MANILA, Philippines - Three champion debaters from Ateneo de Manila Law School on Friday defeated their rivals from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in the finals of ANC Square Off: The CVC Law Debates Season 3, hosted by Twink Macaraig.
It was sweet victory for the Ateneo team, composed of Roland Glenn Tuazon, Kazimir Kira Ang, and Joseph Roman Dela Cuesta, after they lost in last season's final against Ateneo de Davao.
Tuazon, Ang and Dela Cuesta successfully argued for the affirmative that Vizconde massacre convict Hubert Webb should be acquitted after the State failed to produce the semen specimen that could prove his innocence.
The winning team argued that the loss of possibly exculpatory evidence amounts to a violation of due process for the accused, which could be used as ground for acquittal.
Tuazon, who was named Best Speaker by the judges, argued that the Vizconde case could set a precedent in jurisprudence for "determinative justice and not vindictive justice."
He said failure to acquit Webb on the basis of the prosecution's loss of possibly exculpatory evidence would be "an affirmation of a trend where the National Bureau of Investigation can be slipshod in handling evidence."
On the other hand, members of the UP team -- Marie Michelle Go, Neil Nucuo and Al-Zhoheir Hajim -- said acquittal should not hinge on lost evidence when its probitive value has yet to be determined. They said Webb and his co-accused were convicted based on the testimony of Jessica Alfaro and other evidence presented by the prosecution.
They also noted that even if the semen specimen turned up not to be Webb's, it still would not prove that he was not present at the crime scene.
UP inconsistent; Ateneo well prepared
Atty. Ricky dela Cruz, who was one of the adjudicators, noted the inconsistency in the arguments of the UP team as to whether to consider the probitive value of the potentially exculpatory evidence or to consider the suppression or loss of the evidence as being the relevant issue in the case.
Another adjudicator, Atty. Pancho Umali, praised Ateneo for being well prepared in terms of research of the facts of the case, jurisprudence and the legal arguments. "They presented their case convincingly, clearly and with poise if I may say so," he said.
Atty. Ernest Maceda Jr., dean of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law, noted that the Vizconde case was a "watershed moment" for the legal profession.
"It is an excellent opportunity for us to assess the strengths and weaknesses of our criminal justice system in relation to the innocence of persons. But if there is one thing that DNA testing will not disprove, it's how competent your attorneys and counsels are, and I think we saw tonight that we are in the presence of great future lawyers," he said.
The other adjudicators in the Square Off finals are Atty. Andy Bautista, chair of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and current dean of the Far Eastern University Institute of Law, and Atty. Elma Leogardo, senior partner of CVC Law.