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Mancao testimony tags Erap, Lacson

Former police Senior Superintendent Cezar Mancao II leaves his quarters at the National Bureau of Investigation to testify in the Dacer-Corbito murder trial in Manila yesterday. Edd Gumban

MANILA, Philippines - Former police senior superintendent Cezar Mancao II tagged former President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Panfilo Lacson behind the murders of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000.

Mancao testified in open court yesterday tagging the two personalities as among six people that carried out “Operation Delta,” a covert operation supposedly designed to silence Dacer.

Mancao’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told reporters that the former police official also testified before the closed-door hearing that former police senior officials Michael Ray Aquino, Teofilo Viña, Vicente Arnado and Glenn Dumlao took part in Operation Delta.

Topacio made the revelation before journalists who were barred from covering the hearing at the sala of Manila regional trial court Branch 18 presiding judge Myra Garcia-Fernandez yesterday.

Lacson’s lawyer and spokesman Alex Avisado, however, pointed out Mancao had included himself in a total of seven people who were involved in the operation to silence Dacer.

Topacio, on the other hand, denied Mancao had implicated himself in his testimony.

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He added Dumlao, as a fellow witness, was also present during the hearing.

Topacio said Mancao was consistent in his previous statements implicating Estrada and the other personalities behind the killing of Dacer.

“Mancao finished his testimony and he stood by what was written in his complaint affidavit as to those who had knowledge in Operation Delta which, according to him, was to neutralize Mr. Bubby Dacer,” Topacio said.

Topacio highlighted Mancao’s testimony during the hearing but did not elaborate on details.

Sources, on the other hand, revealed Mancao merely affirmed the contents of his previous sworn statements.

Sources said Mancao testified that they were in a vehicle when he allegedly heard Lacson tell Aquino to proceed with “Operation Bero,” referring to a code name for another covert operation designed to silence Lacson’s nemesis, former police general Reynaldo Berroya, now assistant secretary at the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Aquino, however, said they were too busy with Operation Delta. Lacson then allegedly instructed to proceed with the two operations simultaneously, the sources said.

Avisado, on the other hand, claimed Mancao’s testimony was “pure hearsay,” stressing the opportunity for the defense to cross-examine the witness in the next hearing.

“There was no direct information, no first hand information that there were orders from those people to kill. Even if you read his testimony, read his affidavit, there was none,” he pointed out.

Avisado said also expects to get a copy of Mancao’s testimony from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

He said he would compare yesterday’s testimony with Mancao’s second affidavit. “In these two affidavits, all their material points were inconsistent. So he lied,” Avisado said.

After the closed-door hearing that lasted over an hour, Mancao expressed belief that his testimony would convince the court to turn him state witness.

“Madami na ako nasabi. Lahat naibigay ko na (I said so many things. I gave it all)… I testified who were involved, who was the mastermind. I know who are those involved in this case,” he said.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), on the other hand, said they would implement a tighter security on Dumlao following the murder of a witness in the case last Wednesday.

NBI spokesman Ricardo Diaz said they would increase the security detail on Mancao by “30 percent,” following the murder of Jimmy Lopez, one of the vital witnesses in the double murder case.

Lopez and a female companion were gunned down inside their house in Indang, Cavite. Lopez was scheduled to affirm his testimony in court yesterday before he was killed.

NBI agents and policemen formed a ring of security around Mancao during the court hearing.

“We are on double alert. We try to monitor everyone passing here if for example they are wearing clutch bags or if they have cameras,” Senior Inspector Renato Solis of the Manila Police District said.

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