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 “