Palace: Mancao safer in gov't custody

by Willard Cheng, Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 03 2013 03:21 PM | Updated as of May 03 2013 11:21 PM

MANILA - Malacañang urged Cezar Mancao to return to the fold of the law, saying that it would be safer for him to be under government custody.
“[Secretary Mar Roxas] assured him it is better for him to be in the protection of the state rather than be a fugitive out there,” Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said of Roxas’ statement. 
Lacierda also said that the manhunt for Mancao continues, adding that the escape is not something that the government will tolerate. 
“We are tracking him down right now. That’s why this is not something that we will countenance. He is a fugitive and we will go after him,” he said. 
The Palace said it is “unfair” for Mancao to ask the President to give him fair treatment, pointing out that his case is already in the courts.
“It’s unfair for Cezar Mancao to ask the President to be fair. First of all, the case is with the courts and we respect the independence of the courts. So as to fair treatment, Secretary Mar Roxas already said that he’s getting special treatment. He’s not being placed in the same cell as the others,” Lacierda said.
“Insofar as getting fair treatment, I think he should be asking the courts for that because he’s case is already before the courts themselves. We expect the court to give him due process and a fair treatment in his case, in his trial.”
Lacierda said that a video of Mancao’s escape will be looked into in the investigation.

Meantime, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima has threatened to withdraw Mancao's Witness Protection Program (WPP) coverage should Mancao continue to refuse to turn himself in after his bold escape Thursday from the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

De Lima said she has put on hold Mancao's removal from the program in spite of a Manila trial court ruling junking the motion for his discharge as an accused in the Dacer-Corbito twin killing so he may turn state witness because she felt the "moral obligation" to ensure his protection.

In a telephone conversation after his escape, De Lima said she demanded that Mancao immediately surrender. De Lima told Mancao his escape was compromising the image of the NBI and Department of Justice (DOJ).

"I'm always hesitant to terminate WPP coverage. I feel I have the moral obligation to give protection to him. Wala nang legal obligation, baka may moral obligation. Wala na akong choice. I have not terminated his WPP coverage. Matagal na dapat terminated yan... Ako naiipit ako dito...This is a serious breach of his (WPP) undertaking," De Lima said.

The justice chief has even offered to fetch Mancao wherever he may be if only to ensure his protection, and assured him the DOJ will pursue other legal remedies to push for his discharge as an accused. De Lima gave Mancao up to end of the day, yesterday, to turn himself in, but Mancao failed to meet this deadline.

Mancao has insisted that his life will be in grave danger once he is transferred to the Manila City Jail based on an order handed down by the trial court on April 30.

"Mananawagan ako sa kanya, Mr. Mancao, you are leaving me no choice but to terminate [your WPP coverage] if magmatigas ka pa rin," De Lima said.

She also believes Mancao is exposed to more danger now that he has escaped from his detention facility at the NBI. This, in spite of Mancao's claims that he will be safer outside than in any detention facility.

De Lima again called on Mancao to turn himself in after he failed yesterday's deadline set by the justice chief for him to surrender.