2005-12-17. Retrieved 2010-12-17.  ^ "NBI exec: We've turned over semen specimen from Vizconde girl to court".  ^ "Webb files urgent motion for acquittal".  ^ 2 SC justices asked to go on leave pending Vizconde decision, GMA News ^ Philippine Daily Inquirer: "Home alone, Vizconde lives with spirits of murdered family" ^ "SC sues for time, defers ruling on Vizconde case". Philippine Daily Inquirer. 30 November 2010.  ^ Philippine Daily Inquirer, SC Acquits Webb et al ^ a b c d e f g h i "People vs. Webb et. al". Supreme Court of the Philippines. 2010-12-14. Retrieved 2010-12-16.  ^ G.R. No. 176864 DISSENTING OPINION, Villarama, 2010 ^ Bordadora, Norman (2010-12-17). "Aquino orders new Vizconde slay probe". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2010-12-18.  ^ New Vizconde massacre witnesses surface, ABS CBN News ^ New witnesses to prove Webb in PH during Vizconde massacre, Philippine Daily Inquirer External links Philippine Inquirer, The Vizconde Case Manila Times Special Report on the Vizconde Case Supreme Court decisions G.R. No. 121234 Hubert Webb et al. vs. Raul de Leon et. al, 1995 G.R. No. 127262 Hubert Webb, et al. vs. People of the Philippines et al., 1997 G.R. No. 132577 People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, 1999 G.R. No. 176864 People of the Philippines vs. Hubert Webb, et. al., 2010 Concurring opinions Carpio Morales, 2010 Sereno, 2010 Supplemental opinion Brion, 2010 Dissenting opinion Villarama, 2010