MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines will ask the US government to arrange the immediate return of former police officer Cezar Mancao II, a potential state witness in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case, after the legal impediments to his extradition have been resolved.
This was according to Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who said his office would request the country’s embassy in Washington to secure an order from the Federal State Department for Mancao’s return flight.
“I talked to his lawyer (Arnedo Valera) and he said that the required deposition was already finished. He believes there is no more obstacle to the return of his client. But we have to respect US authorities,” Gonzalez said.
He said that while there is no official directive yet from federal authorities for the return of Mancao, he does not expect the procedure to take long.
He said Mancao might be accompanied by his wife and his lawyer on his return to the country. He advised the former police official to limit the number of family members who would join him, “for security purposes.”
He said the National Bureau of Investigation would provide him with security “because of his involvement in a high-profile case and the circumstances surrounding it.”
Armed men snatched Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito on Osmeña highway in November 2000. The charred remains of the two were found in Indang, Cavite days later.
The return of Mancao was delayed by a legal action of another suspect in the Dacer-Corbito murders, Michael Ray Aquino, who had asked the Newark court in New Jersey to include him (Mancao) and a third suspect, former senior superintendent Glenn Dumlao, in the list of witnesses for his own extradition case.
Also yesterday, Gonzalez shrugged off allegations that the reopening of the double murder case would be used to persecute former police chief and now Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Mancao, in his affidavits, has linked Lacson to the murders.
“That (accusation) would be the best refuge of people who do not want to face the music anymore. There is nothing personal here,” Gonzalez said. “Mancao volunteered to testify. What would it make us if we didn’t entertain him?”
The Justice secretary said he has already met with a special panel of prosecutors who would reinvestigate the case.
He said the DOJ’s special task force handling cases of media killings would also join in the investigation.
Meanwhile, Dumlao is also expected to be back soon after a US court dismissed the petition for habeas corpus filed by his wife Merlyn Cejo.
“If the habeas corpus has been dismissed, it will pave the way for his extradition. He is also supposed to give deposition on the Aquino extradition case and I don’t see any serious problem with that,” Gonzalez told reporters.
“It would be better if both of them would return – even if not at the same time,” he added.
Allegations of Lacson’s involvement in the killings of Dacer and Corbito have prompted the daughters of the prominent publicist to file double murder charges against the senator, who is a staunch critic of the administration.
Dacer’s US-based daughters, Carina, Sabina, Emily and Amparo, executed their nine-page complaint affidavit last March before the consuls general in New York and California, according to
their lawyers Demetrio Custodio Jr., Raymond de Castro and Love Joy Cecilia Brillantes.
“Sen. Lacson not only conspired with the accused in the murders of our father and Mr. Corbito but in fact orchestrated the same,” they said. “Being then the head of the PAOCTF (Presidential Anti Organized Crime Task Force) he exercised ascendancy over all members of the task force, particularly those who executed the killings,” the complaint read.
“To be sure, the acts of PAOCTF personnel involved before, during and after the gruesome killing of our father and Mr. Corbito could have only been done upon the direction of Sen. Lacson,” the Dacer sisters added.
Doubts on testimony
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said any testimony as state witness from Mancao on the Dacer-Corbito double murder case would be open to doubts.
“The key question is, will he tell the whole truth – a question worth asking considering that his being a state witness of the ruling administration, by itself, already casts doubt on why he will tell all,” Cruz said in an interview.
Cruz said he is hoping that Mancao would be the key to solving the almost decade-old case.
“Hopefully, he would not even muddle the truth more, especially since he himself is a confessed criminal,” said Cruz, a former president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
Mancao’s camp had indicated his willingness to turn state witness.
Cruz noted that the families of Dacer and Corbito are “crying for truth and justice.”
“With Mancao’s return, there then comes time for him to testify and clear the air of suspicion long hanging over Philippine society,” Cruz said. - With Helen Flores