Postcard from Lille, Part 23

The Murders of Estrellita, Carmela and Jennifer Vizconde

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Estrellita, Jennifer and Carmela Vizconde

I can’t understand why some people think that they have a right to a family. Children are a blessing and a lot of hard work. Old fools of my age are beginning to wonder about the extra blessing of grand-children. If I may be allowed hopeful anticipation, I will need at least two. Obviously, like yourself, I would like my first grandchild to be called ‘Brexit’. You may think I’m being a bit hard on the poor girl, but they’ll be classrooms full of them, just you wait.  If we make sure we all spell it the same way (surely very do-able) we may even out gun Muhammed, Mohammed and Mouhammed.  

My second grandchild, I should like to be named ‘Westinghouse’. Now Westinghouse was a great man, up there in my pantheon, alongside members of my family and General Franco. He was an inventor and an industrialist and while other great tycoons were wasting a rail fare striking out for California and Texas in the late 19th Century, he looked out into his own sizeable property in an exclusive suburb of Pittsburgh (then the most prosperous part of America because of a steel boom) rubbed his chin and muttered,  

‘I wonder?’  

Yes, he set up a derrick and drilled for oil in his own back garden. My kind of guy.   

What sort of little chap would grandson Westinghouse be? Like any other boy he’d be a curious critter. While I bounced him on my knee, he’d ask all the obvious, childish questions and I’d smile, laugh, humour him and give him all the obvious old fool reminiscing answers. A scene which will always continue down through the generations, unchanging even with the strangest of times.  

When I was small, I was always puzzled by who ‘they’ were. They are digging up the road, they are on their way to the moon, they have run out of sugar. So I would ask my father, often in a whisper, (as many a time ‘they’ were up to no good), 

‘Who are they?’  

It seemed an obvious question.  

Perhaps armed with that dangerous thing, a half-overheard tale, my grandson may one day look up at me quizzically, rub his chin, furrow his brow and ask,  

‘Grandpa, how long did they keep you in a Filipino jail for?’  

I’ll be able to look him straight in the eye, lower my voice and give him the honest, straightforward and obvious answer,  

‘Until I escaped, Westy, until I escaped.’  

This is where I slip into Truman Capote. Stop before you start. And if you haven’t read ‘In Cold Blood’ then put this rubbish to one side immediately and beg, steal or borrow a copy.  Now, Capote was an unpleasant chap, the type of sneering big city liberal that we hear too much of even these days. But faced with violent and senseless death, he turned into Truman two point zero, for the duration of ‘The People Versus Smith and Hickock’, in order to complete his remarkable book. I must endeavour to do the same.  

Looking back through this six-month long recollection of a weekend in Lille I have accidentally made one or two errors in the text and told one deliberate and precise untruth. I can’t have found out about 9/11 in late morning as it didn’t happen until mid-afternoon my time (friends tell me to pretend to have been in a different time zone). And the great Turkish Anatolian plain, swarming with soldiers like ants, started after I left Ankara, not on my approach to it. No doubt more diligent contributors than I have left a mass of unread corrections amongst the comments.   

The precise and deliberate untruth is this. I was in New York on the last day of the First Gulf War (true) and I was at the World Trade Centre (true), signing off some derring-do (true). However, unlike as previously stated, I didn’t return to England that evening but stayed in America for a few of weeks as I was due some R and R.  

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
New York February 28 1991  

The reason for this dishonesty, and you’ll note I make no apology for it, is that even after all these decades, were this to be known,  I would be obliged to support the alibi of Hubert Jeffrey Pagaspas Webb, a close relative of my business associate, Gisele, and the son of Senator Freddie Webb on whom our ‘Anglo Philippine Friendship and Enterprise Company’ relied for permissions and introductions.  

Hubert Webb claims that he was in the United States between 9 March 1991 and 27 October 1992 (coincidentally my 30th birthday). Therefore, on the night of 29-30 June 1991, Webb would have been over seven thousand miles away from 80 Wenceslao Vinzons Street, in the exclusive BF Homes subdivision of Paranaque City in Metro Manila, when Estrellita Vizconde and her daughters Carmela and Jennifer were murdered there. Estrellita Vizconde was 49, Carmela 19 and Jennifer six years old. Carmela was also raped.  

Coinciding as this did with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo and happening in what, at times, could be one of the world’s more violent cities, what was to become the ‘Crime of the Century’, only made the bottom of column two, on the Metro News pages, three days later.  

However, within two weeks, there are newspaper reports of complaints about the time taken to investigate the crime, particularly regarding a large number of officers remaining at the nearest police station instead of assisting in the early stages of the enquiry. Senior officers are being disciplined and sacked by their chief, Major General Filart.  

By mid-October the National Police Commission are carrying out an inquiry into the ‘bungled’ investigation. They recommend that officer-on-case Gerardo Biong is dismissed. It is revealed that Biong’s girlfriend, Lolita Verren, had accompanied him to the crime scene and carried out an ‘inventory’ of valuables (including jewellery subsequently pawned) and also that Biong had prematurely allowed the crime scene to be cleared and evidence destroyed.  

Fortuitously, four days later, the case is solved as Major General Filart parades the ‘Baydo Gang’ who have been captured, arrested and confessed. However, within days the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) are expressing their doubts, but their investigation is suspended in deference to Major General Filart’s. His investigation continues interminably, based upon the Baydo Gang, and almost two years after the murders, in June 1993, four more suspects are arrested, two of them serving police officers.  A month later those four are all released without charge.  

On 23 September 1993 judge Julio Logarta, of the Makati regional trial court branch 63, cleared the accused from the Baydo Gang on grounds of insufficient evidence, as they had been illegally arrested and tortured in order to admit to the crime in front of Filart 

For more than a year the case lies cold until a witness presents them self to the NBI. They claim to have been part of the gang responsible for the Vizconde massacre. The gang laid low after the murders but subsequently begun to remerge. The witness has been threatened by other gang members, fears for their life, and will make a statement in order to join a witness protection scheme. They also wish to clear their conscience and give justice to the victims.  The witness discloses information which reopens the Vizconde massacre investigation and places it into the hands of the NBI.  

Previously I have touched upon the ‘Brat Pack’ behaviour of wealthy Filipino families over-indulged children who had cars, drugs, money, guns, no discipline and powerful parents that domestic staff, guards, the police and other parents were not surprisingly afraid of.  

Behaviour was likely to get completely out of control and, according to the witness, it had done on the night of 29-30 June 1991 at the Vizconde residence with Estrellita gagged, her hands tied behind her back, stabbed thirteen times, lying dead on a bed next to her murdered 6 year old daughter Jennifer, stabbed to death with 19 knife wounds, part of her covered in the remains of her night dress and the rest of her covered in blood.  

Carmela, 19, lay on the floor beside them, stabbed seventeen times, raped and murdered, her mouth stuffed with a garment, her torso covered in a blood-stained night dress and her lower half spread-eagled and bloodied like a beast in an abattoir.  

Legal counsel for those implicated relied for their defence upon Hubert Webb’s aforementioned alibi, whereby he claimed to have been in the United States at the time the crime was committed. However, alibi is not as strong an evidence as witness, for the following reason. I am grateful to Doctor of Law Renato L Cayetano who reminds us that,  

‘For alibi to succeed, it must be shown not only that the accused was at some other place but that it was physically impossible for him to be at the site of the crime at the time it was committed’.   

Therefor a certain onus is on the defence to prove that someone couldn’t possibly have been somewhere, which as you will see, can be fraught.  

At this point I can, also with gratitude, put my research (a large pile of old Manila Sentinels) to one side and from now on relate from my own contemporaneous journals and personal recollection. These remind me, if I were in need of reminding, that my own closeness to the case, through a web of personal and business obligations, led to my own incarceration in the Paranaque Municipal Jail.  

Being caught red handed and apprehended while inside a prison during visiting time, meant that I had no use for an alibi. Rather, I had to rely upon an English travelling gentleman’s tact and guile. The wisdom of this,  yourself and my future grand-children (if blessed) may judge as I tell the tale.  

But first, the Vizconce massacre witness, Maria Jessica Alfaro y Mincey must tell her story.  

  

To be continued ……  
 

© Always Worth Saying 2019
 

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