The lawyer of Michael Ray Aquino filed an “emergency” motion for a writ of habeas corpus for former police officers Cezar Mancao and Glenn Dumlao before a US federal appeals court late Friday (Saturday in Manila).
Lawyer Mark Berman told ABS-CBN North America News Bureau that he would need Mancao for Aquino's extradition hearing.
The habeas corpus petition may effectively postpone Mancao’s extradition, which has been set for March 31 (Tuesday).
The move came after the New Jersey district court delayed Aquino's extradition hearing on March 26, allowing Berman to file briefs and line up witnesses.
Berman said he had given the Philippine government a notice that Mancao and Dumlao should be available for his client's extradition hearing.
He added that he had also asked Assistant US Attorney Eric Todd Kanefsky for the postponement of Mancao and Dumlao's extradition to the Philippines because he would call them as witnesses in Aquino's case pending before the US District Court in New Jersey.
Aquino, who is currently being held at the Hudson County Correctional facility in Kearney, New Jersey, has a resentencing hearing on March 31 in Newark.
In 2007, Aquino was sentenced to 76 months in prison after pleading guilty to accepting classified US documents.
But last month, a federal appeals court vacated Aquino's sentence saying it was based on a mistaken interpretation of federal guidelines.
Mancao, Aquino, and Dumlao, former members of the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force, then headed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, have been implicated in the kidnapping and murder of Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, on November 2000.
Mancao was expected to return to the Philippines on March 31 (Tuesday) while Dumlao is currently fighting his extradition.
Money pouring to delay extradition
Lawyer Arnedo Valera, counsel for Mancao, said the delay in Dumlao’s extradition and latest legal move by Aquino’s lawyer is a clear proof that “there are some forces” involved in a “systematic” move to prevent people, who have knowledge in Dacer’s murder, from testifying.
“I believe that they might probably be spending a lot of money to do this,” Valera told ANC in an interview.
Valera assured that the habeas corpus petition was done without Mancao’s consent and that his client is ready to stand as state witness “and reveal everything he knows about the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.
Valera did not mention what legal moves they will make to block the habeas corpus petition, but stressed that “there is no legal basis to delay the extradition of Mancao.”
He said if ever Berman’s petition is granted, Mancao can invoke the “next friend doctrine,” which allows an “inaccessible” person, who is the subject of the habeas corpus petition, to be presented by another person who has a “significant relationship” with him.
He said Mancao’s wife, Maricar, can stand witness to Aquino’s hearing in her husband’s behalf.
Valero, meanwhile, called on the Philippine government to play “a proactive role” in his client’s extradition.
“Why is the government so reactive about this? Do not play offense only, you have to play both, offense and defense,” he said.
Instead of just waiting for the US authorities to hand over Mancao, he said the Philippine government should have a “real legal team” to fight the delaying tactics of the people behind Dacer’s murder.
“This should not be surprising to the Philippine government, they have the resources to fight this out quickly,” he said, adding that if the government continued its “reactive” position, they might lose the chance of determining the truth behind the publicist’s murder.
He added that Dacer’s murder is not just a simple criminal case because of its direct impact on human rights violations and extrajudicial killings in the country.
DOJ sec's fears
Secretary Raul Gonzalez of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Thursday that he had ordered Bureau of Corrections chief Oscar Calderon to book a flight to the US to supervise Mancao's extradition.
Gonzalez said he want to make sure that Mancao's extradition will not be delayed, just like what happened to the case of Dumlao.
"I just told him (Calderon) to leave because of the circumstances about Dumlao. I wanted him to check on the situation there. I want to be sure that Mancao will eventually return to the Philippines since his extradition has been completed," Gonzalez told reporters.
The justice secretary had said that he feels that people involved in the double murder case are looking for ways to stall the reopening of the case in the Philippines by preventing Dumlao and Mancao's extradition.
Dacer family charges Lacson
Dacer's daughters -- Emily, Sabina, Carina and Amaparo -- have filed a formal complaint against Lacson for the Dacer-Corbito murder case.
The siblings, all based in United States, executed an affidavit directly accusing Lacson of masterminding the killings and asked their lawyers to file it at the DOJ on Friday.
The Dacer siblings executed and subscribed to the complaint affidavit last March 23 at the Office of the Consul General in New York.
In response to the complaint, Lacson reiterated he had nothing to do with the killings.
"While I respect the right of the Dacer family to find justice under our criminal justice system, they are gravely mistaken and being misguided with their recent action. In their desire to seek justice, they will be committing a more serious injustice by implicating me to the crime," Lacson said.