Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Vizconde camp seeks DOJ protection for new witnesses

The camp of Lauro Vizconde is asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to admit under its Witness Protection Program several new witnesses to the Vizconde massacre case. 

This was according to DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima, who said she got the information from Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) head Persida Rueda-Acosta. 

“She (Acosta) called me. They have new witnesses [who] will be turned over to us in the next few days for possible coverage under WPP," De Lima told reporters on Tuesday.

Acosta earlier said at least five people offered to provide vital information on the killings of Lauro Vizconde’s wife Estrellita, and daughters Carmela and Jennifer inside their Parañaque City home on the wee hours of June 30, 1991. 

Acosta was a private prosecutor or counsel for Vizconde when the Parañaque Regional Trial Court Branch 274 tried the case from 1995 to 2000. She is also a relative of the Vizcondes. 

In January 2000, the Parañaque court convicted seven people — Hubert Webb, son of former Sen. Freddie Webb; Antonio Lejano; Michael Gatchalian; Miguel Rodriquez; Hospicio Fernandez; Peter Estrada; and former policeman Gerardo Biong — for the crime. The Court of Appeals, in December 2005, upheld the guilty verdict against the seven, prompting Webb to ask the Supreme Court to review the two rulings. 

The Supreme Court acquitted the seven last Dec. 14, 2010. 

Vizconde’s camp may no longer seek the reversal of the SC ruling because doing so would subject Webb and the six others to double jeopardy — being tried twice for the same offense — which is prohibited by the Constitution. An acquittal in a criminal case is also final and executory and may no longer be appealed. 

Despite this, De Lima on Tuesday said Acosta and the Vizconde camp will file a motion for reconsideration on Wednesday. 

Asked whether it is improper for Acosta to dispense legal advice to Vizconde even if she is already with PAO, De Lima said she will only act on the matter if a complaint is filed against Acosta. 

“If I receive a complaint questioning the personality of PAO chief Acosta, I will have to look into that and I will have to make the appropriate ruling," said De Lima. 

De Lima, however, admitted that “certain quarters" have questioned why Acosta was still assisting Vizconde in a private capacity. She did not elaborate.

The PAO is tasked to provide poor litigants access to free access to courts “by rendering legal services, counseling, and assistance."

Sources in the legal community also said Acosta has no personality to legally assist Vizconde because he is not an indigent litigant. - KBK, GMANews.TV

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