Thursday, March 20, 2008

He was actually released... long before his acquital??

Exoneration does wonders for Villarosa’s health
By DJ Yap, Jocelyn Uy, Julie M. AurelioPhilippine Daily InquirerFirst Posted 03:29:00 03/20/2008
MANILA, Philippines—His exoneration appears to have done wonders to the health of former Rep. Jose Villarosa, who had been confined at the Makati Medical Center where he said he was still recuperating from “major” lung surgery more than two months ago.
Villarosa left the hospital Wednesday afternoon to go to the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) facility in Muntinlupa City for his official discharge, according to NBP officer in charge Supt. Ramon Reyes.
He came with his wife, Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa, and about five bodyguards, Reyes said.
“He was smiling but he looked very frail,” the prison official said.
By then, the former congressman, whose conviction for the murders of the sons of a political rival was overturned by the Court of Appeals, was already garbed in civilian clothes, “a light blue polo shirt and dark pants,” Reyes said.
Reyes said prison authorities officially released Villarosa from the NBP custody Wednesday afternoon.
“He is no longer in the custody of the NBP. He’s free to go,” the prison official said.
Release order
The correctional facility received the order of release from the Court of Appeals midmorning Wednesday and Villarosa, a former congressman from Occidental Mindoro, was formally discharged at past 4 p.m.
The release order was signed by the appellate court’s 5th Division Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Noel Tijam and Sesinando Villon, Reyes said.
Villarosa said the favorable court decision was expected because his lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, had raised very good points in asking the appellate court to overturn the guilty verdict.
“We appealed the decision because we believe that we are not guilty. So I am very thankful for the decision of the Court of Appeals,” he said.
Based on ‘conjectures’
His family hailed his acquittal as a “triumph of justice” and a vindication of his innocence.
“He’s happy that justice prevailed,” Deputy Speaker Amelita Villarosa said in a phone interview shortly after visiting her 65-year-old husband at the Makati Medical Center.
“I’m glad that justice prevailed. My husband has been innocent all this time,” she added.
To celebrate his acquittal, his family might hold a reunion in Tagaytay City after his release from the hospital.
The Villarosa family expected the acquittal because Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Teresa Yadao had convicted him and his co-accused, and sentenced them to death based on “conjectures,” according to Villarosa’s wife.
“My husband can’t be in two places at the same time,” she said, referring to prosecution testimonies supposedly given weight by the judge.
The death sentence was lowered to life imprisonment after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo abolished the death penalty.
Villarosa made a last visit to the NBP to pack his things and give away some personal items.
An insider spotted Villarosa back at the NBP at around 4 p.m., packing his luggage at his “kubol” (a structure like a house where he was detained) at the maximum security compound.
“He auctioned his other stuffs like his electric fan to other inmates. It seems like he’ll spend Holy Week a free man,” said the source, who asked not to be named.
Cask gifts to inmates
The insider added that as a last act of generosity, Villarosa gave his close “staff” of inmates about P500 each.
Other prisoners got P100 as a going away gift.
The source noted that Villarosa sported a shaven head and had visibly slimmed down after reportedly undergoing an operation.
In December, Villarosa went on hospital leave and underwent surgery reportedly for cancer. He has stayed out of the NBP since then.
Doctors operated on him and removed his left lung in early January this year. He has been undergoing treatment since then.
Villarosa also reportedly made a last visit to his capiz-making livelihood stall at the maximum security compound to assure the workers that operations would continue.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer source said he spotted Villarosa exiting the NBP’s Gate 1 at around 6:50 p.m.
Villarosa told Reyes that he would likely be back at the Makati Medical Center very soon, but he did not say when.
Itching to return to his hometown, Villarosa had said before he went to the NBP that he was expecting his doctors to release him by the end of next week.
“My doctors said I should stay here two to three weeks more. But by the end of next week, I could be out of the hospital,” he said in a phone interview with the Inquirer Wednesday.
Medical furloughs
In his two-year incarceration, Villarosa had enjoyed “medical furloughs,” which were approved by jail authorities and the Department of Justice.
Ricardo Quintos, father of the slain brothers, had complained to the appellate court about Villarosa being brought to the hospital in December, contending that the latter was not really sick and only wanted to enjoy the amenities of the private hospital which are more luxurious compared with the prison facilities.
Sources in the NBP earlier said that the former lawmaker had even put up a livelihood center and a five-foot deep “pond” next to his “kubol” to pass time.
Warning to NBP
In its decision, the Court of Appeals took to task the NBP for failing to inform it of Villarosa’s hospitalization.
It warned the NBP that failing to inform the court of a prisoner’s release for hospitalization or any other purpose would be dealt more severely next time.
The appellate court asked the NBP to inform it if Villarosa had returned to the NBP or was still at the hospital.
Glad about the appellate court’s ruling, he is set to get busy with politics and his businesses again and might file a case against the judge that meted him the death penalty two years ago.
When he returns to his hometown next week, he said he would attend full-time to his fish ponds, cattle ranch and mango plantation.
“I would also resume my meetings with my allies in politics,” he told the Inquirer on the phone before he went to Muntinlupa.
Villarosa said he would meet up with his lawyer to talk about the possibility of filing a disbarment case against Yadao “to preclude her from doing judicial injustice to others.”
He said there could be others who suffered his fate, but unlike him, chose to keep silent.
The former lawmaker accused the judge of handing down an “unjudicial verdict” by coming up with conjectures in his case.
“In her decision, she said I could have used a helicopter to get to Congress on time after a supposed meeting with the New People’s Army in Mindoro. But this was not in any of the affidavits of the prosecution,” he said.
Time to move on
With the acquittal, the Villarosa couple and their five children could “now move on with their lives” without the tag “murder convict” attached to the elder Villarosa’s name.
“We will go on with our life. But it’s much nicer having the shadow of conviction reversed finally,” said Villarosa’s wife, 64, who rued that she had often been referred to in the news as the wife of a “convicted murderer.”
The stigma of the Villarosa patriarch’s conviction and later incarceration at the NBP took a heavier toll on the children, especially the youngest who is now 19.
“Our children were traumatized. When my husband was convicted, the youngest was in grade school, and his grades took a nose-dive. It’s a good thing a guidance counselor was around to guide him,” the congresswoman said.
“The trauma made them stronger, but I wouldn’t wish that on my friends,” she added.
Otherwise, the whole experience brought the family even closer together.
Much closer now
“We bonded together; we’re much closer now. The family is intact all this time. We’re stronger than ever,” Ms Villarosa said. “We look forward to moving on with our lives, with our children and grandchildren.”
The Villarosa couple have three boys and two girls, aged 19 to 38, and eight grandchildren.
The Villarosas are looking forward to spending the Holy Week together at the Makati Medical Center, or at their home in Makati City, if Villarosa is discharged.
“It all depends on the doctor,” Ms Villarosa said, when asked if her husband would be discharged in the next two weeks. With a report from TJ Burgonio

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