04 July 2011

The charges of electioneering and subversion of the law thrown at me by the lawyers of the Webb family during their press conference yesterday are unfair and uncalled for. While it is within the Webb family's right to file whatever contempt or disbarment case against me, the charges of electioneering and subversion of the law are a different matter. It does not give them or their counsels the right to hurl unwarranted and malicious accusations that I have intentions other than legitimate in spearheading the re-investigation of the Vizconde Massacre pursuant to a Presidential directive.

I will face any contempt or disbarment case that will be brought against me arising from the re-investigation of the Vizconde massacre. I will take said cases as an opportunity to defend the re-investigation and to clarify its objectives as a legitimate exercise to uncover the truth and bring to justice any other individuals who may have been responsible for the Vizconde Massacre, but who are yet to be brought under the jurisdiction of the criminal justice system.

The objectives of the re-investigation are two-fold, to revisit the past evidence that have been found wanting and not credible by the Supreme Court, and to uncover other leads, including witnesses and documents, that have not been previously accounted for. The first objective led to the discovery of new evidence and witnesses on Hubert Webb's whereabouts at the time of the Massacre, and the second to new names and possible suspects, such as the Villadolid brothers, who may have also participated in the crime but were not brought to court.

It necessarily proceeds from these objectives, therefore, that any earnest effort to conduct a thorough and impartial re-investigation would entail inquiries involving both old and new suspects, should any come to light in the course of the proceedings. Be that as it may, it is not the intention of those making the inquiries to re-open the judicial proceedings against Hubert Webb and his co-accused, who were already acquitted by the Supreme Court. This is because the Supreme Court has already spoken on their accountability, and because of the rule on double jeopardy. However, both these reasons, the ruling of the Supreme Court and double jeopardy, are not a license for the Webb family to prevent a review of the evidence in the case of Hubert Webb, et al. for purposes of searching for the truth and identifying other suspects not yet brought to justice and whose prosecution is not yet barred either by prescription or double jeopardy. This includes two of Webb's co-accused who have not been captured and brought under the jurisdiction of the court, viz., Artemio Ventura and Joey Filart.

The law enforcement agencies of the government are not precluded from establishing new facts and evidence that will help in exposing the truth and in the further prosecution of the Vizconde case, so long as these do not lead to the prosecution of those already acquitted. As of the moment, no one is in a position to determine exactly what new evidence or new witnesses would be material for the prosecution of the two suspects still at large and the possible new suspects. In fact, the investigation report merely presented what have been accomplished so far by the government's law enforcement agencies, and as of the present do not yet contain any final conclusion or resolution of whatever nature as to the actions to be taken by the DOJ as a result of the investigation. This is a matter that has yet to be decided upon by myself, as the Secretary of Justice, and the Prosecutor General.

But even now, we can already assure the Webb family and the families of those acquitted by the Supreme Court that any resolution on the re-investigation will definitely not disregard the Supreme Court decision and the rule on double jeopardy. We are still lawyers, after all, and we are still bound by the rule of law. And the law says that no person shall be twice put in jeopardy of punishment for the same offense.

But this does not mean that Webb's co-accused who are still at large or other possible suspects that can be identified can no longer be prosecuted. Double jeopardy does not apply to them. And if ensuring their successful prosecution means revisiting the evidence precisely to avoid the drawbacks which resulted to the Supreme Court acquittal, those acquitted cannot prevent such review and re-investigation by invoking double jeopardy to benefit those yet to be prosecuted. The right against being put twice in jeopardy is personal to those already acquitted. It cannot be invoked to thwart a legitimate re-investigation and collection of new evidence to assure a conviction this time around, at least of Ventura and Filart, and of any other possible suspects.

I understand the emotional response of the Webb family to the results of the DOJ re-investigation. The life of their family has singularly revolved around this criminal case. But that is also why counsels are hired, to temper the emotions of those who feel aggrieved, and not to further fan the flames of their anger and frustration, whether justified or not. I call on the Webb family's counsels to be more circumspect in their statements, as I will, with all candor, face any case that they find appropriate to file against me. But, as to their charges of electioneering and subversion of the law, I humbly ask them to refrain from further imputing bad faith and ulterior motives to any of us involved in the reinvestigation, and to bring the discussion of this issue to the level of sobriety and temperance, as is only befitting of members of the bar.

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