MANILA, Philippines -- The Supreme Court?s unusual order to belatedly subject vital forensic evidence in the celebrated 1991 Vizconde rape-slay case to DNA testing hit a wall after the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) said it no longer had the specimen.
This developed as Lauro Vizconde, whose wife, Estrelita and children Carmela and Jennifer, were killed in 1991, opposed the belated holding of DNA testing on what would be questionable specimen.
In a five-page report submitted to the Supreme Court Tuesday afternoon, NBI Deputy Director for Technical Services Reynaldo Esmeralda said they turned over to the Parañaque Regional Trial Court Branch 274 in 1996 the specimen taken from the body of 18-year-old rape victim Carmela Vizconde during autopsy.
?The desired semen specimen/vaginal smear taken from cadaver of Carmela Vizconde (including all original documents, i.e. autopsy and laboratory reports and photographs) is no longer in the custody of the NBI,? Esmeralda reported.
He said all the pieces of evidence were submitted to the Parañaque court by then NBI medico-legal chief Prospero Cabanayan when he testified on Jan. 30 and 31 and Feb. 1, 5, 6 and 7, 1996, before the court.
Esmeralda on Monday said the NBI conducted an inventory of all forensic evidence in its custody after the Supreme Court granted last week a request of the convict, Hubert Webb, first made in 1997 to subject the semen specimen/vaginal smear to DNA analysis in an attempt to disprove that he raped, and killed, Carmela, her mother Estrellita, 47, and sister Jennifer, 7.
The Parañaque court then presided over by Judge Amelita Tolentino rejected Webb?s request at the time after the prosecution protested that the specimen might no longer have been intact.
In his report, Esmeralda confirmed that a semen specimen was discovered in the vaginal smear.
NBI Medico-Legal Division Laboratory Report No. SN-91-17 confirmed that ?microscopic examination made on the said specimen gave positive result for the presence of human spermatozoa.?
In an interview with reporters, NBI Medico Legal Chief Dr. Florencio Arizala said Cabayanan had reported that he turned over three glass slides of the semen specimen to the Parañaque RTC .
?As part of standard operating procedure, fluid was taken from the vagina of Carmela Vizconde for the purpose of semenology. At the time, 1991, the NBI was not thinking about DNA. The first time the NBI acquired DNA (equipment) was in 1996,? said Arizala, a lawyer.
?While semenology is an almost perfect science, still in sperm pooling, we cannot determine how many different sperms are there in the semenology. We can only differentiate human spermatozoa from that of animals. But with DNA testing, it can be established how many different sperms and who may own them,? he said.
The Supreme Court ordered the NBI to coordinate with the University of the Philippines? Natural Science and Research Institute in conducting the DNA test.
Webb, son of former senator Freddie Webb, and five young scions of rich families were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2000 for rape with homicide while two other accused, including the supposed boyfriend of key prosecution witness Jessica Alfaro, remain at large.
Their conviction was upheld by the Court of Appeals in 2005 and affirmed in 2007. The case has since been pending on appeal in the Supreme Court.
Reached for comment about the NBI report, Supreme Court spokesperson and concurrent court administrator Midas Marquez said, ?We?ll wait for next action of the court.?
Marquez admitted that in Webb?s case, the Supreme Court veered from the rule that prohibited it from trying factual evidence in a case.
In ordering the DNA test, the magistrates, invoking ?the higher interest of justice,? decided not to remand the case to the trial court but to receive evidence.
Lauro Vizconde vowed to appeal the Supreme Court decision granting Hubert Webb's request for DNA testing of vital forensic evidence.
Vizconde himself went to the Supreme Court office in Manila Monday morning to get a copy of the resolution ordering the DNA testing of the semen specimen taken from the body of Carmela.
"My worry is, the result will no longer be credible because of the long period of time of its (specimen's) storage. And we are worried that this will lead to the acquittal of Hubert Webb. We have to act now, we have to do something,? he said when interviewed by reporters at the Supreme Court office.
?Way back in 1997 we already opposed the conduct of DNA test and it (motion) was already dismissed that time. It is only now that the Supreme Court decided to proceed with the conduct of DNA analysis," he continued.
The others convicted in the Vizconde murders were 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; and Hospicio ?Pyke? Fernandez, son of a retired commodore.
Two other accused remain at large namely Joey Filart, allegedly a relative of former Capital Region Command Chief Marino Filart; and Artemio ?Dong? Ventura, allegedly the boyfriend of key eyewitness Jessica Alfaro.
Police officer Gerardo Biong was also convicted as accessory to the crime and sentenced to 11 to 12 years of imprisonment.