SOMEONE ELSE’S WINDOWS: Guilt any which way

MALAYBALAY CITY (28 June) – Now that Hubert Jeffrey Webb and company can no longer be charged for the rape-slay of members of the Vizconde family owing to the principle of double jeopardy, the National Bureau of Investigation has come out with a damning finding: Webb did not leave the country before or on the day the crime took place.

In a presentation this morning at their headquarters which was aired live on ANC the NBI said the finding was not based on speculation but on data provided by the Bureau of Immigration, which keeps encrypted computer files of people who go in and out of the country. But after the impressive presentation of a thorough sleuthing work, the question remains: what for when the suspects, who were acquitted by the Supreme Court in December last year, are now shielded by the Constitution from another round of prosecution? Justice Secretary Leila Delima offered a consolation: two other suspects who have remained at large can still be charged.

The televised presentation must have peeved the Webbs no end even if Hubert can no longer be made to face the court for the same alleged crime. Given the apparent thoroughness of the review of facts and evidence they could have felt again the discomfort and anxiety that they felt when the case was still in progress – and the pain of losing a son and brother to what could be an equivalent of Hell on earth when the court judged him and his friends guilty. It was the trial all over again complete with the haunting image of a husband and father who lost all his loved ones on that tragic night twenty years ago this month – Lauro Vizconde.

Mr. Vizconde knew the uselessness of the evidence presented this morning in relation to his desire to pin down Hubert and the other acquitted suspects. But in contrast to the despair he showed after the Supreme Court announced the acquittal he looked calm and was in good spirits today. It was the first time perhaps that he managed to smile widely since the day he lost everything except the painful memory of his loved ones’ cruel death and the loneliness of living alone.

Mr. Vizconde’s relaxed demeanor led me to think that he must have regarded the result of the reinvestigation already a vindication of what he and his supporters had believed and continue to believe about the acquitted suspects. When the NBI said they had proof that Hubert was in the country on the day the crime happened it was all that Mr. Vizconde needed to know. It was all that the whole nation needed to know. Never mind the acquittal, never mind that the suspects are now free. Hubert was here. That’s what truly counts for people whose evaluation of guilt or innocence is not as rigid as the court’s but which could not also be dismissed as faulty.

After all, did Supreme Court Administrator not say that an acquittal does not necessarily mean innocence?

He was here, he was here, Mang Lauro must be saying this like a mantra as he went to bed tonight with a smile on his face. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])

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