Suspects on the Vizconde Massacre Acquitted
On June 30, 1991, a mother and her two daughters were found dead in their home. The crime was popularly known as “The Vizconde Massacre”. The victims were: Estrellita Vizconde, 47, sustained 13 stab wounds; Carmela, 18, had 17 stab wounds and had been raped before she was killed; and Jennifer, 7, had 19 stab wounds.
The suspects were Hubert Webb, son of former Senator Freddie Webb; Antonio Lejano II, son of actress-singer Pinky de Leon and nephew of actor Christopher de Leon; Hospicio Fernandez, son of a retired commodore; Michael Gatchalian and Miguel Rodriguez, sons of prominent lawyers; Peter Estrada, son of a wealthy businessman, Joey Filart, believed to be related to former National Capital Region Command chief Marino Filart; and Artemio Ventura, son of a wealthy businessman.
The case was initially filed at the Paranaque City Regional Trial Court under Judge Amelita Tolentino. Charges and counter-charges were reviewed and analyzed and on January 6, 2000, the verdict was guilty beyond reasonable doubt. The suspects were sentenced to life imprisonment. In her decision, Judge Tolentino described the testimony of the defense as full of inconsistencies. Photographs and videotapes showing Webb in America also appeared to be tampered. Also found guilty of burning bedsheets and tampering with other evidence in the crime was Gerardo Biong, a police investigator.
Court of Appeals
The case was then elevated to the Court of Appeals. And after a thorough review of the evidences presented, the court voted 3-2 in favor of the victim denying the motion for reconsideration of the suspects. Thus, the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the lower court.
On December 14, 2010, voting 7-4, the High Court acquitted the suspects for the crime of rape with homicide. The High Court reversed the verdict of Paranaque RTC Branch 274 which was upheld by the Court of Appeals and had sentenced the primary accused to life imprisonment.
“No more motion for reconsideration can be filed. That would be tantamount to double jeopardy, according to Court Administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez, citing a rule in criminal procedures prohibiting a second prosecution against the same person under the same offense after acquittal or conviction by court.
The 38-page decision penned by Associate Justice Roberto Abad cited “reasonable and lingering doubt on the guilt of the accused” and “failure of prosecution to establish the guilt beyond reasonable doubt.”
Six magistrates concurred in the ruling: Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza and Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
The four other magistrates inhibited from the case – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo, Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Antonio Eduardo Nachura – due to either earlier involvement in the case or relation to either of the parties.
Carpio had testified during trial for Webb while Nachura had handled the case earlier when he was still solicitor general. Del Castillo opted not to take part in the voting since his wife had served as lawyer for one of the accused while Velasco is related to one of the parties in the case, according to Marquez.
After almost two decades, the suspects walked off the national penitentiary as “Free Men”
How about you Pinoy, what is your verdict?