Rey V. Constantino/Taliba
On one of Parañaque’s prominent residents….
For the Hubert Webb and his family, the good news came a few days before All Saints Day — the Supreme Court had granted the petition of Hubert, the principal suspect in the sensational Vizconde massacre, for a DNA analysis of the sperm specimen extracted from the body of victim Carmela Vizconde.
Webb has been asking the courts for the DNA testing since 1997. His lawyers are positive that the said specimen will not match those of Hubert. If this turns out to be true, it would mean that Hubert could already go home a free man at last, be reunited with his family to spend the yuletide season with them for the first time in 15 years as he has been locked up behind bars together with 5 others who were sentenced to life imprisonment. Hubert is the son of basketball legend and former Parañaque congressman and senator Freddie Webb, and the brother of popular broadcaster Pinky and PBA player Jason (now a councilor of the city).
It will be recalled that Carmela was raped and then killed 20 years ago on June 30, 1991 inside her family residence at BF Homes in Parañaque City. Also killed were her mother, Estrellita, and younger sister, Jennifer. The family patriarch, Lauro Vizconde, was working abroad at the time. Unfortunately for the Webb’s, their jubilation over the SC’s decision on DNA analysis was short-lived. The semen specimen from Carmela’s remains, the one piece of evidence that could spell Hubert’s innocence and eventual freedom, has disappeared.
(Dis)credit this to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) which claims it no longer has custody of the DNA sample taken from the crime scene. The NBI stated that it had already turned over the semen specimen to the Parañaque Regional Trial Court. However, the court’s record says otherwise. The sole evidence that Hubert is banking on to clear his name has mysteriously disappeared.
Not surprisingly, Hubert’s lawyers now want him released on the basis that he was denied due process as he no longer has access to the results of a DNA analysis to prove his innocence. Webb has been petitioning the courts to order the NBI to do a DNA analysis since 11 years ago but it was only in 2007 when the Supreme Court finally ruled that results of DNA tests can be used as material evidence admissible in court. Still, it took the High Court more than two years to grant Hubert’s petition.
In the absence of a DNA analysis, the SC has announced that it will promulgate its decision on the case based on “available evidence” which some legal quarters point out is grossly unfair to the defendant. The question comes to the fore: why has no one been taken to task for the loss of a very critical piece of evidence? Not even a reprimand to those responsible for the loss has been issued nor a token investigation conducted. This is a dangerous precedent.
At the same time, the Justice department which has supervision over the NBI has not lifted a finger to punish those behind the negligence and incompetence. As an analogy, how will justice be served, people are wondering, if the sperm specimen taken for instance from the nurse volunteer who was raped and then murdered recently in Maguindanao suddenly disappears? Will the Vice Mayor suspected of having committed the rape-murder be ever convicted or be given a chance to vindicate himself?
The High Court and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima must make sure that someone is held accountable for yet another instance of gross negligence or dereliction of duty.
In the meantime, Webb just might spend another Christmas in jail, no thanks to the NBI. #######