A pile of micro reel tapes uncovered for the first time during the reinvestigation of the gruesome Vizconde massacre “shatters” Hubert Webb’s claim that he was in the United States at the time of the murders 20 years ago.
In a news conference on Tuesday announcing the result of the six-month inquiry, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and officials of the National Bureau of Investigation said transcripts of the tapes from the Bureau of Immigration did not show that Webb left the country in 1991.
However, De Lima said that in spite of the testimony of seven new witnesses, the investigators found no new evidence that put the son of former Sen. Freddie Webb or any of his coaccused at the scene of the crime.
The reinvestigation by an interagency task force headed by the Department of Justice was ordered by President Benigno Aquino III in December following the acquittal of the 42-year-old Webb and his coaccused after 15 years imprisonment.
Thursday (June 30) marks the 20th year that Estrellita Vizconde, 47, and her daughters Carmela, 18, and Jennifer, 7, were stabbed dead in their house in an upscale subdivision in Parañaque City. Carmela also was raped.
De Lima admitted that there was nothing the authorities could do with the new evidence, pointing out that the Supreme Court had affirmed with finality its ruling on Dec. 14 acquitting Webb et al. of rape with homicide, saying the prosecution had failed to probe their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
The Constitution, under its double jeopardy provision, prohibited a retrial of the case. Moreover, the 20-year prescription period for the capital offense also lapses on Thursday, preventing the state from going after the suspects.
“We believe that the evidence there is now rebut, or negate, or destroy or even shatter that defense of alibi (of Webb)… That is all it has established so far, the defense of alibi was in fact false. But … we have no credible and confirmed evidence, whether testimonial or otherwise, that would place Hubert Webb and company at the scene of the crime,” De Lima said.
“We are pursuing the truth. This may not be the whole truth, the whole picture, yet because of the gaps,” she said. But she stressed the findings were “significant enough to cast such a doubt” on Webb’s alibi.
Webb has claimed he was in the United States at the time the Vizcondes were killed, presenting documents—from his passport to the certifications from US authorities—to prove his alibi.
But Romulo Asis, head of the NBI Death Investigation Division, said the inquiry showed that there were inconsistencies in Webb’s signature in his passport compared to his signatures in US documents such as the customs declaration and his California driver’s license.
Asis also said there were four witnesses who said they had seen Webb between April to July 1991 in Parañaque City. Webb had claimed to have left on March 9, 1991 for the United States.
But more than these, data from magnetic reel tapes used by the Bureau of Immigration in the 1990s to record passenger arrivals and departures showed that Webb never left the country. They showed Freddie Webb left in March 1991, and several Webbs arrived in the Philippines, including Hubert Webb, in October 1992.
Asked why the evidence shown in the reinvestigation was not discovered by the original investigators, De Lima said prosecutors were concentrating on Jessica Alfaro. “They felt that she as star witness was enough. It turned out the Supreme Court did not believe Jessica and upheld (Webb’s) defense of alibi,” De Lima said.
A certain Pitong, one of the new witnesses interviewed, claimed that he had known the Webb family since October 1982, and had seen their laundry women washing a bloodied shirt on June 30, 1991.
Pitong claimed he then heard Hubert shouting in Filipino, “I would not have ended up like this if you had not neglected me.” Three days after that, he was allegedly approached by Mrs. Webb who reportedly told him, “You did not see anything.” A week after, Sen. Freddie Webb allegedly told him, “You did not see anything. You will regret it.”
A certain George, another witness, claimed that he was introduced to Webb by former SPO1 Gerardo Biong sometime in April 1991 where the young Webb allegedly purchased from him 10 grams of shabu worth P10,000. He alleged that Webb bought illegal drugs from him on two other occasions in May 1991. He alleged that he could not forget Webb because Biong had allegedly threatened him, “Do not cheat him. I will kill you,” brandishing a shiny revolver.
Witnesses Rey, Mario, Jerry and Jack (not their real names), claimed that they had from April to July 1991, seen Webb playing basketball in BF Homes.
Counsel threatens action
In an interview with ANC TV late Tuesday night, Freddie Webb questioned the reliability of the immigration tapes and the NBI investigation, pointing out that while there was a record of his son’s arrival, there was no record of his departure. “How was that possible?” he asked. He also demanded that the NBI reveal the identity of the new witnesses so that his lawyers could question them.
Demetrio Custodio, Webb’s counsel, dismissed the results of the reinvestigation and said the Webb camp may resort to legal action.
“We denounce their statements as these put Hubert Webb in a position where he has to defend himself once again. We are considering the options that are appropriate under the circumstances,” Custodio told the Inquirer by phone.
He also raised doubts on the credibility of the immigration data provided by the magnetic reel tape, as well as those of the witnesses who now spoke of incidents that happened 20 years ago.
One team uncovered “Black Maria,” a woman whom one witness said had told him she was with Webb’s group inside the Vizconde home and saw the crime take place. “She admitted to knowing Webb and company but denied knowledge of the Vizconde massacre,” Asis said.
De Lima said that it was possible that it was Black Maria who was in the Vizconde home and not Jessica Alfaro, the NBI’s star witness during the trial.
Another team of agents found Rhoda Pojanes, alias Dang, who claimed that she had a pot session on the night of June 29, 1991, with a group of friends at the house of Mike Gatchalian on 100 West Vinzons, BF Homes, a few meters away from the Vizconde residence.
She identified some of them as Eduardo “Dong” Villadolid, his brother, Romel “Bing” Villadolid, Michael “Ging” Rodriguez, John Sullivan and Noel Bata.
The Villadolids, who left for the United States shortly after the massacre, may be pursued by investigators. One of them could be Dong Ventura, one of those named in the case but was never arrested and arraigned, De Lima said.
According to Criminal Investigation Division Group chief Supt. Joel Coronel, Dang claimed to have heard Dong Villadolid shouting at the top of his voice, saying they had raped and killed a certain Maria and other persons. She also said that Bing was accosting Ging Rodriguez on why he had to stab and kill a young girl,” Coronel recalled.
De Lima said that the investigators may likely pursue the possible involvement of the Villadolids in the crime, saying the prescription period would not apply to them as they were in the United States as the period was “interrupted.”
The prescription period also does not apply, according to De Lima, to Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura, who are still at large.