Clears Lacson, Erap in Dacer-Corbito murders
MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Former Police Superintendent Cesar Mancao on Saturday absolved former Senator Panfilo Lacson and former President Joseph Estrada in the 2000 Dacer-Corbito murders as he expressed his intent to surrender to authorities.
"I think it's about time. I was enlightened during the Pope visit in Manila. At napag-isip-isipan ko po na meron pong solusyon dito sa aking malaking dinadalang problema," said Mancao.
Mancao, who was described to be sporting long hair and a beard, faced the media in an undisclosed location on Saturday morning to announce that he is now mulling his surrender after almost two years in hiding.
"Sana po ay itong mga masamang loob na aking kinikimkim ay magkaroon ng solusyon," Mancao said in an interview on radio dzMM.
He escaped from the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in 2013 following an order for him to be transferred to the Manila City Jail.
'NO PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE'
Mancao, an accused in the murders of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000, apologized to Lacson, former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP), and Estrada for linking them in the crime.
He admitted that he had no personal knowledge on the supposed involvement of the two, saying he was only forced by the past administration to implicate their names.
"Nag-a-apologize ako sa mga taong aking nadawit, nasirang pangalan at napagalit. Lalo na po kina Senator Lacson kung saan akin pong nasiraan ang kanyang pangalan, reputasyon at ambisyon, at napagpahirapan po siya nung siya'y nagtatago rin. At si dating Presidente Erap, nabanggit ko po yung pangalan niya na kasama dun sa kaso pero di naman siya nasama sa charge talaga," he said.
"Ako po ay walang personal knowledge sa kanilang mga involvement. Ako'y talagang napilitan lang ng mga dating tauhan ng dating administrasyon na idawit sila," he added.
"I know Sen. Lacson for decades. He's been consistent, he's respectable, sensible, incorruptible and fearless."
Mancao said he was only following orders from people, whom he refused to identify for now, due to fear for his own life.
He said they were only dictating his actions and also forced him to sign an affidavit which he stood by in courts.
"Ganun na nga po (ginigipit nila ako)... Dahil ho sa takot ko sa buhay ko at sa banta na may mangyaring masama sa akin..."
The former intelligence officer, who is counted among the country's high-profile fugitives, also issued an apology to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, saying he knows the government has already spent enough manpower and resources to locate him.
"I hope she will forgive me and pave the way for whatever way that will straighten out this problem that I have. In the first place, I'm not really involved in the Dacer-Corbito (murder case)... I don't have personal knowledge, in the first place, of the murder," he said in a separate interview on ANC.
"Ako po ay umaapela sa lahat who, in one way or another, I have offended or harmed, sorry po talaga," he added.
He apologized as well to the families of Dacer and Corbito.
'ENLIGHTENED BY POPE'
Mancao was placed under the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Witness Protection Program after he filed a motion to turn state witness and testify against other suspects in the case, including Lacson, who was later cleared by the court.
But in 2011, the Court of Appeals (CA) ruled that Mancao was an unreliable witness and denied his motion leading the DOJ to turn him over to the NBI.
Mancao escaped from the NBI custody in May 2013 by changing the padlock of his detention cell, saying he is likely to get killed if he is transferred to the Manila City Jail.
According to Mancao, he is tired of being on the run and away from his family.
He said Pope Francis' message of mercy and compassion moved him to consider turning himself in to authorities. He said he will consult his lawyers on his options.
He admitted he was in Metro Manila during the visit of Pope Francis. The pontiff was in the Philippines for five days from January 15 to 19.
"When the Pope visited the Philippines last month, I felt the warmth and the love, and I was enlightened by His Holiness' message of mercy and compassion, and his advice to the youth to think, to feel, and to do whatever it takes for the goodness, for the glory of God," he said.
"I really know that there is a solution. I know God works in so many mysterious ways," he added.
Mancao is now appealing for fairness from government forces who are after him, saying he does not want "a repeat of the Mamasapano massacre."
"I was almost caught once. There was almost a squabble. I don't want that to happen where innocent lives will be lost. So I'm coming out. I don't want to have a repeat of the Mamasapano massacre... I don't want more trouble," he said.
Forty-four members of the PNP-Special Action Force (SAF) were killed in a bloody encounter with Muslim rebels in Mamasapano, Maguindanao on January 25 during their operation to neutralize terror suspects Zulkifli bin Hir alias Marwan and Basit Usman.
"Dahan-dahan lang po. Hindi ako masamang tao. Sana po ay maunawaan niyo ako sa kalagayan kong ito," Mancao said.
DE LIMA: COME CLEAN
According to de Lima, the DOJ is now taking a wait-and-see approach to the surrender of Mancao. She said the NBI is ready to receive him in case he pushes through with his plan to surrender.
She said Mancao has to "come clean" and "tell the plain and naked truth."
"He has to tell this time kung ano talaga ang nalalaman niya at kung sinu-sino ang totoong mga may pakana o totoong behind the Dacer-Corbito murder case. Because the problem with Cesar Mancao is that his credibility is none at all at this point because of his flip-flopping and contradictory statements," she said.
"One time he would say Sen. Ping Lacson is not involved, and then another time he would say he is involved. So this time he is issuing this apology and saying that Sen. Ping Lacson has nothing to do with that. So what is really the truth? What does he know?" she added.
The justice secretary said it is up to the court to determine the credibility of Mancao's statements. She nonetheless assured Mancao that he will be "treated fairly and humanely."
Meanwhile, Estrada said he is grateful that the former police officer has cleared him of his alleged involvement in the double murder case.
The former president stressed that he and Dacer were good friends.
"Nagpapasalamat ako at naliwanagan ang isip niya at nagsasabi siya ng pawang katotohanan," he told dzMM.
"Alam niyo, si Bubby Dacer ay parang magkapatid po kami niyan. Inaanak ko iyung anak niya sa binyag. Hanggang ikinasal, ako pa rin ang ninong. Proud [ako] sa pagkakaibigan namin niyan. Imposibleng mangyari sa akin na ako makasali diyan," he added.
Lacson, meanwhile, also thanked Mancao for "letting me know who my true friends are."
He said he has already forgiven Mancao, but noted that what the former intelligence officer did back then only "spoke of his weak character."
"More than the persecution of innocent people, what Cesar Mancao did 4 years ago spoke of his weak character. Surely, I know all those who committed incriminatory machination, even subornation of perjury by the assigned prosecutor herself and I will never forget their names."
"Regardless, I have already forgiven all of them. In a way, I thank them for letting me know who my true friends are," Lacson said. -- With reports from Eric Dastas, dzMM; Pinky Webb and Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News; ANC