|Justice Secretary Leila De Lima checks new documents gathered in the reinvestigation of the Visconde Massacre case as CIDG Chief Joel Coronel and NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula look on. Photo by Adil Arias for ABS-CBN
* Villadolid brothers are new suspects
* Webb lawyer: Accuracy of testimonies 'very suspect'
* Vizconde happy with new report
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - At least 6 witnesses and material evidence shattered Hubert Webb’s alibi that he was not in the country before, during and immediately after the Vizconde massacre on June 30, 1991, officials said on Tuesday.
Two days before the 20-year prescriptive period closes on the supposed link of the main suspect in the massacre, the joint task force of the Department of Justice, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Philippine National Police showed material evidence that “negate, destroy, and even shatter the defense of alibi” of Hubert Webb.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima recognized, however, that Webb and the others acquitted by the Supreme Court in December could not anymore be tagged for the same crime because of the principle of double jeopardy.
The SC, in acquitting Webb et al, said the prosecution did not provide enough evidence to debunk his alibi he was in the United States during those relevant months.
De Lima also admitted that even with the earnest efforts of investigators, they were not able to categorically place Webb and the others at the scene of the crime.
“There is no credible evidence that would place him at the scene of the crime,” she said.
What de Lima stressed, however, is that the taskforce was “created to ferret out the truth.”
She said they now have leads, based on those pieces of evidence, which would allow them to run after other suspects, including a certain Eduardo Villadolid and brother Rommel Villadolid.
She said the other 2 previously named suspects, Joey Filart and Artemio Ventura, are still at-large.
“They can still be brought to court…Remember that the [prescriptive period against them] was suspended, interrupted because they are not here. So pwede pa,” she said.
Why only now?
In an interview with ANC, Webb's lawyer Demetrio Custodio questioned why the witnesses came out 20 years after the crime.
Although Custodio said he has yet to talk with the Webb family about these recent developments, he pointed out that the “coming out” of the witnesses “is a little bit dubious.”
He also questioned the certainty of their memories, given that the crime happened 2 decades ago. “Even I can’t remember [what happened 20 years ago]. The accuracy of their testimonies is very suspect.”
Lauro Vizconde, the family patriarch, nonetheless exclaimed happiness over the report. He was present during the disclosure of new evidence at the NBI.
‘Hubert has links to the crime’
“Their [testimonies] affirm what I believed all along…that Hubert had something to do with the crimes,” he said in Filipino.
While the justice system closed on him when the high court acquitted the suspects last year, Vizconde said “what matters to me now is that the public knows who killed my family, the truth.”
Vizconde downplayed Custodio’s reactions on the credibility of the witnesses, saying “what do they [witnesses] have to earn or lose from coming out?”
He said he does not consider the case closed. “It’s not yet over…This is just a consolation…,” he added.
During the presentation this morning at the NBI, the task force said “the evidence gathered by the Task Force disclosed that Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb never left the Philippines on the date he said he did.”
“He was seen by several persons who never knew each other and all of whom did not have any reason to perjure their statements. Each one voluntarily executed their statements. They were never threatened, forced or coerced or promised any consideration,” the task force reported.
The witnesses include “Pitong”, who since 1982, already knew the Webb family. He claimed he saw a laundry woman wash a bloodied t-shirt on the morning of the crime.
He also claimed to have heard Hubert shout, “I won’t be like this if not for you.”
Days after, Hubert’s parents separately approached him [Pitong] and told him “you do not know anything.” Freddie Webb also allegedly threatened him.
The task force also said “George” came to them, claiming he had transactions with then policeman Gerardo Biong and Webb.
Biong served time as an accessory to the crimes. He was the first to “respond” to the scene on the morning of the crime.
George said it was Biong who introduced Hubert to him in April 1991. Webb supposedly bought from him P10,000 worth of shabu.
He then met the suspect twice in May that same year to trade drugs. Biong also supposedly told him, “George, don’t mess with Hubert, I will kill you.”
Two more witnesses, Rey and Jerry, played basketball with Webb’s group during those months in question.
"Mario," on the other hand, had Webb for a customer at a parlor a week after the crimes. He clearly remembers Webb even scolding a child on that day.
"Jack," on the other hand, is a village security guard who kept records of the village during the time of the massacre.
Mr. H. Webb
The task force also showed the supposed differences in Webb’s passport and the United States documents he had when he was supposedly in the United States. His Jeffrey was spelled “Jeffry” in his passport.
A “short” signature also appeared there, in contrast to the “long” one in the other documents used in his alibi.
The task force was also able to get hold of Cecilia Tangonan Perlas, who then worked with Rajah Tours, where Webb and his aunt supposedly got their tickets for the US in March 1991.
She was asked to process “Webb/H. Mr”, whom the aunt said was Hubert.
She never saw Hubert around. She also claimed the owner of the agency, Clodelisa Ty, was a close friend of the Webbs.
Magnetic reel tape
The task force also sourced the magnetic reel tape of the supposed dates Webb left for the US.
The tape is a ferrous oxide-coated tape similar to audio recordings. It showed the complete travel records of a person. The task force had to employ the help of IBM to thresh out the information from the tape.
A certain Engineer Jolly Bert Galeon said the magnetic reel tape did not show that Hubert was on the list.
De Lima said “we knew their names, we talked to them…we don’t see any reason for them to fabricate their respective stories.”
She said the investigation hit a snag on the aspect of placing a suspect on the crime scene.
A certain “Pip” led them to “Black Maria” who supposedly witnessed the gruesome crimes.
Who is Black Maria?
After a lot of snooping, they finally met up with “Black Maria” in Sofitel in Pasay City. She admitted knowing Webb and the others but denied knowledge of the massacres.
“Glenda”, who was then in the employ of Pinky de Leon, claimed to have seen "Black Maria" and Webb during one of their visits in their home. De Leon is the mother of one of those acquitted, Tony Boy Lejano.
“Glenda” and her mother “Mameng” also claimed to have washed bloodied clothes, including a white shirt, black pants, black jacket, yellow towel and gloves.
De Lima said the task force is also holding the testimony of a certain “Dang,” who knew the group of Michael Gatchalian and the others who were also earlier linked to the crimes. Dang also named the Villadolids.
Dang is also a former drug dependent.
Her testimony only revealed she saw and heard the group before and after the crimes.
“It’s not enough…but we’re pursuing these leads,” de Lima added.