Two layers of jail bars separate the detainees of Bilibid from the outside world. This basement entrance marks the boundary between the facade of the Bureau of Corrections and the sprawling prison compound.
There, Sir Jorge and four of our cameramen waited for any stir. From the lull, he reported live for ANC. We had our cameraman pan around for live shots. My MacBook recorded the feed, for later use and should anything happen.
A few minutes into the report, the camera caught an orange-shirted Hubert Webb enter the holding area.
Sir Shadow directed, while I was on the phone to our ANC coordinator Mnemo. “Tell Sir Jorge to keep talking!” she shouted. The people at the ANC control room were squealing at Webb’s first ever shots in years.
As before, so today. ANC had first dibs on the first verdict, and it had come full circle in this decisive one.
As the other convicts exited the same gate, we were asking each other who each person was. First time I heard of the other characters in this high-profile case.
Our cameramen sending live shots from the inside ran to keep one step ahead of each activity. The prisoners walked up to a conference room, awaiting their family and release papers. The media mob followed, waiting for anyone to talk.
Sir Jorge went live on Channel 2’s advisory. Grasping for one of the convict’s names, he asked around: Pyke Fernandez. Pyke heard his name, thought he was called, and walked over to Sir Jorge.
Other microphones joined ours as reporters rushed to grab that first soundbite, courtesy of Sir Jorge.
“Try getting Hubert too,” said studio control on the phone. But Webb wouldn’t bite. Only until he approached the microphones and gamely answered questions.
The adrenaline was up at our ENG van control booth:
Two hours on, we were still live on ANC. One of our cameramen who lived nearby had lunch cooked. But the chicken tinola, fried fish, and tomatoes went cold when we finally ate them during an interval at 3 p.m.
I was halfway through mine when reporter Mario Dumaual asked to have his voiceover audio and materials fed for TV Patrol. The Vizconde case apparently had a showbiz slant.
Our story here began its last stretch. On our live monitor, the convicts were being handed their release papers. Our cabled cameras dashed down and up and out to the Bilibid driveway, as if they were not attached to anything.
The freed men squeezed through the siege of press people, ran to their cars, and raced off to a long-pined liberty.
My meal was never finished. Returning to our makeshift dining table, I saw a street kid helping himself to my plate.
Things settled down for TV Patrol. I, Sir Shadow, and another producer, Sir Jomar, edited the reports of Sirs Jorge, Henry Omaga-Diaz, and Alex Santos.
Korina Sanchez would interview Freddie and Hubert Webb on her first remote anchoring at the Webb condo in Parañaque.
In their interviews, the personalities of this case repeated a call for justice–something this Supreme Court ruling has not seemed to provide for all.
The answer to the convicts’ plea for freedom has only led to a desire to make accountable the people who brought them to jail. However, their freedom has again emptied a void in Mr. Vizconde, who now sees no one culpable for his loss.
The end of one wait has produced another uncertain wait.
It’s this lack of closure, and the riveting human interest of two tragically reversed Christmas celebrations that have kept us gripped to the outcome of this case. And it will keep us glued.