FACTS: Estrelita and her daughters Carmela and Jennifer were brutally slain at their home in Paranaque City. The police arrested a group of suspects, some of whom gave detailed confessions but the trial court smelled a frame-up and ordered them to be discharged.
Four years later in 1995, the National Bureau of Investigation or NBI announced that it had solved the crime. It presented star-witness Jessica M. Alfaro, one of its informers, who claimed that she witnessed the crime. She pointed to accused Hubert Jeffrey P. Webb, Antonio “Tony Boy” Lejano, Artemio “Dong” Ventura, Michael A. Gatchalian, Hospicio “Pyke” Fernandez, Peter Estrada, Miguel “Ging” Rodriguez, and Joey Filart as the culprits. She also tagged accused police officer, Gerardo Biong, as an accessory after the fact. Relying primarily on Alfaro’s testimony, on August 10, 1995 the public prosecutors filed an information for rape with homicide against Webb, et al.
Jessica Alfaro’s testimony stated that after she had a shabu session with Webb and company at the parking lot of Ayala Alabang Commercial Center, they drove by convoy to Carmela Vizconde’s house but only Alfaro proceeded to Carmela’s house and the others parked along Aguirre Ave. upon Alfaro’s arrival, she was seen by Carmela and told by the latter that she cannot leave yet but instructed Alfaro to return before midnight as she just got home. Carmela instructed Afaro that she would leave the pedestrian gate and the kitchen gate unlocked. Sometime later, Carmela drove out of her house and was followed by Alfaro who saw Carmela drop off her boyfriend at Aguirre Ave. Alfaro then returned to Webb’s group and informed Webb that Carmela dropped off her boyfriend then Webb’s mood changed for the rest of the evening and they all again returned to the parking lot of Ayala Alabang Commercial Center where they had another shabu session wherein Webb gave out free cocaine. After about 40 to 45 minutes, Webb decided that it was time for them to leave. He said,“Pipilahan natin siya [Carmela] at ako ang mauuna.” Lejano said, “Ako ang susunod” and the others responded “Okay, okay.” Upon arrival at Carmela’s house, Carmela opened the aluminum screen door of the kitchen for them. She and Webb looked each other in the eyes for a moment and, together, headed for the dining area. As she lost sight of Carmela and Webb, Alfaro decided to go out. Lejano asked her where she was going and she replied that she was going out to smoke. After 10 minutes, Alfaro decided to go back in the house where she heard a static like noise which grew louder as she approached the master’s bedroom. As she walked in, she saw Webb on top of Carmela while she lay with her back on the floor. Two bloodied bodies lay on the bed. Lejano was at the foot of the bed about to wear his jacket. Carmela was gagged, moaning, and in tears while Webb raped her, his bare buttocks exposed. Webb gave Alfaro a meaningful look and she immediately left the room. She met Ventura at the dining area. He told her, “Prepare an escape. Aalis na tayo.” Shocked with what she saw, Alfaro rushed out of the house to the others who were either sitting in her car or milling on the sidewalk.
For their part, some of the accused testified, denying any part in the crime and saying they were elsewhere when it took place. Webb’s alibi appeared the strongest since he claimed that he was then across the ocean in the United States of America. He presented the testimonies of witnesses as well as documentary and object evidence to prove this. In addition, the defense presented witnesses to show Alfaro’s bad reputation for truth and the incredible nature of her testimony.
The RTC CONVICTED Webb et al and was AFFIRMED by the CA.
On April 20, 2010, as a result of its initial deliberation in this case, the Court issued a Resolution granting the request of Webb to submit for DNA analysis the semen specimen taken from Carmela’s cadaver, which specimen was then believed still under the safekeeping of the NBI. The Court granted the request pursuant to section 4 of the Rule on DNA Evidence to give the accused and the prosecution access to scientific evidence that they might want to avail themselves of, leading to a correct decision in the case.
Unfortunately, on April 27, 2010 the NBI informed the Court that it no longer has custody of the specimen, the same having been turned over to the trial court. The trial record shows, however, that the specimen was not among the object evidence that the prosecution offered in evidence in the case.
This outcome prompted accused Webb to file an urgent motion to acquit on the ground that the government’s failure to preserve such vital evidence has resulted in the denial of his right to due process citing the case of Brady V. Maryand which acquitted the accused on the ground of lack of due process given the state’s failure to produce either by negligence of willful suppression of the semen as DNA evidence.
ISSUES: (1) Whether or not Webb may be acquitted due to the loss of DNA evidence.
(2) Whether or not there is sufficient evidence in the absence of DNA evidence to convict Webb et al.
HELD: (1) NO. Webb may not be acquitted due to the loss of DNA evidence. For one thing, the ruling in Brady v. Maryland that he cites has long be overtaken by the decision in Arizona v. Youngblood, where the U.S. Supreme Court held that due process does not require the State to preserve the semen specimen although it might be useful to the accused unless the latter is able to show bad faith on the part of the prosecution or the police.
For, another, when Webb raised the DNA issue, the rule governing DNA evidence did not yet exist, the country did not yet have the technology for conducting the test, and no Philippine precedent had as yet recognized its admissibility as evidence. Consequently, the idea of keeping the specimen secure even after the trial court rejected the motion for DNA testing did not come up. Indeed, neither Webb nor his co-accused brought up the matter of preserving the specimen in the meantime.
And finally, they raised the DNA issue before the Court of Appeals but merely as an error committed by the trial court in rendering its decision in the case. None of the accused filed a motion with the appeals court to have the DNA test done pending adjudication of their appeal. This, even when the Supreme Court had in the meantime passed the rules allowing such test. Considering the accused’s lack of interest in having such test done, the State cannot be deemed put on reasonable notice that it would be required to produce the semen specimen at some future time.
(2) NO. Webb et al are ACQUITTED. Webb’s documented alibi (witness testimonies, airline tickets and two immigration checks) altogether impeaches Alfaro’s testimony, not only with respect to him, but also with respect to Lejano, Estrada, Fernandez, Gatchalian, Rodriguez, and Biong. For, if the Court accepts the proposition that Webb was in the U.S. when the crime took place, Alfaro’s testimony will not hold together. Webb’s participation is the anchor of Alfaro’s story. Without it, the evidence against the others must necessarily fall.