My heart bleeds for the innocent

THERE were two major aspects that the media and/or the Supreme Court did not highlight.

One was the claim of then private prosecutor  Renato  Cayetano that the passport of Hubert Webb had no US visa, and the other, about the failure of the alleged eyewitness to the crime Jessica Alfaro to immediately identify Webb as the sole perpetrator of the rape of Carmel a Vizconde.

Cayetano said it only bore a stamp indicating that Webb’s passport only bore the letter VOOP stamped by an American immigration official, meaning Hubert was not in America but in the Philippines when the crime was committed.

Any traveler who frequently visits the US knows that the letters VOOP stand for Visa on the other passport.
That is because a US visa remains valid despite the issuance of a new passport.

In the case of Jessica upon being confronted in open court in 199 to identify one of the accused dilly dallied in pinpointing the culprit until someone close to the witness coached her to name Webb as among those she was accusing.

The factors were enough to acquit Webb and his co-accused since there was immediately a reasonable doubt as to their guilt. Instead, the lower court nonetheless hanged the accused, a decision the Court of Appeals confirmed.

Last Monday, the SC finally pronounced Webb and companions innocent of the crime.

Those who concurred the decision were Justices  Roberto Abad, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Jose Catral Mendoza and Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Mendoza said he voted for the revocation of the verdict of conviction because there was a lingering doubt
in his mind.

Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Martin Villarama, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Arturo Brion dissented while Justice Antonio Carpio, who had testified in the trial, did not participate in the deliberations.

Accused of murdering Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Jennifer, 7, and Carmela, 18, who was raped before being stabbed to death, were Webb, Antonio Lejano, Michael Gatchalian, Hospicio Fernandez, Miguel Rodriguez and Peter Estrada.

The father, Lauro, was in the US when it happened.

Although the SC  decision does not cover two other accused, Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura, who have remained at large, they can now petition the court to declare them innocent as well.

But what will happen to Jessica who is probably now an American citizen? Will the Supreme Court or any lawyer for that matter ask her to answer for her testimony that the justices believed were incredible and unbelievable?

And what about other convicts who have been wrongly accused and sent to jail for life? And for those who are staying in prisons for some minor offenses for so long for their failure to pay the bail bonds?

Somebody has to answer for this injustice.

“In our criminal justice system, what is important is, not whether the court entertains doubts about the innocence of the accused since an open mind is willing to explore all possibilities, but whether it entertains a reasonable, lingering doubt as to his guilt,” the high court said. Raul Valino


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