MANILA, Philippines - Vizconde massacre suspect Joey Filart exists and he is in the United States.
This was the report of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) team tracking Filart and another accused, Artemio Ventura, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
In a news conference today, de Lima bared Filart is "somewhere in the United States" but that apart from locating him, investigators have yet to make contact.
Ventura, on the other hand, still could not be located.
The justice chief said she is now studying the possible extradition of Filart who was one of the accused in the gruesome Vizconde killings on June 30, 1991 in Paranaque City.
"The extradition of Mr. Filart is being studied because he is the one with the warrant of arrest subject of criminal proceedings," de Lima said.
Filart, who was among the group of Hubert Webb implicated by prosecution star witness, Jessica Alfaro, to the killings, could not be located by authorities since charges were filed against them in 1995.
"I told them [NBI agents] to access him so they can question him," de Lima said.
The justice chief said this confirmation of the existence of Filart somehow helps build the credibility of Alfaro, who was discredited as a witness by the Supreme Court when it ruled in favor of the acquittal of Webb's group.
"Medyo nakakatulong yan kasi sabi nya may Filart at may Ventura, at ngayon may validated information tayo na meron tayong Filart, so medyo nakakatulong yan sa credibility ni Jessica," de Lima said.
The DOJ is also bent on validating the alibi of Webb, who claims he was in the United States at the time of the killings.
"We have to deal with the U.S. officials and get to the bottom of that. Silent sila doon. When trial was ongoing, the U.S. embassy was silent on the matter. Are those documents (travel) genuine or not? Do those documents really refer to Hubert Webb? In some it was just H. Webb or Webb, H. These were actually tackled already by the trial court but binabalikan natin lahat," de Lima said.
The DOJ will also study the testimony of immigration official Ferdinand Sampol, who claimed he was the one who handled the passport of Hubert Webb during the U.S. travel in question, and check on why Webb did not present boarding passes for his travel.
"Meron ding sinasabi ang PAO [Public Attorney's Office] chief that they [defense panel] never presented boarding pass. Webb never presented a boarding pass. Kung nawala ang original, hindi ba nakakakuha naman yan sa files ng airlines? So we really have to check alibi vis-a-vis the allegation of Jessica," de Lima said.
De Lima, however, clarified that Webb's group is only one among three groups of suspects subject of the ongoing reinvestigation, the other two being the Barroso Akyat-Bahay gang and a group of construction workers. However, the justice chief said there were no developments as far as the other two groups are concerned.
De Lima had earlier clarified the inclusion of Webb's group is to make sure the DOJ fulfills its mandate to reinvestigate the massacre and for purposes of closure. She clarified that should the ongoing reinvestigation point to Webb, et al. as the perpetrators, charges can no longer be filed against them because of the doctrine of double jeopardy.
The justice chief also said Alfaro's testimony is being studied.
"Ganun din, yung storya ni Jessica, is that the truth? Kasi kung totoo, then the alibi was fabricated. If Jessica was fabricated, then the defense of alibi is true," de Lima said.
"At this point, really, we do not know the truth. Nobody can be sure about the truth behind this very celebrated and sensational crime. But we are very determined," de Lima added.
The justice chief bared her "internal deadline" for all three NBI and Philippine National Police teams working on the reinvestigation is three months to give the DOJ enough time in the event that the reinvestigation will lead to the filing of criminal charges.