Saturday, November 27, 2004 

      OPINION

     
Not guilty

    ASK Senator Alfredo Lim and he will tell you that he is positive that Hubert Webb is not guilty of killing the Vizconde ladies. As director of the National Bureau of Investigation, he thoroughly investigated the case, and he can cite chapter and verse all the evidence that point to the fact that Webb could not have done it. Ask former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Robert Heafner, who served with the US Embassy as legal attach‚ for many years, and he will tell you that Webb is not guilty of killing the Vizconde ladies. The FBI investigated Webb's whereabouts at the time of the massacre, and the evidence it gathered show that he was in the United States at the time. Ask businessman Jack Rodriguez and his wife Sonia, and they will swear that Webb is innocent, because they saw him in California on the very day the Vizconde murders took place. Ask Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio and I don't know what he will tell you now that he is in the Supreme Court, but during Webb's trial, he testified for the defense.

     These people had no reason whatsoever to tell a lie or cover up for Webb. They certainly had nothing to gain and maybe even a lot to lose, but they spoke up anyway.

     Ask Jessica Alfaro, and she will tell you that Webb and his co-accused are guilty because she was with them when they did the dastardly deed. But her testimony seems to be shot full of holes. Some examples: She said that they entered through the front door, opened by victim Carmela, and left through the same door, but during the crime scene investigation, it was noted that the front door was locked from the inside. She said she told one of the accused to break the bulb in the lamppost in front of the Vizconde residence, but there was no lamppost there. She said that the group left through the back exit of the subdivision, but this was permanently closed. And she couldn't even identify some of the accused.

     Jessica had every reason to lie about Webb and six other accused. For not only was she vulnerable to possible arrest because of a rather checkered life, but her brother, a suspected addict and pusher, was in danger of going to jail.

     And yet, the trial judge accepted Alfaro's testimony over all the rest-and found Webb and his companions guilty. While the Court of Appeals is reviewing their case, Webb and his co-accused have been languishing in jail for almost 10 years now, caught in a living nightmare.

     Now let us turn to the case of Paco Larraņaga, who has been accused, along with five others, of killing the Chiong sisters in Cebu.

      Ask Marianne del Gallego, daughter of Cebu businessman and former Philippine Business for Social Progress regional chair Jose Miguel "Cuco" del Gallego, and she will tell you that Larraņaga is innocent. She and her two sisters, together with other Cebuanos, were with him in a restaurant and bar in Quezon City at the same time (the night of July 16 and early morning of July 17) that the murders were being committed in Cebu. Ask Raymond Garcia, son of former Cebu mayor and Osmeņa opponent (this is significant because Larraņaga has Osmeņa blood) Alvin Garcia, and he will swear that Larraņaga is innocent: Raymond was in the same party as Larraņaga and Marianne del Gallego were. Ask the security guard at the apartment where Larraņaga lived, and he will show you the logbook he kept where Larraņaga signed out in the evening of July 16 and signed back in in the wee hours of July 17. Ask Larraņaga's classmates in the cooking school he was attending, and they will tell you he was with them on July 16th and again on the 17th, taking exams. Ask Larraņaga's teachers, and they will tell you the same thing. Ask the four airlines servicing the Manila-Cebu route, and all of them will tell you Larraņaga's name was not on their manifests for the July 16 flights to Cebu. His name was on the Philippine Airlines manifest for the 17th, the day after the murders.

     These people have nothing to gain by lying for Larraņaga and, as in the Webb case, they may have had something to lose. Then-president Joseph Estrada was taking a personal interest in the case, because the victims' aunt was his appointments secretary.

     Now ask Davidson Rusia, and he will tell you that he was with Larraņaga and the other five accused. He saw them do the deed, complete with grisly details on the rape. Rusia did not come out with his story until 10 months after the murders (better, at least, than Alfaro, who came out only five years later). He is a drug addict, a convicted criminal and, like Alfaro, was vulnerable to any prosecutor he might displease. Also like Alfaro, there were holes in his testimony, all of which are detailed on the website created by Cuco del Gallego, who is on a crusade to prove Larraņaga's innocence (www.framedinthephilippines.com).

     Rusia is not a credible witness. Yet the trial judge accepted his testimony in toto. He even rejected Larraņaga's request to testify in his own defense.

     Worse, the Supreme Court this year increased the penalty imposed on Larraņaga and sentenced him to die. He has just been moved to death row. His nightmare is worse than Webb's.

     I have not met Larraņaga, and I met Webb only once. I have no personal interest in them. But after reading the records of their cases, I am convinced that the two are guilty of being mestizos; they are guilty of having parents who are not poor; and they are guilty of belonging to political families. But there is nothing there that can convince me they are guilty of murder.

NOTE:   THE ABOVE TEXT IS THE FAITHFUL REPRODUCTION OF THE ORIGINAL
                                  DOCUMENT REFORMATTED FOR  CLEARER APPRECIATION.                                        

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