MANILA - Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada on Wednesday accused Sen. Panfilo Lacson of being an "administration-sponsored opposition" and revived allegations that the latter used illegal wiretaps and ordered the murders of various personalities including publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer.
In a privilege speech before the Senate, Estrada said Lacson was trying to divert attention away from his alleged involvement in the twin slays of Dacer and driver Emmanuel Corbito in the year 2000.
He cited testimonies from suspects and witnesses who said Lacson had the motive to kill Dacer. He said a letter written by Dacer to his friend, retired Gen. Jose Almonte, revealed that the publicist had been receiving death threats before his disappearance.
"I remember the testimony of Dacer's daughter that she had flashbacks, that his father said 'If anything happens to me, walang ibang may kagagawan kundi si Ping Lacson'. All these point to Lacson who now wants to extricate himself by drawing Erap to draw attention away from him," Estrada said in his speech.
The senator also denied Lacson's allegation that former president Joseph Estrada was involved in the disappearance of Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) employee Edgar Bentain in 1999. Bentain was the video operator of Pagcor who allegedly came out with a footage of then candidate Vice President Estrada gambling in the casino.
He later disappeared after Estrada was elected president in 1998.
In his speech Tuesday, Lacson said Bentain was reportedly abducted by unidentified men at the parking lot of the Grand Boulevard Hotel in Manila and killed “somewhere in Laguna.”
“I did not identify the criminal simply because I did not have any participation or direct personal knowledge of these criminal activities while they were taking place years ago. My investigation is ongoing even as I speak today,” said Lacson.
The younger Estrada, however, chastised Lacson for failing to identify the police officer who allegedly told then president Estrada that the mission against Bentain had been carried out. He also noted that Lacson failed to investigate the matter when he was named chief of the Philippine National Police in 1999.
"Before Lacson delivered his speech, Mr. Bentain is listed officially as a missing person, it was only after Sen. Lacson's speech that the whole nation knew that Bentain was abducted and killed. In that same speech, Lacson stated a police officer still active allegedly went to Polk St. to report that the mission was accomplished. Alam pala ni Lacson ang may kinalaman, at kung totoong kilala nya ang police officer na ito, ano ang ginawa niya?" he asked.
Kuratong Baleleng 'rubout'
Estrada also revived allegations that Lacson masterminded the rubout of 11 members of the Kuratong Baleleng robbery syndicate in 1995. He said a Senate investigation later recommended the filing of charges against Lacson, who was the chief of Task Force Habagat under the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission.
He also showed a video of the now deceased Francisco "Kit" Mateo, Lacson's former subordinate in the PACC and Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group (MISG). Mateo, who was on his deathbed at the time of the interview, said Lacson ordered him to kill a certain Capt. Jimmy Victorino ng Western Police District.
Mateo said Lacson also ordered the murders of a 20-year-old woman and her 8-year-old daughter by throwing them out of a helicopter, which was flying near Corregidor island. He said the two were relatives of then Red Scorpion Gang leader Joey de Leon and were killed after they refused to tell Lacson the whereabouts of de Leon.
In a separate interview, Lacson noted that Mateo recanted his allegations after receiving a presidential pardon from then president Estrada.
'We are not killers'
Before ending his privilege speech, the younger Estrada challenged Lacson to bring his allegations to court instead of hiding behind the cloak of parliamentary immunity.
Taking a page from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile's own speech on Tuesday, he said senators should use the privilege of parliamentary immunity with a sense of responsibility.
"President Joseph Estrada and myself have nothing to hide. Our family has been demonized, pilloried and maligned by people who have their own agenda and own vested interests to pursue and protect. As no less than our Senate President has said, we are not perfect, we may have our flaws but certainly we are not criminals, much less killers.
"After being accused in national television, I believe the most basic and decent thing to do, Mr. President, is for Mr. Lacson to file the necessary charges in the proper court not only to give the accused the opportunity to defend himself, but more importantly to render justice to everyone," he said.