Unique Distinction

In this country, sealed documents often stoke  speculations. They also uncork furious  reactions.

The “Second  Envelope” featured In   President Joseph  Estrada’s  impeachment.  “Craven Eleven”  senator-allies  sealed  the  packet –- and unwittingly  triggered  People Power Two.  World Bank reports  on rigged  bids for road projects  surfaced  February. The  Ombudsman  pretended  surprise.  And legislators white-washed  blacklisted firms. The  First  Gentleman needn’t   testify on kickbacks, they  gasped.

Now, comes an affidavit on  a  nine-year old  murder:  the  “salvaging” of  publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

Twenty two   armed men, in civvies,  flagged down  Dacer and Corbito along Zobel and Roxas streets in November 2000.  Strangled,  their  burnt  remains  turned up  in barangay   Buna Lejos,  Indang Cavite. UP  forensic  pathologists  identified  Dacer and Corbito, based among others,  on “metal dental plates and a ring.”

The  Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force  washed it’s hands. President  Estrada used to boast of  PAOCTF.  Gen. Panfilo  Lacson oversaw  this agency with  aides :: Michael Ray Aquino, Cesar Mancao, Glenn Dumlao and others.. A  PMA class ’72  graduate, Lacson  rose to national power  starting with the Marcos torture chamber: Military Intelligence Security Group, says the Yale University study: “Closer Than Brothers”.

That  was  that  for  Dacer and Corbito — until this March.  At  a  Florida  hearing on  his extradition to Manila,  ex- police  superintendent   Cesar  Mancao  met  Dacer’s  daughter, Carina.  Mancao informed her  he signed  an affidavit. This   “identified those  involved in the crime.”  Demetriou  Custodio,  Dacer’s  family  lawyer,  revealed.

The  Mancao affidavit hasn’t been released.  But official Manila is like  a sieve. This  jaded town holds few secrets.  Does Mancao’s former PAOCTF superior know what his sworn statement contains?

Lacson  carooms  all over  the place saying he had nothing to do with Dacer’s  rubout.  This is  self-absolution. The  senator knows it won’t wash.  So, he insists that a future public “mea culpa”, by former aide Mancao, is an administration ploy.  It seeks to gag him from further  sleaze exposes.

That’s for sure, given  this  regime’s  unabated  serial  grafting.  “Murder is always a mistake,” Oscar Wilde once wrote. “One  should  never do anything  that one can not talk about after dinner.”

Carina  Dacer, for one, wasn’t impressed. “Show biz”, she scoffed at  Lacson’s  claim  that Mancao is being  arm-twisted  into fingering innocent  people. Lacson  “talked to Mancao in September,”  Carina said. “He knows that the guy has a pending criminal case in the Philippines.  Alam pala niya kung nasaan sina Mancao,… He is a senator, and he knows where [former police officer] Glenn Dumlao and Mancao [and yet] he never extended help to find them.” Isn’t that obstruction of justice?

My  grandmother, for one,  never  bothered with  legal definitions,  like “obstruction of justice.” Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres, she’d say. “Tell me who you gad about with. And  I’ll tell you who you are.”

It would not have escaped her notice  that  Lacson’s  closest  aides skipped town to avoid arrest. Michael Ray Aquino and Mancao  are in US federal prison.  No  other  public official enjoys  that distinction — expect  perhaps  Joseph Estrada.  His midnight cabinet members  like Jaime Dichavez, Dante Tan, Lucio Cao Co et al. didn’t  leave  forwarding  addresses.

Ex-president  Joseph  Estrada, meanwhile, dashed to issue himself  self-absolution.  “I had nothing to do with Dacer.” Why?  Did  anybody  say  he had?  Has he peeked into the   Mancao affidavit? Or is this  belated recognition of command responsibility?  “Conscience is the inner voice which warns us that someone may be  looking , editor H. L. Mencken once wrote.

Will  Mancao’s  affidavit  disappear between his Florida prison and  a Philippine legal forum? That could be  a court, or the Ombudsman  or  a congressional  hearing.  Don’t bet on it.  Stranger things have happened.

What we know, so far, about Dacer-Corbito is found, not in Philippine investigative reports, but in US federal court records. Sad but true. Leaf through the 90-page decision of US District Court Judge William Walls in New Jersey that  denied bail for Michael Ray Aquino.  Some excerpts:

In October, 2000, Mancao asked  Aquino:. “Noy, ano ba itong Special Operations na ito?” (Noy, what is this Special Operations”), Aquino answered, “Yang kuwan yan, sir, … Dacer. Ok na yan sa Malacanang.” (That’s Dacer, sir. That’s already OK with Malacanang.”)

Mancao, then asked Aquino, “Clear na ba ito sa boss natin, kay 71 (referring to Gen. Lacson)?” (“Has this been cleared with 71?”), Aquino then allegedly stated: “Sila na daw ang bahala sa kanya.” (They said they will take it up with him.’)

On Nov. 24, 2000 between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. this text message came from Aquino ““Nakuha na si Delia. Paki T.I. mo siya coordinate with 19 (referring to C/Insp. Vivente Arnado). Huwag kang magdala ng taga Bicol.” (They got Delia (Dacer), conduct tactical interrogation and coordinate with 19. Do not bring men from Bicol.)  Dacer is from Bicol.

Will the truth finally emerge? The boast by Richard III meanwhile resonates: “And thus  I clothe my naked villany/ With odd old ends  stol’n out of holy writ/ And seem a saint when most  I play the devil “

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