The Vizconde massacre – my defining moment

Welcome to my maiden column in The STAR, now the country’s No. 1 newspaper in terms of circulation and readership.

Since I was introduced to The STAR readers in the front page, I’ll hit the ground running.

This column will tackle various topics on the days it will come out: Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The readers will notice soon enough the brevity of each topic.

I got my style of writing when I was a reporter, news writer and newsreader on radio during the pre-martial law era, and as a deskman and feature writer of the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

So, without further ado, let us begin.

A local elected official who’s being groomed to run for a national office is being “sold” to the highest bidder by the politician’s spouse.

The politician would only be allowed by the spouse to run if the party that this politician will join can come up with a big amount for their family.

Shades of what happened in the 2004 elections, when a national official was paid a huge sum to run under a political party.

The term “dirty politics” is appropriate for that kind of set-up.

* * *

The people urging President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte to run for vice president in the 2022 elections are making fun of him.

They’re projecting Digong as a feeble old man still seeking power.

The President has time and again said that he was very tired of running the country and, if he had his way, would have stepped down.

It is said that being elected president is a gift from God.

God would be stupid – to borrow Digong’s words – if He gifts him the vice presidency the second time around.

* * *

Guillermo Lorenzo “Guilor” Eleazar, recently appointed chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), bows out on Nov. 13 this year when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

Six months is not enough for him to clean up the Aegean stable that is the PNP.

So, some sectors are calling for Eleazar’s extension until after the May 2022 elections.

You’d be surprised who the people are behind the call for his extension; some of them are top politicians.

Eleazar, a strict disciplinarian, is probably the only PNP chief who is loved and respected by the citizenry.

Jubilation by the citizenry greeted the report of his appointment.

Methinks one year would give Eleazar ample time impose his brand of discipline on one of the most undisciplined police forces in the world.

* * *

Allan (surname intentionally omitted), stepfather of a 16-year-old girl who was nearly raped by a neighbor, went with his daughter to the police station in San Jose, Batangas recently to file a complaint.

Executive M/Sgt. Jennifer Diaz, chief of the women and children’s desk, told Allan to file the complaint with the barangay where they reside.

This policewoman is either ignorant of the law or plain lazy.

Only minor cases, like oral defamation and quarrel between neighbors, are handled by the barangay.

But big offenses, such as rape or attempted rape, should be filed with the police or the prosecutor’s office.

Policewoman Diaz even insulted Allan, saying he had no right to file the attempted rape complaint on behalf of the girl, because he was only the stepfather.

The San Jose police station eventually received and filed the complaint with the prosecutor’s office in Batangas City, only after my staff at “Isumbong mo kay Tulfo” told them Diaz’s arrogance would reach Camp Crame.

* * *

For those who haven’t heard about Isumbong, the public service program started at Radyo Veritas on June 1, 1991.

My program is the original sumbungan ng bayan sa radyo (roughly, citizens’ complaint center on radio).

As a host of the program that carries my surname, I and my all-female staff have handled complaints from citizens, concerning abusive or arrogant policemen and other government functionaries.

Needless to say, we’re unpopular with the PNP and other government agencies that citizens transact business with.

Many of the stories in my columns in previous newspapers were complaints from citizens.

For example, I was the first one to report the shooting of 16-year-old Maureen Hultman and her boyfriend by the son of former chief justice Claudio Teehankee in 1991 in my column at the Inquirer, because the girl’s stepfather, Anders, a Swede, came to my Isumbong office at Radyo Veritas.

The incident became a cause celebre.

* * *

The most significant topic that I’ve ever written about and which I personally got involved in was the Vizconde massacre.

On June 30, 1991, three Vizconde women – Estrellita, 49; her 19-year-old daughter, Carmela and the younger Jennifer, 6 – were found dead in their home at BF Homes Village in Parañaque.

They were victims of gory murder; Carmela was raped before she was killed.

People cried for justice for the Vizcondes and one of the suspects was Hubert Webb, son of then Parañaque congressman Freddie Webb, who later became a senator.

I got involved in the case after Webb told me Hubert, whose name was slowly cropping up in news reports as a prime suspect, was in the United States when the dastardly crime happened.

I went to the US to check on senator Webb’s allegations – I paid for my fare and accommodation, by the way – and found that, indeed, Hubert was there when the Vizconde women were being butchered at their home in Parañaque.

Based on my findings, I defended Hubert in my column and in my radio and TV programs.

I incurred the ire of the citizenry, including some of my fellow columnists in the Inquirer, for my defense of Hubert.

I stood my ground because I had all the facts in my hand.

One of the important pieces of evidence, which I presented to the court later, was the copy of an invoice issued to Hubert Webb on – coincidence of coincidences! – June 30, 1991 for a bicycle he bought from a store in Orange County, Los Angeles, California.

I became a villain in the eyes of the citizenry that was crying for blood; but I was steadfast.

Hubert and his co-accused were convicted by the Parañaque Regional Trial Court for the crime on June 6, 2000.

The Supreme Court acquitted them on Dec. 14, 2010.

The Vizconde massacre, dubbed the crime of the 20th century, was my defining moment as a columnist and defender of the oppressed and those wrongfully accused.

I will continue to play that role as long as I live.

(P.S.: Isumbong will make a comeback on PTV-4 on June 12, 2021. May I invite you to watch?)

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