Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Vizconde Massacre Update 2: The Testimony of Other Witnesses

The Supreme Court blasted the testimony of the star witness in the Vizconde massacre case. But, how about the security guard's testimony in G.R. No. 176389, who positively identified one of the suspects, Michael Gatchalian, and his friends, entering and leaving the BF homes subdivision the night of the gruesome massacre.


Unknown to the public, there were several other witnesses who presented themselves before the courts. There were two security guards and one laundry woman whose testimonies were given credence before the local court. The Supreme Court found loopholes in their respective testimonies and advertedly, rejected all of them. The Tribunal instead trained their guns at Jessica Alfaro, the star witness, whom two courts, the Regional Trial Court of Paranaque and the Court of Appeals, found extremely credible.


The SC established one singular fact which convinced all of them to render a favorable decision for the Webbs--that Alfaro is a perjured witness, and that she was an NBI agent. 


Examining the facts of GR. No. 176389, Alfaro was indeed an NBI agent. She began acting as one only in 1994--three years after the gruesome crime. 


Kung ang motibasyon ni Alfaro ay magpalakas lamang sa kanyang mga NBI handlers, hindi ba rasyunal na isipin na dapat noon pa lamang 1991 ay nagpakita na ito ng gilas at nagpresenta bilang eye-witness? Bakit 3 taon pa ang nakaraan bago gawin ni Alfaro ang nasabing pag-amin na nakita niya ang naganap na patayan sa bahay ng mga Vizcondes?


Dito pa lamang, kitang kita na na si Alfaro ay isang dating kriminal na lumabas lamang sa kanyang lungga matapos siguro ng tatlong taong pagmumuni-muni. 


GR No. 176389 is a bit curious for one thing---nowhere did the Supreme Court discussed theories or principles of law. The Tribunal only discussed the facts of the case which were already established by the local courts. It was like the Tribunal assumed the role of both the RTC and the Court of Appeals--they reviewed the facts of the case to 


The question really by some legal eagles is simple--is the Supreme Court empowered to be a "trier of facts"?


In Article VIII, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution, we find the definition of judicial power as a power vested in one Supreme Court and in such lower courts as may be established by law. "Judicial power" includes the duty of the courts of justice to settle actual controversies involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable and to determine whether or not there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of any branch or instrumentality of the government.


Section 4 (1) outlines the powers given by the Constitution to the Supreme Court. In numerous cases, the Highest Tribunal of the land only reviews cases from the local courts. The Court determines whether or not there has been an erroneous interpretation of the law or that there has been a grave abuse of discretion by the courts which harmed the rights of the parties involved.  In GR no. 165968, Pepsi-Cola Products vs. Santos, the Highest Court said categorically that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts. 


However, the Supreme Court only assumes this role (trier of facts) if there are glaring errors on the part of the lower courts in evaluating pieces of evidence. Testimonies are part of evidence. 


In GR. NO. 176389, we find the Supreme Court assuming the role of the lower courts. This is clearly, an abuse of its powers considering the fact that the members of the court were not present during the trial and cannot, by any circumstances, judge by what they saw. Members of the Supreme Court who ruled in favor of the accused in this case, never saw the demeanor of the witnesses, who positively identified the accused in court, never even saw the actual presentation of the pieces of evidence and never even heard the argumentations in court.


The HIghest Tribunal was only presented with the position papers and the pieces of evidence presented and entered in court. How, then, can the Court truly say that Alfaro's testimony is non-sense and devoid of any rationality?


The case of rape can be established solely on the basis of the victim's testimony(People of the Philippines vs. Elmer Barberos alias “EMIE”, G.R. No. 187494, December 23, 2009.). In this case, the victim was killed by her assailant or assailants. Is the testimony of an eye-witness enough to convict someone of rape? Yes. 


If Alfaro really perjured herself before the courts, Judge Tolentino and members of the Court of Appeals should have noted it and therefore, dispensed of her "wild story". They did not. Is the Supreme Court saying that both courts have erred in evaluating and recognizing the substantiveness of these pieces of evidence?


Besides, Alfaro was not an NBI agent when the crime was allegedly committed in June of 1991. The testimony of Atty. Sacaguing that he was approached by Alfaro and that Alfaro herself volunteered to be a star witness in the crime is not enough to impeach her as an eye witness. 


The testimony of an eye-witness is enough to convict someone of the crime of rape. In this case, however, there must be enough grounds to establish the presence of the accused at the time of the commission of the crime. 


Hubert Webb presented numerous documents proving his alibi that he was not present during the commission of the crime. He was in the United States when the crime was allegedly committed. Read the dissenting opinion of GR. No. 176389 and you'll find that one of the Associate Justices actually disbelieved Webb's assertion that he was present during the time. Besides, there were insinuations that the Webb's used the enormous powers of the Office of the Senator to "cleanse HUbert Webb's tracks".


This I find extremely incredulous. How can you refute the certifications made by the US government and corroborated by several other witnesses who saw Huber Webb in the US during the period from April to June of 1991?


For the first time, the Supreme Court reversed its earlier rulings about the weakness of alibis and said that if there are sufficient grounds to support the alibi, then, the Court should have accepted this. In GR no. 176389, there were sufficient grounds to support the alibi of Webb.


When I was covering the Vizconde massacre hearings before the Court of Tolentino, I saw the alleged video of Hubert Webb, enjoying his vacation in the United States. I don't remember the date of the video but clearly, this video established that he was not around when the Vizcondes were killed. 


Okey, granting that Webb was not there when Carmela and her mother and sister were killed, who then ordered their killing? 


Read the next entry.