Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Selective persecution

When you ask the prosecutorial service, headed by the Department of Justice, to determine whether there is probable cause for them to file a criminal case in court against some person or entity, you have to sign your complaint and make it under oath before a prosecutor who will make a certification that he personally examined the affiant and that he is satisfied that he read, understood, and voluntarily executed his affidavit. In the case of the Dacer sisters, they subscribed and swore their respective complaints before the consuls-general of Los Angeles and New York. Whether there is any certification in the jurat made by the consuls-general, we do not know. But Raul Gonzalez deemed that as acceptable legal procedure. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile questioned Gonzalez’ legal short cut.

In the determination of probable cause, the prosecutorial service, whether by an ordinary fiscal or the Department of Justice itself, which according to Raul Gonzalez, is convening a special investigating team, is supposed to cast a wide net, to include all persons who may possibly be linked to the abduction and double murder.

Now let us look at the affidavit of police S/S Cezar Mancao, the contents of which have been made public (assuming that is the same affidavit Gonzalez allegedly keeps in a bank vault). That affidavit was the main basis for the complaint filed by the Dacer sisters against Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson. Mancao, in that supposed affidavit, claims to have overheard a conversation between Lacson and police S/S Michael Ray Aquino inside a car driven by one Sgt. Oximoso, while he sat on the front seat. Accordingly, in that car conversation which Oximoso has denied to have ever happened, Aquino sought permission from Lacson to work on Dacer, because “naiirita na si Bigote sa kanya”.

Under normal legal circumstances, where justice follows the rules of procedure instead of the rules of perfidious whim, the supposed Mancao affidavit would not have probative value unless affirmed by the affiant under oath and before a court of law and corroborated by others. Oximoso has already controverted the supposed Mancao claim. Police S/S Glenn G. Dumlao has not corroborated the same either, nor has Michael Ray Aquino. But, both the Dacer siblings and Raul Gonzalez have deemed Mancao’s claim to be true. Or enough to establish probable cause that will make Senator Panfilo M. Lacson probably guilty of the crime charged, or that would ascertain the truth behind the murders. That after all is what a preliminary investigation, an executive rather than judicial function, is supposed to achieve. It’s intent is to determine probable cause to charge some person or persons in court, their guilt or innocence to be determined in trial by the judicial branch, which is supposed to be independent from the executive.

If that were so, why then did the Dacer sisters single out Panfilo M. Lacson, and why too did Gonzalez order a preliminary investigation, never mind the paucity of legal procedures, singularly against Lacson? The Mancao affidavit clearly identifies a certain “Bigote”, mentioned, not by Lacson, but allegedly by Aquino. Who told Aquino that “naiirita na si Bigote sa kanya (Dacer)”? Not Lacson, if the alleged Mancao affidavit is to be taken at face value. Aquino “knew”, and was “reporting to” Lacson, that “Bigote” was “naiirita”. Did “Bigote” say that to Aquino?
The police officer that he is, a PMA cavalier at that, Aquino would not just “assume” that “Bigote” is “naiirita”. He must have been told so, especially where he suggests to his immediate superior, per the controverted Mancao affidavit, the commission of an illegal and criminal act.

Now let us juxtapose the supposed Mancao affidavit to the hand-written affidavit of Glenn G. Dumlao, dated 12 June 2001, and sworn before a prosecutor on 14 June of the same year. Therein, S/S Dumlao says that when Cezar Mancao found out that Aquino had been using his men and resources under Task Force Luzon of the PAOCTF, he, along with Dumlao, confronted S/S Aquino in his office.

“Noy, ano ba itong special operation na ito?”, asked Mancao (Michael Ray was nicknamed Ninoy by his PMA class of 88). Answered Aquino: “Kwan ‘yan sir, kay Dacer. OK na ‘yan sa Malacanang, pinag-usapan na iyan”. To which Mancao asked, “Cleared ba ito sa boss natin, kay ’71 (which is the code for then PNP Chief Panfilo M. Lacson, now senator of the realm)? Aquino’s reply, according to Dumlao, was “Sila na daw bahala sa kanya.”

Dumlao claims in that June 14, 2001 affidavit that he was tasked by Aquino to do initial surveillance of Dacer’s office at the Manila Hotel as early as January 1999. He did the task perfunctorily, and both he and Aquino forgot the same when he was swamped with more important tasks, such as operating against kidnappers, said Dumlao. His next link to the Dacer-Corbito abduction was when on November 24, 2000, he was tasked by Aquino to conduct a tactical interrogation of “captive” Bubby Dacer. Allegedly unable to extract anything from Dacer regarding the moves of the “opposition” (Dacer was known to be close to former president and Lakas chairman emeritus Fidel Valdez Ramos and Jose Almonte, FVR’s trusted national security adviser), and reporting the same to Aquino, this Col. Dumlao chose to just retrieve the documents Dacer was then carrying. Later, he was instructed by his immediate superior, Col. Mancao, to dispose the documents, saying “delikado ‘yan.” Dumlao proceeded to the La Mesa Dam area, and burned the same. That, according to his June 14 affidavit, was his only participation in l’affaire Dacer avec chauffeur Corbito.

On account of this June 14, 2001 affidavit executed by Dumlao, both police senior superintendents Aquino and Mancao were included by the DOJ in the case filed before the Manila RTC, now currently in the sala of Judge Myra Garcia-Fernandez. The inclusion of Mancao and Aquino as accused in the case was finally ordered by the Supreme Court Second Division in its decision dated October 5, 2005. Despite this, the DOJ, already under the yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments Raul Gonzalez, did not immediately request the extradition of the accused, who were now in the United States.

And then, on May 20, 2003, after almost two years of continued detention in Crame and the ISAFP compound in Aguinaldo, Police S/S. Glenn G. Dumlao, swore before assistant city prosecutor Cesar Glorioso that the contents of his June 14, 2001 affidavit were the product of “threats, intimidation, and physical force to coerce me to concede to their demands…force me to implicate Police S/S Aquino, Mancao, and Sen. Lacson”. In that same affidavit, he mentioned several names of fellow police officers and ISAFP officers under then ISAFP head Victor Corpus, who allegedly harassed and intimidated him. On one occasion, Dumlao was accosted by Corpus to a conference room inside the ISAFP offices, where several high officials and influential personages were in attendance, among others: then DOJ Secretary Hernando B. Perez, then NBI Director Wycoco (now dead), then PNP Chief and now DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, and surprisingly, former DILG Sec. Ronaldo Puno, since re-appointed to the same post by GMA.

, “Sige, mag-diretsahan tayo…ayaw namin ng katotohanan. Kung amin ka, dapat total support at i-pin down natin si Ping. Bibigyan ka namin ng magandang buhay at posisyon. Andito lahat ng makakatulong sa ‘yo. Pero kung hindi, magkaka-leche-leche ang buhay mo. Nagkakaintindihan ba tayo?”, Corpus said, as recollected by Dumlao in that May 20, 2003 affidavit.

So, until Glenn G. Dumlao returns and states whether his original June 14, 2001 affidavit was of his true and own free will, and not forced upon him through threats and torture as he stated in his May 20, 2003 affidavit we will not know whether Mancao’s supposed latest affidavit is true or not, per someone more linked to l’affaire Dacer-Corbito than Mancao himself was.

But, since the responsibility of the Department of Justice, as the prosecutorial arm of the Republic of the Philippines, is to find probable cause to charge all and anyone who may have been participants in a gruesome crime, then why does it not exercise due prudence, and include in the preliminary investigation, a certain “Bigote” that Mancao supposedly heard Aquino mention inside Lacson’s car? After all, in the Dumlao affidavit of June 14, 2001, on the basis of which Mancao and Aquino were included by the DOJ in the charge sheet, Aquino allegedly answered Mancao, when he was confronted regarding l’affaire Dacer, that “OK na ‘yan sa Malacanang”? And in the follow-up question of Mancao to Aquino, as to whether “alam ba ito ng boss natin, si ’71?”, the latter allegedly replied, “Sila na daw bahala sa kanya”.

The finger would seem to point to Malacanang and a certain “Bigote”. Whether that “Bigote” in Malacanang did talk to then PNP Chief Lacson or not regarding the plot to abduct Dacer has yet to be ascertained. In any case, it strains all credulity that Aquino, per Mancao’s supposed affidavit as publicly released, would be suggesting to his Chief PNP that “unahin ko na si Dacer, kasi na-iirita na si Bigote sa kanya”, if Lacson had already been made aware of the directive. Did someone in Malacanang tell Lacson that he had directed his subordinate, Michael Ray Aquino, to commit an illegal and criminal act? Then why direct Aquino and not Lacson?

If Raul Gonzalez is true to his responsibility of indicting any and all persons who may have had participation in the commission of a crime, should he not likewise include “Bigote” or whoever else in “Malacanang” in his preliminary investigation?

Now simple common sense would tell us that PNP Chief Panfilo Lacson has theoretically one superior civilian official, and that is the Secretary of DILG. Theoretically, because both the Chief of Staff of the AFP and the PNP Director-General, by chain of command, receive orders directly from the commander-in-chief. Lacson became PNP Chief on 16 November 1999, when the DILG Chief was clean-shaven Ronaldo Puno, who two months or so later, in January 2000, was replaced by Alfredo Lim. At the time of the abduction of Dacer, Lacson’s DILG civilian superior was clean-shaven Alfredo Lim, now the mayor of miserable Manila. If we stretch superior-subordinate relationship much further, again theoretically, Lacson might be given directives by the Executive Secretary. During this whole period, the Executive Secretary was Ronaldo B. Zamora, who has never sported a moustache, except perhaps when he and Miriam were classmates at the UP.

Por eso, quien es “Bigote”, assuming that the alleged Mancao affidavit is real, and the contents therein are true? And assuming further that Dumlao’s affidavit of June 14, 2001, stating that Aquino said “OK na ‘yan sa Malacanang” was the whole truth and nothing but, something that he himself recanted on 20 May, 2003, as having been forced upon him by threats and torture?

Surely, Aquino, who most of us who were in Malacanang almost daily, saw inside the palace far more frequently than Panfilo Lacson, would not accept orders from just about anybody in Malacanang, certainly not from PSG officers, who to my recollection were all clean-shaven likewise? Or from say, then PMS Asec Boying Remulla, also without a moustache? Who then, from Press secretary Dong Puno? Or PLLO Secretary Jimmy Policarpio? Or Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Eki Cardenas? Or myself, who was then a resigned Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs? But all of us did not and do not sport a moustache.

And then again, those of us who were in Malacanang at the time knew an open secret. PNP Chief Panfilo Lacson was “persona non grata” in the palace since June of 2000, because, according to then Executive Secretary Ronny Zamora, who confided to me, “governors and mayors kept complaining to the President that he kept raiding jueteng operations in their jurisdictions”. Lacson was in the “doghouse”, and everyone among us knew that. This PNP Chief would not go slow on jueteng, never mind Chavit Singson’s protestations about the PNP Chief who refused to accept “take” from jueteng.

So, was Lacson the only person who may have directed Aquino to commit such an illegal order against Dacer? But if Lacson could not be made to cooperate on jueteng, which was illegal, would he have cooperated on another illegal order, which is the abduction of an innocent civilian?

Fiat justitiae, ruat coeli. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall. This is not to suggest to the legal eagle of the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, one Raul Gonzalez, Secretary of Justice of these benighted parts, that “Bigote” is guilty of any crime. Neither Aquino or Mancao or Dumlao either, who as far as I know, never used “bigote” to describe someone in Malacanang. But in the preliminary investigation leading to the existence of probable cause, should not everyone, remotely or directly mentioned in these affidavits be included?

Or is the DOJ Secretary, mercifully suggested as having lapsus mentis due to age and physical infirmity, simply prosecuting on the basis of selective justice?

To be sure, doubts have been raised in court about the establishment of the corpus delicti. DNA analysis of the bones allegedly of Dacer and Corbito, indicated that these “did not belong to humans”. Only the dental plates of the two “miraculously” survived the fire that allegedly obliterated traces of the bodies. Again, this is not to suggest that Dacer and Corbito are still alive, but rather, that a politically-motivated investigation was made slapdash and surreptitiously, in aid of political persecution, rather than truth.

This bias for selective persecution is further established by the media contortions of one Raul Gonzalez, who “stripteases” layers of disclosures in full public disgust, and now would even suggest that “some powerful persons” are preventing the return of Mancao and Dumlao.

Hoy Raul (to ape Mar’s Hoy Celso), are you saying that the American justice system is like yours in this corrupt regime? Kayang impluwensyahan ng isang hamak na senador ng isang maliit na bansa?

Or, are you suggesting that your government is no longer credible in the US of A, because it is led by “those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent…”

I don’t believe so. It’s just that in countries (other than Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s and perhaps Somalia and Zimbabwe), where justice is dispensed properly, everyone, accuser or accused, is accorded due process under their rules of court and their bill of rights.