14 December 2010

Vizconde Case Verdict: The Truth Can Set Everyone Free

I am by no means a regular viewer of TV Patrol, but this evening I was totally held enrapt by the news program’s emotionally confusing coverage of the acquittal of Hubert Webb and company, incarcerated for the last 15 years – and four months, Webb’s father Freddie pointed out – for having been found guilty of murder in the infamous Vizconde massacre case of 1991.

On the one hand, Hubert Webb: finally home after having lost his youth within the confines of a national penitentiary. The tearful embraces with members of his family after he was released from prison were sufficient to have melted even hearts of steel. Yes, even if we had all consigned him and his co-accused to a folder deep inside our minds with a label NO LONGER RELEVANT; and yes, after we had all bought what we were sold by the media and had more or less believed they were all guilty as sin.

On the other hand, Lauro Vizconde, husband and father to those who were brutally murdered; now an old man bawling his heart out at this totally expected turn of events. Watching him hysterical, almost blacking out and blabbering almost unintelligibly in his hoarse old man’s voice was the most unnerving, heart-wrenching experience – even if I was just watching everything on television.

In the middle of all these, drowned out by the media frenzy, is a question aching, begging to be answered: “Who, then, killed the Vizcondes?”

I have a Twitter account which I seldom use because I feel it is a tad on the narcissistic side; albeit, it is useful for following breaking news. By midday, the news tweets started streaming down the main page. The Supreme Court had acquitted every one of the accused! I was totally intrigued!

From what I could make of the initial Internet posts, the Supreme Court’s decision had a lot to do with the fact that Jessica Alfaro, erstwhile star witness of the prosecution, was in fact an agent of the NBI who was tasked with finding information by infiltrating groups. Furthermore, the court pointed out that Alfaro’s testimonies were, in fact, not first hand information but – instead – information from a supposed informant that she eventually failed to produce. Her testimonies, the Supreme Court also pointed out, were also littered with inconsistencies.

I will be the first to admit that I am by no means an expert in the legal process; but, with a completely layman’s point of view, I just need to ask why such a simplistic conclusion by the Supreme Court – there was nothing, at least from the summary of the decision that was announced to the nation, that was earthshaking – could not have been arrived at by the lower courts.

The buck stops with the Supreme Court, of course, and this provision that is referred to as double jeopardy. There is a simple wisdom to decisions by the court being further incontestable; if a decision it passes does not end there, it never will. I would like to think, as citizens, that we are all obligated to believe at least as far as our own individual minds can grasp that a ruling of the court is the closest there can possibly be to the truth and to justice; else government and governance will be pointless.

Lauro Vizconde, of course, is utterly convinced that the Justices had been corrupted. I cannot begin to imagine what it can possibly feel like to be wearing his shoes in these trying times; that said, the very same accusation – in the light of the Supreme Court’s ruling – can now be redirected at the lower courts that passed and upheld the guilty verdict.

If the accused are guilty, how could the prosecution have failed to see the inconsistencies in its evidences that the Supreme Court eventually saw? If they are not, and the evidences were indeed insufficient, how could a guilty verdict have been arrived at? I mean no disrespect to the lower courts because the fact that the courts are tiered is a concession to human frailties – and also that I really have no opinion because I find all of these so confusing – but these are just the obvious questions for every layman to ask!

Among the basic principles of a judicial system in a democracy is that justice cannot be delayed nor denied. Nineteen years and Lauro Vizconde still does not know beyond the shadow of a doubt who killed the members of his family! The Supreme Court's decision, remember, was based on the premise that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the accused were guilty of the crime. Vizconde does not know that they are guilty; neither does he know that they are not!

He thinks, of course, that they are! But think is not the same as know; because, now, what he and the rest of us simply thought of as facts has been reduced by the Supreme Court ruling to conjecture. Therefore, it may not even be just and correct that Vizconde thinks Webb and company are guilty! If this is confusing to you, it sure as hell is to me too!

All I know is that my heart bleeds for Lauro Vizconde…

It bleeds, too, for Hubert Webb and his co-accused. Fifteen years is a long time to be kept behind bars for a crime one has not committed. The older a person gets, the more he looks back at the exuberance and the gaiety of his youth. What will these men look back at but the unwanted memories of the four walls that were the ruination of their lives?

Assimilation back into society will not be easy. Society is judgmental and does not forget quickly. For as long as the real killers are not found, the pointing fingers will not go away. The doubt will be there, even among friends. If, indeed, none of them is guilty, then the justice system had served them a very raw deal!

I am reminded of a classic novel by the Russian writer Leo Tolstoi: God Sees the Truth, But Waits. One just wonders what God’s thoughts are and when He will deem fit to let loose the truth, because it is only the truth that can set everyone free.

It will free the souls of the deceased from the craving for justice that I know must have continued into the afterlife. It will free Lauro Vizconde from the burden of his own perceptions against the group that was released from jail this afternoon; ditto his own feelings of having failed the family he has continued to love and fight for almost twenty years after their lives were brutally stolen from them. It will also free Hubert Webb and company from the doubts society will continue to harbor as long as the real maniacs who committed the crime continue to elude the arms of the law.





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RELATED STORIES:
No Interregnum
Democracy

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