Our teams stood sentry at those areas long before daybreak, waiting for a verdict that would spell another turn in a two-decade saga of blood, status, and young and lost lives.
Just outside the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa, our crew of 25 manned 2 setups ready to go live should the Supreme Court decide to set free 5 men locked up for 15 years.
Unsure what would happen, our anticipation grew. It was a climax to a year bombed with blasts from the past.
To Filipinos, two words have become associated with ‘massacre’: Maguindanao and Vizconde. Both precipitated an uproar in their times, turned up controversial suspects, yet remain unclosed cases.
The grisly murders of the 3 Vizconde women set off the real-life “Mara Clara” of the 1990s.
I grew up with no TV glued to either teleserye or case. But that forgotten diary, the Webbs, and the long-winded stories are as household names to me as to the next Pinoy.
Already buried, the Vizconde case recently brewed when those jailed for the killings, led by Hubert Webb, appealed for another review of the case. But when crucial evidence was nowhere to be found, the high court said it would push through with a verdict.
Getting our field assignments to cover the SC ruling, I was still curious, “What’s so big about this story anyway?”
It was a much ballyhooed ’90s story thrown to the 21st century. The prospect of a court decision would change the fates of the convicts, their families, and the sole survivor of the murdered. Much so that it was close to Christmas.
So, with Rainier Alabastro, a.k.a. Shadow, one of our senior producers, we helped our main reporter Jorge Cariño give two live primers on the day’s big story via Channels 2 and ANC.
Sir Shadow has his own history with the Vizconde case. He produced ANC’s live reporting of Webb and company’s convictions in 2000.
For this new coverage, he ensured we would be able to broadcast live images of the release process from inside the prison office should it happen.
With cables and cameras in place, we waited for the verdict.
Media vehicles had besieged the narrow streets of a BF Homes subdivision in Parañaque, anticipating the other side of this story in Lauro Vizconde’s home.
Badet Santos, another field producer, struck up a conversation with him as he waited to be interviewed live on Umagang Kay Ganda. Amid tens of media people wanting interviews, Badet couldn’t let him off.
Mang Lauro said he didn’t mind. “Malaki ang pasasalamat ko sa midya dahil malaki ang naitulong nila para mapansin ang kaso ko,” he told Badet.
Except for the hum of the media vans and the murmur of the press, the house remained hush for the vigil of Vizconde’s supporters at the garage. The lone TV screen there was shut. Relatives relied on SMS updates.
One of them began looking for a radio. “Totoo ba? Totoo ba?” he asked, worried.
He later drew Mang Lauro to the living room, hugged him, saying, “Totoo, totoo.” Tears ran down the old man’s face.
It seemed true. DZMM had already reported that the justices voted 7-4-4 to acquit Webb and the other convicts, even before the SC made it public.
Soon, Mang Lauro was weeping and hyperventilating on his seat. His kin were fanning him and offering water, as cameras and microphones closed in.
The commotion led Channel 2’s special pre-noon news advisory, with Jing Castañeda reporting from beside Mr. Vizconde. Our van at the Supreme Court in Manila shortly followed with the real announcement.
Webb, et al. would go free. All eyes were now on Sir Jorge and us at Munti.
Read Part 2: A wait ends, a wait goes on