MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE ) - The Court of Appeals (CA) on Thursday dismissed the information in the criminal cases filed against Senator Panfilo Lacson in the abduction and murder of Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and Emmanuel Corbito.
In a February 3 ruling, the CA nullified and set aside the issuance of the arrest warrant issued by the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila on February 4 and July 23, 2010.
CA Justice Ramon Bato Jr. penned the 80-page unanimous ruling.
Dacer's daughters, Carina Dacer, Sabina Dacer-Reyes, Emily Dacer-Hungerford, and Amparo Dacer-Henson filed the case against Lacson, who went into hiding after being implicated in the double murder case.
The Dacers can still appeal the decision.
Their lawyer, Atty. Demetrio Custodio, said he has yet to read the ruling.
"I have not read it so I cannot comment on that. It will depend on the resolution. We can file a motion for reconsideration but I have to read the resolution first,” he told ABS-CBN News in a telephone interview.
“It's 5 in the morning in New York. I haven't talked to them [Dacer family] yet."
Custodio believes that Lacson will surface soon. "I have no doubt, he (Lacson) will come back once the warrants are set aside.”
President Benigno Aquino III said has yet to receive information on the CA ruling.
Aquino, however, he reiterated his assurance to Lacson that he will be tried fairly.
Lacson’s camp, on the other hand, insisted that the order is executory unless the CA reverses itself or the Dacers are able to get temporary relief from the Supreme Court.
“Makakaasa po kayo na sa lalong madaling panahon ay lalabas na si Senador Lacson,” said his lawyer, Atty. Alex Avisado.
Lacson had filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition to annul the Manila RTC's orders.
In their final memorandum dated December 21, 2010, Dacer's daughters reiterated their position seeking a dismissal of Lacson's petition.
They started off by saying: "If he is truly innocent, petitioner should bravely go to trial and prove his defense," quoting a Supreme Court decision in Boiser v. People.
'Beyond reach of the law'
The Dacers had alleged that Lacson, "a Senator of the Republic who, though sworn to uphold the laws of the land, has employed all sorts of delaying tactics to place himself beyond the reach of the law."
The Dacer family assailed Lacson for having "done everything in his power to delay these proceedings and impede the orderly administration of justice."
"To top it all off, Petitioner went into hiding to avoid arrest and detention," the memorandum said.
The Dacers pointed out that in an effort to evade the case, the senator filed motions to inhibit the two presiding judges--Judge Myra Garcia-Fernandez and Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina--assigned to the case, filed motions questioning the finding of probable cause by the Justice Department and asking for the recall of the warrants of arrest against him, and also filed petitions before the Supreme Court and the appellate court to "stall the investigation into his criminal participation and to hinder his prosecution."
"Considering that the Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that 'the wicked flee, when no man pursueth, but the innocent are bold as a lion,' only one conclusion can be drawn from petitioner's actions. His flight, his maneuverings to delay trial - these are not the actions of an innocent man," the Dacers said.
In his Motion for Reconsideration on the finding of probable cause, dated November 18, 2010, filed at the RTC Manila Branch 18, Lacson pointed out the ruling of the Supreme Court in Ligaya Santos and Robert Bunda v. Domingo Orda, Jr. where the Court held that "probable cause demands more than suspicion" even as "it requires less than evidence that would justify conviction."
"Hence, in determining probable cause, both prosecution and the trial court cannot look only at the evidence of the prosecution and disregard the evidence of the accused, on the mistaken notion that the comparative evaluation of the evidence from both sides and the resolution of issues of credibility can take place only at the trial of the case," Lacson's motion stated.
"In determining probable cause, they must weigh the evidence presented by the prosecution and the accused against each other by determining their credibility and sufficiency. Only then can they determine where the weight of evidence lies or, stated differently, what is more likely: whether the accused committed the crime charged or he did not," the motion said.
Lacson also said that former police officer Glenn Dumlao exonerated him when the latter testified on January 28, 2010 that "he was pressured (with threats to his life) to link or implicate petitioner" to the murders, and that he "had no personal knowledge of petitioner's involvement in the Dacer-Corbito case."
Lacson also assailed the credibility of Cezar Mancao as well as the credibility of Mancao's account and testimony.
Lacson claimed that Mancao's most recent affidavit dated February 13, 2009, which implicated the senator to the twin killings, is "patently unreliable and incredible" and were inconsistent with his two earlier sworn statements (June 29, 2001 and March 1, 2007) which "did not mention any involvement on the part of petitioner in the Dacer-Corbito case."
Lacson also argued that the previous administration was out to pin him down because of his anti-Arroyo stance. This of course was manifested most evidently when the senator decided to go into hiding, thinking he could not be served justice under the previous administration. - Reports from Ina Reformina, Jacque Manabat, and Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News