Prosecution or Persecution?

I rise again today on a matter of personal and collective privilege.

On several occasions, I took the floor of this august hall on very important issues affecting national interest.

Jose Pidal. Hello Garci. The NBN-ZTE Broadband Deal. The Fertilizer Scam. Jueteng Anomaly. The C5 Extension Road Project Double Appropriation. The Pork Barrel Anomalies. Plus many others, the latest of which talked about Joseph Ejercito- Estrada in “Dalawang Mukha ng Sining.”

I did not have to seek out most of these anomalies. They came to me. The easiest and most convenient thing to do was to ignore them. Wala akong magiging kaaway. Tahimik pa sana ang aking buhay. But that would be betraying my oath to the Filipino people as an elected Senator of the Republic.

Perhaps no incumbent senator has had the multiple displeasure of being vilified, his reputation assailed repeatedly than this humble representation. If this is the price to pay for fearlessly contributing my share in the fight against graft and corruption in government, then so be it.

If by exposing people in high places and those in the corridors of power would mean creating bitter enemies or losing friends thus making my life miserable, I am willing to pay that price.

Which is why I was aghast at how the gentleman from San Juan, in his privilege speech in this same hall last week accused this representation of being an administration ally, simply because I exposed the true character of his father, the former president.

Everyone and his uncle know that this representation does not receive any pork barrel. I can face any cabinet official or agency head, any executive of any government financial institution or GFI, or government-owned and controlled corporation, or GOCC and before everyone in this august chamber, declare without hesitation, that I have not asked them for any government project for myself or for financial advantage.

The gentleman from San Juan also mentioned that sometime in December of last year, one of the lawyers of former P/Sr Supt Mancao sought an audience with him and requested financial assistance for his client because I have allegedly abandoned Mancao and my other former men in the defunct PAOCTF.

I would like to make a brief comment and confession –

Simula pa noong 2001 magpahanggang ngayon na ako ay nagtatalumpati sa inyong harapan, ay patuloy kong sinusustentuhan ang mga pamilya ng dati kong mga tauhan na nakakulong sa Manila City Jail. Kasama na dito ang mga pamilya ni dating P/Sr Supt Michael Ray Aquino, Cezar Mancao at Glen Dumlao, hanggang ang dalawa ay napauwi dito sa Pilipinas kamakailan, ay tuloy-tuloy ang financial assistance ko sa kanilang lahat sa abot ng aking makakayanan at sa tulong na rin ng mga taong nailigtas namin sa mga kidnappers o natulungan habang ako ay naglilingkod pa bilang isang alagad ng batas. Hindi dahil may kinalaman ako at may dapat akong pagtakpan sa kasong Dacer-Corbito, kung hindi sa dahilang sila ay mga dati kong tauhan at naaawa ako sa kanilang pamilya na nangangailangan ng tulong kaya minarapat kong sila ay tulungan.

Samantalang ang taong maaaring may malaking kinalaman sa pagdurusa ng mga dati naming tauhan, kahit isang singkong duling ay walang itinulong sa kanila magpahanggang ngayon! Ako po lahat ang sumasalo sa problemang wala naman akong kinalaman.

That plain. That simple, Mr President.

Before I tackle the Dacer-Corbito double murder case, please allow me to tell you some short stories about a son, a brother and an elected senator of the Republic.

The following are excerpts from a telephone conversation that transpired between two male persons, both in the United States at that time, one in Los Angeles, California, the other, in Las Vegas, Nevada. One of the persons on the line was about to be extradited to testify in a plunder case then pending trial at the Sandiganbayan involving a long-time friend and former president of his country.

The original charge sheet included the father, the mother and a son. Hence:

(Conversation between two male persons on or about summertime of 2006 in America)

Voice Nr 1: Pare, ano ba plano mo pag-uwi mo?

Voice Nr 2: Pare, ‘di ko alam eh.

Voice Nr 1: Pare, kung uuwi ka… kung ano man ang plano mo, huwag mo na kaming idamay ni mommy; si daddy na lang…. kaya niya namang i-depensa ang sarili niya… May ambisyon pa ako. Magpre-presidente pa ako… ako ang bahala sa ‘yo.

Voice Nr 2: Bahala na. Di ko alam pag-uwi ko….

Of course we now know that the father was convicted, while the mother and son were acquitted.

The man in Las Vegas could not believe what the man in Los Angeles told him. But the fact that the source of this phone conversation is not only reliable but unimpeachable, I myself could not believe this story.

The next story is about two brothers, both presidential sons at that time, and a jueteng operator in Baguio City. The elder brother, after being informed that a younger brother was receiving a monthly jueteng payola of P1M, called the attention of the jueteng operator and told him, thus:

“‘Yung P1M na ibinibigay mo sa kapatid ko, hatiin mo… sa akin mo ibigay ang kalahati… Baka gamitin lang pambili ng drugs yung pera.”

Aside from that additional P500,000 sequestered from the younger brother, the elder brother had a regular monthly payola of P800,000 from another jueteng operator from Bulacan, P1M from Chavit Singson and unspecified amount from yet another gambling lord from Pampanga.

Talk about betrayal, Mr. President.

The third story involves an incumbent Cabinet secretary and an elected senator of the Republic. Hence:

“Sec, natalo ako ng P10M. Bigyan mo ako ng project bukas.”

The following day, a member of the senator’s staff would call on the secretary to follow up on the project. I had no time to check if a project was given, and if so, how much.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, the three short stories that I shared with you only show the rotten moral values of that son, brother and public official.

Now, let me go back to the issue at hand.

Multiple theories have been imagined, crafted and spread with impunity to show that I had something to do with the twin murders. Behind it all are scheming minions of the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration and lately joined by the very same person who, along with this representation and four or five other personalities were named by former Police Sr Supt Cezar Mancao in his open court testimony last September 3, 2009.

He is former President Joseph Ejercito-Estrada, recently convicted for plunder but immediately pardoned by the incumbent president.

In his informal talks with some of our common friends, he would maliciously albeit with feigned ignorance ask, “Ano ba ang galit ni Ping kay Dacer?” or, “Bakit kaya galit na galit si Ping kay Bubby Dacer?” gusto niyang palabasin na ako ang may motibo laban kay Mr. Dacer. Dapat ay sarili niya mismo ang tanungin niya at siguradong alam niya ang mga kasagutan doon.

Mr. Estrada also had the temerity to issue a press statement attributing to me supervision of Oplan or Operation Delta which according to Mr Mancao was designed to neutralize Salvador “Bubby” Dacer. Mabuti pa siya, alam pala niya na may Oplan o Operation Delta. Samantalang ako, sa mga pahayagan at kamakailan ko lang nalaman na may ganun palang operation plan.

Ginoong Pangulo, tiniis kong mag-isa ang mga pagbabatikos sa pamamagitan ng media tungkol sa Dacer case. Binalikat kong mag-isa at hindi man lang inabala ang dating pangulo para tulungan ang mga dati naming tauhan sa PAOCTF. Subali’t nang ituro pa ako ng dating pangulo na siyang may kinalaman sa kaso nina Dacer-Corbito, sinabi ko sa aking sarili, tama na. Panahon na upang tayuan ko sa bulwagang ito at idepensa naman ang aking sarili.

The Swiss philosopher, Henri Frederic Amiel once said, “Truth is not only violated by falsehood; it may be equally outraged by silence.”

Following the arrest and extradition of Cezar Mancao and Glen Dumlao, the media have been following this story like a telenovela.

In the midst of all these events was the unexpected relief of the erstwhile Secretary of the Department of Justice, the very talkative Raul Gonzalez. My Malacañang sources informed me that the Palace was not happy with the way the irrepressible Gonzalez telegraphed through the media what could have been a clockwork effort by former Presidential Security Group head, now ISAFP Chief Romeo Prestoza, in convincing Mancao to what he himself testified on cross examination by defense lawyers as “fabricated evidence” to implicate me in this case.

Thus, on August 12, 2008, Cezar Mancao was interviewed over radio station DZMM. Following are the excerpts from the transcript of that interview:

Q: (Ted Failon) – Dacer-Corbito case, pending arrest warrant, nililigawan ka raw ni Col Prestoza?

A: (Mancao) – September nagsimula yun. Tinawagan niya ako dito sa bahay na ito, itong teleponong gamit ngayon, nagpakilala siyang siya si Romy Prestoza, bagong halal na PSG chief sa panahong yan. Binigay niya sa akin ang kanyang cell phone number at nag-offer sa akin.

Q: (Ted Failon) – Anong offer?

A: (Mancao) – After siya magpakilala, sinabihan niya akong siya ay bagong halal na PSG chief. Sabi niya masyado raw maingay si Senator Lacson, parang asong ulol, gusto niya patahimikin. Gusto niya akong gamitin, in-offer-an nila ako at buong pamilya ko na manirahan sa Singapore. Lahat na kailangan ko, provide nila.”

Earlier, on August 6, 2008, Mancao was also interviewed by GMA-7 reporter, Maki Pulido. Hence:

“Inalok ako tsaka buong pamilya ko na manirahan sa Singapore. Bigyan ng kung ano, kailangan namin talagang kung ano kailangan ha, in general. Tsaka ito suportahan kami…”

“Hindi naman namin napagusapan ang detalye pero in general para sirain, para manahimik na si Lacson, gamitin daw ako.”

“Iniipit na ako eh, alam mo masyado na ‘tong panggigipit. Ayoko na sanang sumali-sali sa ganyan Maki eh. Ayoko na sanang pa-interview pero sana naman ‘wag na masyadong idamay pa ako diyan sa gulo ng pulitika.”

Cezar Mancao informed me of his conversation with now yet-to-be-confirmed by the CA Maj. Gen. Prestoza through text messages with an assurance that he would stick to the truth and nothing more. I have kept some of those text messages in the folder of my cell phone. I would like to share the same with you, Mr President, distinguished colleagues. Thus –

Message details, from – 0019546732576 (Mancao’s Florida number). Date: 01/04/2008. Time 07:31. Type: text message.

The text message reads:

“Ur ryt,sir! Maricar (Mancao’s wife) said it too.I was hoping i can contribute something 2 propel u at d end.Rest assured of my loyalty.I will (sic) desist d temptattn.Sleep soundly,SIR.”

On several occasions, Cezar Mancao had confided to some people when asked pointblank if this representation had anything to do with the Dacer-Corbito case. He told Ms. Teresita Ang-See that I had no participation, direct or otherwise, when the latter asked him that question sometime in 2003 in the US. He likewise told Malaya columnist, Mr. Lito Banayo the same thing when they saw each other, also in the US sometime in April 2006. And lately, after he had already returned to the country, he repeated the same assertion to a common friend that I had nothing to do with the crime being investigated by the DOJ.

To all these, I now appeal to Cezar Mancao – please abide by the ideals of our Alma Mater, the Philippine Military Academy and have the courage to speak only the truth, both in private conversations as well as before the court and in any formal investigation. I have suffered long enough before the bar of public opinion. The anxiety and anguish keep on building up on my family and my siblings. My parents both died without being given the pleasure of seeing their son vindicated.

Why Cezar Mancao succumbed and decided to sign his February 14, 2009 affidavit is a matter between him and God. I am still hopeful he has not forgotten what God told us through Moses: “Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

In Mancao’s court testimony and Dumlao’s sworn affidavit, they narrate that in the early part of October 2000, they went to the office of then P/Sr Supt Michael Ray Aquino to ask him what the so-called “Operation Delta” was all about. Again, excerpts from that supposed conversation as per narration made by Glen Dumlao in his first and handwritten sworn affidavit reveal the following:

“When we reached the office of P/Supt Aquino, P/Supt Mancao asked: Noy, ano ba ang special operations na ito? P/Supt Aquino answered: Kay kuwan yan, Mr Dacer. OK na yan sa Malacanang, pinag-uusapan na yan – Pinag-uusapan na yan. P/Supt Mancao again queried: Clear ba ito sa Boss natin, kay 71? (Senator Lacson is a member of PMA class 1971). P/Supt Aquino answered: Sila (Malacanang) na daw bahala sa kanya.. They (Malacañang) said they will take care of informing him (Lacson).”

My other set of Malacañang informants also told me that Raul Gonzalez tried to convince his President to extend his stint as DOJ Secretary by at least two months by telling PGMA that he intended to resolve the case against me in sixty days record time to which, Mrs Arroyo retorted in her usual “taray” fashion by saying, “Eh, yun na nga eh!…”

Not known to many who are following this case, Cezar Mancao and Glen Dumlao, to-date have executed three sworn statements each. In this case, the contents of the affidavits are modified at each turn, and it would take some patience and perhaps extra-professional expertise to separate the grains of truth from the specks of dirt in the testimonies given by both affiants.

All of the aforementioned affidavits do not contain any statement linking me to the crime, except the one executed by Cezar Mancao on February 14, 2009. in the other affidavits, statements made by Mancao and Dumlao even exculpate me from the crime, attesting to the fact that indeed, I had no knowledge much less authorization for its execution.

In the August 27, 2009 banner story of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the legal counsel for Mancao, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio said that in a court hearing, his client identified me as the one who carried out President Estrada’s order to abduct and kill Bubby Dacer. The official transcript of the records of the court proceeding flatly belies Atty. Topacio’s statement before the media who interviewed him. That made me think – Is this what the lawyer and the prosecutors wanted Mancao to say at the hearing, in accordance with a scripted scenario?

Whether Atty Topacio made those statements out of recklessness or out of malice is of minor importance. What is more significant is that it ruined my reputation both as a senator and as a citizen of this country. By making such untrue and malicious statement to the press, Atty. Topacio clearly violated Rule 13.02 under Canon 13 of the Code of Professional Responsibility that states: “A lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party.”

When reminded that his reckless statement can make him subject of disbarment proceedings, Atty. Topacio conveniently blamed the media by claiming that he was misquoted. Kung sa o dalawang reporter lang sana ang nakarinig ng kanyang sinabi, baka umubra pa ang kanyang palusot.

I am almost tempted to use more colorful language for Atty Topacio’s behavior and demeanor as a member of the bar, but I would rather express my condemnation in formal administrative and criminal complaints that I will file against him.

Atty Topacio’s cheap media propaganda tactic is simply the latest of many insidious efforts to ruin my reputation or implicate me in a criminal case by resorting to falsehoods.

Our colleague, the gentleman from San Juan City, quoted a statement issued by the same Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, in effect saying that in his “honest opinion as a lawyer of Cezar Mancao, he believes that Senator Lacson is the only one being directly linked by his client to the twin murders.” To all the lawyers in this august chamber, since when does the opinion of the lawyer of a witness in a criminal case carry weight and probative value?

It is my humble submission that the said opinion is at its best, a self-serving, uncalled for remark from an officer of the court. Worse, it is unethical, even criminal.

Only last Friday, September 18, 2009, at around 2 o’clock in the afternoon, Glen Dumlao was visited by a lawyer inside his DOJ safehouse who conveyed a message from the same Atty Ferdinand Topacio to convince him to corroborate the affidavit executed by a newfound false labandera witness that I had a shouting match with Mr Dacer in a beach resort in Batangas. Finding Glen Dumlao unconvinced to perjure himself and cooperate with them, the lawyer said:

“Papaano ‘yan? Iipitin nila ang reinstatement mo sa PNP kung hindi mo susundin ang gusto nila. To which, Dumlao replied, “Eh di hindi na lang ako magpupulis. Magsasaka na lang ako.” The lawyer added, “Mukhang nagkakasabwatan na sina Topacio at Erap.”

Mukha nga, Mr President. Kasi, ang bilis makakuha ng statement of support ang kasamahan nating senador na taga San Juan galing kay Atty Topacio.

Ano ba namang klaseng mga abugado ito, Mr President? Are they not aware of the crime of “subornation of perjury”?

In fact just last Sunday afternoon, Atty. Topacio reported to the former president at his Polk Street residence, where other prominent lawyers of Mr. Estrada were in attendance. One of them could not believe what he saw, for Mr. Topacio is lawyering for witness Mancao, not Mr. Estrada. So shocked that this prominent member of the Bar informed me.

Mr. Topacio was even bragging to a semi-retired publicist, once press undersecretary to the former president, how he lambasted me in a press forum earlier, as if reporting, ‘mission accomplished’ and asking ‘the envelope please.’

This administration and its cohorts will stop at nothing to deliver misery at my front door.

This utter disregard for the truth is best exemplified in the following excerpts from Glen Dumlao’s affidavit dated May 20, 2003. At the time of this conversation, he was under the custody of the PNP starting second quarter of 2001:

“I experienced my greatest fear when I was brought to the office of ISAFP Chief Col (Victor) Corpus at 7:30 am on December 17, 2002.

During the meeting, Col Corpus did almost all of the talking like a mad man. Col Corpus told me that – ‘sige, magdiretsahan tayo, kung di ka tutulong sa amin, ibibigay ka naming (sic) kay Ping para patayin ka na. Ayaw namin ang katotohanan. Kung amin ka, dapat total support at i-pin down natin si Ping.

Bibigyan ka namin ng magandang buhay at posisyon. Andito lahat ang makakatulong sa ‘yo. Pero kung hindi, magkakaleche-leche na ang buhay mo. Nagkakaintindihan ba tayo? Ibigay ninyo sa aking custody ang taong ito. kasi play safe siya eh, takot kay Lacson. Dito sa ISAFP, I promise you, dalawang araw lang, ang dami ng ikakanta yan.”

Incidentally, I was informed by my lawyers that in a hearing of an ongoing libel case that I filed against Victor Corpus and other parties, he apologized in open court for vilifying me publicly, using characters like Ador Mawanay, Mary “Rosebud” Ong, Devnani and others, mostly in public hearings conducted by the Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs chaired by the late Sen Robert Barbers.

Glen Dumlao was subjected to threats and intimidation while in police custody and even now that he is under the protective custody of the DOJ. He suffered mental, emotional, psychological and even physical pressure. When he did not give in, he was promised a good position and comfortable life. In spite of these, he consistently refused to perjure himself and sacrifice the truth for the sake of justice that has been eluding the Dacer and Corbito families. I cannot help but admire his character. His Alma Mater, the Philippine National Police Academy can be truly proud of him despite the confessions he publicly made of his past sins.

My own Alma Mater, the Philippine Military Academy is not short of alumni who truly and continuously live up to the ideals of the institution and our motto — Courage, Integrity and Loyalty in the face of difficult odds or the temptation of financial benefits. Nothing less must be expected of a fellow cavalier like Cezar Mancao.

Mr. President, I have been a law enforcer before I became a senator. I uphold the law. I arrest criminals. I know that I must fulfill my oath of office and follow only legal orders.

Kung sa jueteng nga na bukod sa may milyon milyong piso akong matatanggap bawat buwan at may basbas at utos pa ang Commander-in-Chief, hindi ako sumunod o umayon, sa murder pa kaya?

Last Friday, I read in the news quoting Atty. Demetrio Custodio Jr. who represents the Dacer family as legal counsel that a certain “labandera” volunteered to testify that this representation had a shouting match with Mr Dacer in a beach resort in Batangas one week before he was abducted. On the same page, Atty Custodio revealed that the Dacer family is willing to accept me as a state witness if I divulge information pointing to the real mastermind behind the twin murders.

The “labandera” story appears to be a small-minded gambit to make me accept the offer. Thanks but no thanks. We must not allow our search for the truth to be colored by personal motivations nor sidetracked by idiocy.

In the first place, I was not a close acquaintance of Mr Dacer – certainly not close enough to spend time with him in a beach resort, be it in Batangas or elsewhere. I hate beaches as a matter of fact. And I don’t remember having gone to any beach in Batangas in my entire life.

In the second place, I was not a participant nor had any involvement in the crime, so how would I qualify as a state witness?

It obviously appears that the “labandera” story was concocted to support yet another theory behind the crime – that I had a personal motive to harm Mr Dacer.

What I can assure the Dacer and Corbito families is that I am willing to even sit down with them privately and share VOLUNTARILY AND UNCONDITIONALLY whatever I know about the abduction and murder of Mr Dacer and his driver. This representation, Mr President is as interested as they are to finally bring the real mastermind of this dastardly crime before the bar of justice.

Both my parents died last year. I know how it feels to lose our loved ones. The Dacer and Corbito families suffered their loss under extra-ordinary circumstances. I fully understand their grief and frustration that justice for their parents remain elusive up to now.

The objective quest for truth and justice must be paramount.

The guilty must answer for his crime. The innocent must be unburdened by baseless accusations and persecution.

Let me tell you another story.

The great Thomas Edison was at one time conducting a series of experiments. A laboratory assistant, who was impatient with the results so far, told Mr Edison “Sir, the last one was our 700th experiment and so far, we have not been successful.” To which the great man of science replied, “Good. That means we have eliminated 700 ways that will lead us to nowhere.”

I hope our Department of Justice with our zealous prosecutors will get a cue from Mr. Edison. I am not suggesting that the DOJ try 700 ways to get to the bottom of the Dacer-Corbito double-murder case. But to include me in the list of persons to answer for this heinous crime, simply because I am one very vocal critic of this administration impedes the wheels of justice, leads it astray and nowhere near the truth. We do not have 700 suspects in this case, so the process of elimination will be much easier and quicker than in the case of Mr Edison’s experiments. It is basic in any crime investigation to look at three simple elements – motive, instrument and opportunity. They should first ask who has all three and they will not go wrong.

This will bring me to another curious case – the disappearance of Mr. Edgar Bentain, the video operator of Pagcor who came out with a footage of then candidate Vice President Estrada gambling in the casino.

This much I can share, in the meantime, to our distinguished colleagues, the family of Mr Bentain and the Filipino people. Sometime in the middle of January 1999, one day after Edgar Bentain was abducted somehwere in Roxas Blvd and killed somewhere in Laguna, a police officer, still active at that time, went to Polk St in Greenhills and reported compliance with a “mission accomplished.” The house occupant simply said, “Sige, sabihin mo sa mga bata, maraming salamat.”

I did not identify the criminal simply because I did not have any participation or direct personal knowledge of these criminal activities while they were taking place years ago. My investigation is ongoing even as I speak today. But I have gathered enough facts and data to provide the useful leads to unmask the mastermind’s true identity and his active participation including other persons who were barely mentioned in the conduct of investigation.

True to my expectations, many are those who questioned my motives or the veracity of my statements. But to-date, my statements before this august chamber were sufficiently and independently corroborated and affirmed by other parties. My assertions appeal to logic and common sense. They can stand the test of truth.

Why speak only now? To me, the more relevant and all-important question is, DID I SPEAK THE TRUTH?

To anyone who dares challenge the truthfulness of my assertion, let him speak up now.

There can be a thousand reasons for why, how and when truth will find a way to stand out but when it does, we must welcome it with open arms, instead of questioning its timing and motive.

Cold reason, not heated passion or blind emotion spoken through fiery but empty rhetoric will enlighten our path to truth and justice for Mr Dacer and Mr. Corbito and their grieving families.

Justice for them will be justice for all Filipinos.

Let me end this with some excerpts from an interview with Glen Dumlao.