Postcard from Lille, Part 24

Jessica's Story

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Nobility, Bravery and Integrity

Maria Jessica Alfaro y Mincey graduated in Business Administration at the Philippine Christian University in Manila, having majored in Management. She was born on the 12 March 1964 and was therefore 27 years old on the night of the 29-30 June 1991, the time of the Vizconde massacre.

On that night, she drove in her Mitsubishi Lancer to the Alabang Commercial Centre Parking Lot, south of the exclusive BF homes subdivision in Paranaque, Metro Manila. Arriving at between 8.30 and 9.00pm, she met with eight young men, all also in their twenties, the scions of wealthy and prominent Manila families.

They were Miguel Rodriguez (son of a prominent lawyer), Joey Filart (thought to be a close relative of Capital Command investigating officer Major General Marino Filart), Hospicio ‘Pyke’ Fernandez (son of a retired commodore), Antonio ‘Tony Boy’ Lejano (son of actress Pinky Lejano), Artimo ‘Dong’ Ventura, (son of a businessman), Peter Estrada (son of a businessman), Michael Gatchalian (also the son of a prominent lawyer) and Hubert Webb (son of Paranaque Senator Freddie Webb and a close relative of my business associate Gisele).

At this point your author must declare an interest. Some of the permissions and introductions that I was benefiting from were arranged by Senator Webb, to whom I am grateful. I also enjoyed the hospitality of his extended family. I must also declare that suspects are presumed innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Senator Webb

Jessica had known Estrada for about twelve years, some of that time as a boy-friend, but had only become acquainted with the others during the previous year.

That evening, she would collect an order for one gram of ‘shabu’ from Ventura. Shabu is a slang term for methamphetamine which is abused as a ‘recreational’ drug because of its powerful euphoriant, stimulant and aphrodisiac effect.

Having taken the shabu, Jessica was asked a favour by Webb. Would she accompany him and the others to the nearby Vizconde family residence to invite the nineteen-year-old eldest daughter of the house, Carmela, out? Carmela’s mother, Estrellita, was protective of her daughter and would only allow her female visitors. Jessica had known Carmela since meeting her at a party a few months previously and assumed that Webb and Carmela had an ‘understanding’.

The group set off in three vehicles, a Nissan Patrol, a Mazda Pickup and Jessica, now accompanied by Estrada, in the Mitsubishi. They drove to Wenceslao Vinzons Street in the nearby Pitong Daan enclave of BF Homes. Jessica parked directly outside number eighty, the Vizconde home, and the others parked elsewhere. The plan was for Jessica to ask whoever came to the gate if she could see Carmela and then tell Carmela that Webb was parked nearby.

Carmela told Jessica that she couldn’t make it but then, in a whisper, told her to come back in a few minutes. The three vehicles left and parked up at Aguirre Avenue where Jessica passed on Carmela’s message to Webb. They then continued back to the Alabang parking lot for a drugs session.

By 10.30pm Jessica and Estrada had returned to Vinzons Street whereupon Carmela told Jessica to come back before midnight and to flash her car headlights as a signal. Carmela would leave both a side gate and the grill door to the ‘dirty’ kitchen open. A dirty kitchen is an outdoor kitchen area generally used for grilling food over an open, usually charcoal, fire.

On leaving the subdivision’s security gate, Jessica noticed Carmela, in her car, dropping off a boyfriend, before returning to her house.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Pitong Daan, Security Gate at Vinzons Street [1]
Jessica and Estrada returned to the parking lot for a second time and told Webb of Carmela’s plan (and the news of the boy-friend) while sniffing cocaine and shabu. All three vehicles set off in convoy to go back to Vinzons Street at about 11.45pm with Jessica having overheard Webb say,

‘We will line up for Carmela and I will be first.’

It was about midnight by the time they had returned. Jessica and Estrada parked outside the property having flashed the headlights. The others parked further down the street, amongst other cars outside a house party.

As they gathered outside number eighty, Fernandez suggested that they damage a Mercalo (Manila Power Company) transformer to create a brown out (power cut) to help disguise the cars and who was going into the house.

Instead, Ventura put the front of the property into darkness by loosening a fluorescent bulb from the garage ceiling light. Jessica went through the open side gate, followed by Webb, Lejano and Ventura. She passed through the open grill gate and into the dirty kitchen. She opened the screen door, to the indoor kitchen, where Carmela was waiting. Webb had been following and made eye contact with Carmela. The pair of them went into the neighbouring dining area. Jessica left to go outside to smoke, passing back through the indoor kitchen where she saw Ventura open a draw and take something from it.

On leaving the house Jessica heard someone ask,

‘Who is that?’,

at which point she continued from the property and sat in her car with Estrada.

After a while she decided to take a walk and re-entered the property. She was about to open the screen door to the indoor kitchen when Ventura came through it allowing Jessica to peep past him and see into the first room on the left.

Two bodies lay on the bed. Beside them, on the floor, Webb was on top of Carmela, both of them naked from the waist down. Her mouth was gagged, she was moaning, there were tears in her eyes. Shocked, Jessica turned to go, as Ventura said to her,

‘Prepare escape.’

She rushed out of the residence and into her car where she started the ignition and waited for the others. After about  forty-five minutes, she left the car and noticed Ventura doing something with the dirty kitchen grill door. She also noticed three things of Webb. He was no longer wearing his jacket, he was searching for something on the ground and he broke the glass on the front door. Webb, Lejano and Ventura then rushed back to their vehicles, with Jessica hearing Webb say that he had left a jacket behind to which Ventura replied,

‘No time, no time.’

Jessica and Estrada drove away in a hurry.

Always Worth Saying, Going Postal
Notable Places [2]
She met up with another of the vehicles, the Mazda, on Tirona Street and was signalled by one of its occupants to follow. On Aguire Avenue, in the direction of Palace Street, she noticed that she was being followed by the Nissan which contained Webb. She also noticed that, while passing the old Tropical Hotel, something was thrown from Webb’s car.

They continued in convoy to BF Executive (another gated ‘village’ within BF Homes) and stopped at a house there. She went into the garden with Webb, Lejano and Ventura. There, while Webb and Lejano made phone calls, the men blamed each other for what had happened. During the discussion Jessica learned that the first to be killed was the mother, Estrellita. Subsequently, when Webb was ‘sexually molesting’ Carmela on the floor, her younger sister Jennifer was awoken and jumped on Webb pulling his hair, pulling down his jacket and biting him on the shoulder. Webb stood up, grabbed the six-year-old, pushed her to the wall and stabbed her several times.

From the discussion, Jessica couldn’t tell who had killed the mother but learned that Webb had killed Carmela. While the group was at BF Executive, they decided that they should leave, go into hiding and keep silent. Jessica was told,

‘Keep your mouth shut, you didn’t see anything, we don’t know each other.’

At that point a much older man arrived, who Webb instructed to take care of the Vizconde house. From photographs, Jessica subsequently identified this man as Police Officer Geraldo Biong, who she later learned was a bodyguard and driver for the Webb family when off-duty.

A few years later, after lying low, members of the group started to become more visible to each other again. Jessica accidently bumped into some of them in a Manila nightclub called ‘Faces Disco’. Although nervous, she drank with them and during the evening was offered a one-way airline ticket to the United States, which she declined.  On a subsequent evening, while dancing with Rodriguez, she was told,

‘Shut up or you’re going to get killed.’

At this point she feared that there were ‘plans for her’ and she went to the police wanting to tell them the above story in order to clear her conscience, bring justice to the victims and to ensure her safety by joining a witness protection scheme. [3]

That is Jessica’s story. Do you believe her?

Within days of her statement being published in the newspapers, other witnesses, maids and security guards (who until then had been too terrified to speak), began to come forward.

At this point, the whereabouts of Hubert Webb was unknown, with his father Senator Freddie Webb coming under immense pressure to present his son to the authorities. After a few weeks Senator Webb is being mentioned as an accessory and of obstructing justice, a position untenable for a Senator. Hubert Webb surrenders to the police.

In dribs and drabs all but two of the other suspects are also presented to the authorities. The nine suspects mentioned in Alfaro’s statement are charged (two of them in absentia) with a number of offences that include murder, rape and accessory to murder. They are remanded in the municipal jail in Paranaque City.

When presented to the court, all seven plead not guilty and rely for their defence upon Hubert Webb’s alibi, as he claims to have been in the United States at the time. Jessica’s statement gives Webb such an important role in the crime that without his participation there is no case against the others.

The missing defendants are Dong Ventura, whose family sold their house two months after the massacre and were thought to have gone to live in America. He is still at large nearly thirty years later. And Joey Filart, thought to be a close relative of the original head of the investigation, Major General Filart, also still at large and also thought to be in America.

Myself, my business associate Gisele and other family members fell into the habit of visiting Hubert regularly in Paranaque Municipal Jail. An unfortunate sequence of events led to myself being apprehended during one such prison visit. It being too late for an alibi or a one-way ticket to the United States, I was reduced to standing in a cage, holding the bars, planning an escape.

To be continued ….

[1] Google Street View, Modern Day

[2] Via Mapnik

[3] From a sworn statement given by Jessica Alfero to the NBI, summarised from a verbatim account published at the time in the Manila Sentinel.
 

© Always Worth Saying 2019
 

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