“Whenever I take up a newspaper, I seem to see ghosts floating between the lines.” Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen’s remark came to mind on reading reports that former Senior Supt. Cezar Mancao scrammed from his NBI cell. How? By “using his own key.”
Mancao had fled to the United States after being linked to the murders of public relations man Bubby Dacer and driver Emmanuel Corbito. On Nov. 24, 2000, Dacer was to brief ex-President Fidel Ramos on the raging BW Resources Corp. stocks scandal. He never made it.
Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force agents, led by former Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, supposedly flagged down Dacer’s car at a Makati intersection. Dacer and Corbito were strangled by PAOCTF agents and cops using electric cords before their corpses were torched, farmers Alex Diloy and Jimmy Lopez later testified.
Their burnt corpses were found four days later in Cavite. UP forensic pathologists identified Dacer and Corbito from, among other evidence, “metal dental plates and a ring.”
Then President Joseph Estrada twisted in the wind because of impeachment. Among other charges was repeatedly pressing the Securities and Exchange Commission to clear BW. Were BW gambling permits, authorized by Erap, swapped for BW shares?
Financier Dante Tan didn’t wait to be asked. He bolted without a forwarding address. On March 31, 2001, Ramos accused Estrada of being involved in the “tragic and murderous kidnapping” of Dacer and Corbito.
“My name is not ‘Bigote’ (mustache),” Estrada told the Inquirer then. “It is Erap. People call me Erap.” That outburst came after Mancao pinpointed “Bigote” as the “mastermind” of the Cavite rubout.
Footage from a security camera showed Mancao slamming the cell door behind him at 1:14 a.m. last May 2 and scaling the fence. Since then, he’s waged “war” against Sen. Panfilo Lacson by cell phone.
Lacson ignored Mancao’s allegation of involvement in the Dacer-Corbito rubout: “I’ve long forgiven him and have no interest in him.” In February 2011, the Court of Appeals spiked the double-murder case against Lacson, who had fled to parts unknown. The court said there was no probable cause “to justify filing two separate informations for murder against [Lacson]. Consistent with his constitutional right to be presumed innocent and in consonance with existing jurisprudence, he should be relieved from the agony of trial….”
“The ridiculousness of it all is mind-boggling,” an Inquirer editorial noted last week. “The [Mancao breakout] was captured on a CCTV camera. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima then called Mancao directly to personally confirm with him that he had indeed bolted. (‘Yes, ma’am,’ was Mancao’s polite reply.) And, in the wake of another purported massive manhunt launched to locate the latest high-profile fugitive, Mancao was still able to grant phone interviews to TV stations—10 hours after he ambled out of the NBI.”
Was it true NBI agents missed him by minutes in Bulacan Friday night? the Inquirer asked. Mancao ducked, saying: “What they’ll spend in looking for me is better donated to Typhoon ‘Pablo’ victims in Compostela Valley.” Mancao is seeking a seat in the Compostela Valley provincial board in the May 13 elections.
This riveting exchange from someone on the run is riveting. But it can smudge the basic issue, namely: the unsolved murder of two citizens—Dacer and Corbito.
“Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man’s life,” Daniel Webster wrote. Arguments over the roots of this devaluation of God-given life will therefore persist. Did the Marcos dictatorship’s torture chambers breed this monster in units, like the Military Intelligence Security Group?
That’s where Lacson, a young Class ’71 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy, started a blood-stained climb to national power, notes the Yale University study, “Closer Than Brothers.” Alfred McCoy notes: “Under martial law, torture became an instrument of power.” Between 1975 and 1985, some 737 Filipinos “disappeared.” But nearly four times that number—some 2,520, equivalent to 77 percent of all victims—were salvaged.
“As the sapling is bent, so will the tree grow.” Lieutenant (later Senator) Lacson thrived in that milieu. He stamped that mold on PAOCTF aides: Mancao, Aquino, and Glenn Dumlao, among others, in a career that included serving Erap as PAOCTF overseer.
Or does cancer go back further? “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain asked after slaying Abel.
Where does this leave the quest for justice by the families of Dacer and Corbito? Lacson had pledged to tell Dacer’s daughters all he knew about the rubout. “That never happened,” Carina Dacer told Radyo Inquirer.
Thus, Carina, with sisters Emily, Sabina, and Amparo, filed a $20-million civil suit against Lacson, deposed President Estrada, and four others at a US District Court in California for the murder of their father. The Mancao episode puts off that quest for justice farther still.
As Election Day nears, ghosts of evils past flitted resurgent with the Mancao escape. The buck for PAOCTF operations stopped with the President. Now candidate for Manila mayor, Erap must exorcise those specters by disproving Fidel Ramos’ charge that he winked at the Dacer-Corbito rubout.
Siya ang gumagawa ng multo, at siya rin ang natatakot, the old proverb says. He made the ghost and is scared of it.
* * *
E-mail: [email protected]