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Imperfecta Sed Lex

Imperfecta Sed Lex

Ronald Roy

​I was with the late Ed Ocampo when his fellow basketball Olympian, then Senator Freddie Webb, mumbled, his hair disheveled and misty eyes cast downward, “My son…my good son Hubert…is innocent…I was with him in America”. I then sensed Webb was telling the truth. Maybe it was the way he looked and spoke. Maybe it was the way the unfurling evidence appeared to increasingly favor his son as the “trial of the century” wore on through the nerve-wracking weeks and months.

​But people generally believed otherwise. To them, Hubert Webb was guilty, period. He was the owner of a surname so associated with privilege that he had to be an abusive brat who fiendishly raped and murdered Carmela Vizconde—her mother and younger sister being fatally waylaid in the process. Hubert Webb’s head just had to roll.

​Jessica Alfaro was the only “eyewitness” the prosecution presented to identify Webb as the malefactor. She submitted two sworn statements, one: She was outside the bedroom but saw the crimes through an opening of the door, and two: She was inside the room and saw everything. I then thought Webb would be acquitted solely on this flagrant inconsistency. But I was wrong. Instead I learned that sometimes the human psyche condemns others for being privileged.

​Hubert’s principal defense was an alibi, i.e. he was not at the scene of the crimes because he was in America on or about the day they were committed. Per US Immigration documents, he was then in America. The Rev. Fr. Sonny Ramirez, religious pop star Gary Valenciano and Atty. Renato Corona—who would proceed to be today’s S.C. Chief Justice—separately testified that Webb was then in America.

​Could it be that, to avoid detection by immigration authorities, Webb took an unregistered vessel or aircraft to the Philippines where he would inflict his ruthlessness upon his victims, then immediately travel back to America by the same means? So then, why was Webb convicted? Wasn’t it because the crimes were so bestial and he was so privileged that a mob’s thirst for blood just had to be quenched?

​As a rule, alibis are weak evidence; but this rule is not absolute, not in the Webb case where three sworn statements, not to mention an official U.S. immigration certificate—declared in effect Webb was not the culprit. It is simply dumbfounding that the trial court believed Jessica Alfaro.

​I remember reading and hearing comments that Alfaro was a drug user, and a socially flighty person who craved the limelight. She did become some kind of a celebrity during those days doing the disco circuit all dolled up behind an intriguing pair of dark glasses. As Webb’s friend, did she have an axe to grind against him, or did she grab a chance for eminence at his expense? She often seemingly enjoyed news accounts about how she occasionally dodged the paparazzi.

​To be sure, the anguish that tortures Lauro Vizconde to this day is understandable. But a similar anguish is likewise known to Hubert who may confirm that spending time for crimes he never committed is worse than death. It’s interesting to know at this stage how the Supreme Court will handle the issue of the government’s responsibility over the missing DNA sperm specimen which could have cleared Webb 17 years ago. The trial judge had then erroneously ruled the DNA theory was merely what it was: an unreliable theory.

​Miscarriages of justice can come from human errors and imperfections of the law; but then, the law is the law, imperfect as it may be. I pray that a faithful Hubert Webb is now ready to testify how the horror of a 17 year confinement has brought him closer to perfection.

*​*​*

​A lawyer is allowed to refuse to represent anyone in need of legal services, except where he has been designated by a court (or under terms of a retainer) to do so, such as for a pauper litigant. The reason for this arrangement is that the constitution ordains no man shall be denied protection of his legal rights by reason of his own destitution.

​Certainly, Siegfried Fortun goes against popular sentiments by defending the legal rights of the Ampatuans; but no matter how morally convinced he may be of his clients’ guilt—assuming this were the case–they would still have legal rights entitled to protection within the framework of due process. Mr. Fortun was correct in warning that the legal system would be placed in jeopardy if all lawyers avoided the Ampatuans like the plague.

​In my opinion, Mr. Fortun is doing his clients a legal service the best way he can, and those who think he should withdraw his appearance should instead feel free to recommend revision of pertinent existing procedural rules and substantive statutes. Until then, let us give him our understanding for the sake of the legal system, imperfect as it is.

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