MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - Hubert Webb and 5 others accused in the Vizconde massacre case were released from prison on Tuesday after the Supreme Court acquitted them.
Webb and his co-accused left the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) after the Supreme Court, before noon on Tuesday, announced its decision acquitting them of the murders of Estrellita Vizconde, and daughters Carmela and Jennifer in 1991.
NBP Director Ernesto Diokno signed the release papers after getting a copy of the order from the Supreme Court.
In an interview, Webb's father, former Senator Freddie Webb, said Hubert's release does not erase the fact that he lost 15 years of his life in jail.
"These are the years that he is supposed to be making plans for his own life, but this was taken away from him. But you know, we don't mind that anymore. Ang mahalaga sa amin ngayon he is free. Second, we will be together, and third, I hope that whatever happened to my son here will probably teach a lesson. Perhaps not to be judgmental and to be able to realize the sufferings that he has gone through. It's going to be a good Christmas for us," he said.
Hubert had a tearful reunion with his parents and siblings before his release. His mother, Elizabeth, said it was the first time that the family would go to the prison on a Tuesday.
"We never cried before but now all of us are crying with joy. We never went to Muntinlupa on a Tuesday because visitations are prohibited on Tuesday. It is serendipitous that we will go there on a Tuesday to fetch him," he said.
Hubert's brother, Jason, said it was the first time that the whole family allowed themselves to show emotion in public. "For 15 years, we kept our tears to ourselves because we could not show any weakness to my brother. So now, lumalabas na lahat," he said.
A report by ABS-CBN correspondent Ces Drilon said the Webb family went to St. Joseph's Parish for prayer after Hubert's release.
Fr. Joseph Lantero blessed the family and said he has been ministering to the spiritual needs of the Webb family since he was assigned to the parish.
After the Mass, the family proceeded to their home in Asia World, Parañaque where they will have their first dinner together after Hubert's long incarceration.
Hubert: Guilty must be punished
In a press conference before his release, Hubert said his prayer for the Vizconde family is that the guilty be punished after the Supreme Court acquitted him in the Vizconde massacre case.
Webb told reporters he is thankful to God that his innocence in the rape and murder of Carmela Vizconde and 2 others has finally come out.
"Since the very start, we said that we were innocent. We believed in the system that's why we underwent the process. We did not run. We are here for 15 years, 15 taon naming tinganggap. Kaya nagpapasalamat kami na lumabas din yung katotohanan," he told reporters after his acquittal.
Describing the Supreme Court decision as "surreal," Webb said he has forgiven those who did him wrong. He added that he is now looking forward to finally spending Christmas with his family after 15 years in jail.
Lie detector test
Webb also challenged star witness Jessica Alfaro to just tell the truth and even undergo a lie detector test to back her claims.
"One of us is lying. If she says she's telling the truth, why don't we all take a lie-detector test at the same time so that we'll know who's really telling the truth? We took on every challenge including the DNA test just to prove that we are innocent."
Asked who he thinks framed him for the crime, he said: "I'm sorry. I really don't know."
He also said he has one prayer for those who still believe he is guilty in the massacre.
"Sa mga hindi naniniwala na ako'y inosente, sabay-sabay tayong magdasal na yung may kasalanan ay parusahan (For those who don't believe I'm innocent, let's pray together that those who are guilty be punished)," he said.
Webb, son of former Senator Freddie Webb, is one of at least 6 people convicted by a Parañaque regional trial court judge for the massacre of a mother, 47-year-old Estrellita Vizconde, and her 2 children, 18-year-old Carmela and 7-year-old Jennifer Vizconde, in Parañaque on June 30, 1991.
The Vizconde trial was dubbed the trial of the century because all the accused came from prominent families.
Aside from Webb, the other accused were: Antonio "Tony Boy" Lejano, son of actress Pinky de Leon; Michael Gatchalian and Miguel Rodriguez, sons of prominent lawyers; Peter Estrada, son of a wealthy businessman; Pyke Fernandez, son of a retired commodore; and former police officer Gerardo Biong.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court en banc reversed the verdict and ordered the release of the 6. Biong was released last month after serving his sentence.
'We didn't buy off justice'
In the press conference, Webb said he never changed his alibi that he was in the United States at the time of the massacre on June 30, 1991.
He added that he is willing to go back to jail if people want to re-examine the defense's evidence including plane tickets, passports and other sworn affidavits attesting that he left the country before the brutal murders.
Asked what his message is to those who lost loved ones in the massacre, Webb said some people might be "blinded by their anger" from seeing the evidence proving his innocence.
He also expressed disgust about rumors that his father had tried to influence the Supreme Court in its decision to acquit him.
"Since the start, they said that my father was very powerful and that he could buy off anything. He paid for the passport, he paid the Americans. Why would I be jailed for 15 years? Why would we agree to that?" he said, adding that his father was no longer in politics.
Webb said he will also have to rebuild his ties with his now 17-year-old son. He said his son was kept away from the public eye because he was only 2 when Webb was jailed for the massacre. "We had to protect him," he said.
Webb had a tearful reunion with his parents and siblings at the New Bilibid Prisons after the press conference.
Justice too slow
For his part, another acquitted suspect - Pyke Fernandez - said he is happy that he will soon go free but sad that he lost 15 years in jail.
"Dapat hindi tumagal ng ganito. It was a frame-up. I am thankful that this happened. I don't know everybody. I only know Hubert and Tony Boy. At least we're going out as innocent, we leave as innocent men," he told ABS-CBN News.
Fernandez said he had no inkling that the Supreme Court would vote to acquit today although he was aware that a decision would be released today. He added that he was at the dentist getting his teeth fixed when the decision came.
"I didn't know I would be free today. Kanina ko lang nalaman. Alam mo, it's the topic na these days so everybody was kinda excited what would happen. Actually nasa dentist ako, I had to fix my teeth," he said.