First of two parts
A month before public relations man Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito went missing in Nov. 24, 2000, the publicist wrote close friend, retired Gen. Jose Almonte, about threats to his life.
In that letter, published by Newsbreak in Jan. 2001, Dacer told Almonte that he wrote “instead of calling (Almonte) to avoid being recorded by General (Panfilo) Lacson and President Estrada.” At that time, the impeachment complaint against Estrada had just been filed at the House of Representatives.
Dacer said he had been warned by concerned friends “that President Estrada has tagged me as the field officer in the alleged destabilization campaign against the administration.” A Manila police officer, he said, even suggested a safehouse. “While I appreciate all these concerns, I politely declined any offer of safehouses.”
Dacer also gave Almonte updates on the political situation at that time: “the decision of (then) Rep. Alan Cayetano to bolt Lamp (Estrada’s coalition party) and the refusal of Bong Revilla (then Cavite governor now senator) to sign the endorsement of support for Erap (Estrada).”
He also told Almonte that there was no truth to the move of (then Paranaque mayor) Joey Marquez to bolt Lakas. “He denied it. FVR (Ramos) called last night 3 times and made several requests.”
Based on the letter, it appeared that Dacer was working for Ramos—at a time when he was supposedly helping Estrada deal with his political problems. Dacer had previously worked as Ramos’s image maker and when Estrada came to power, he made a seamless transition.
But then, even when working as Estrada’s PR man, the relationship between Dacer and his high-profile client was turbulent. In a series of letters to Estrada and Almonte in 1999, Dacer referred to intrigues being sown by others “aimed at driving a wedge” between him and the troubled President.
Dacer was particular with Lacson as his primary suspect.
In one letter to Estrada dated June 9, 1999, Dacer named several individuals who were behind the demolition job against him. One of them, Dacer said, was Lacson who was then angling for the top post in the national police.
In a letter to Almonte dated July 27, 1999, Dacer was unequivocal in naming Lacson as manipulating Estrada’s mind. “The President’s most trusted aide, his top intelligence man, is the one responsible in needlessly alarming his Excellency. Gen. Lacson is also feeding him disinformation in other very critical areas.” In this letter, Dacer discussed the “mystery” behind Estrada’s insistence that some opposition leaders, including Dacer, were involved in undermining Estrada’s government.
Apparently, “Gen. Lacson’s malicious and evil plan almost worked,” Dacer reported. He noted that Estrada would always confront him that he, Almonte and Ramos, were behind the destabilization plot.
Lacson is ‘hidden hand’
In another letter to Estrada dated Oct. 8, 1999, Dacer tagged Lacson as “the hidden hand” behind the negative publicity against then Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno. “The campaign against Puno was part of General Lacson’s grand design to wrest control of both the DILG and the PNP. Doing so would make him one of the most powerful men in the nation,” Dacer warned.
Dacer cautioned Estrada against appointing Lacson as chief of the Philippine National Police, saying that his appointment could turn the country into a police state. “I too, have direct experience with Gen. Lacson’s willingness to use any means, including foul, to advance his interests,” Dacer said.
Dacer indicated he was more in favor of then National Capital Region Police Office chief Reynaldo Wycoco. But Estrada did not pay heed, appointing Lacson the following month as PNP Director-General.
A year later, Dacer and Corbito disappeared, their charred remains found in Cavite.
More than eight years have passed and the mastermind or masterminds behind the double-murder case have not been unmasked. The scheduled return of former Police Senior Superintendents Cesar Mancao and Glenn Dumlao and that of Michael Ray Aquino, who is facing extradition proceeding, have sparked renewed interest on who was or were the behind the killings.
Estrada and Lacson have both denied having a hand in the murders. “I have nothing to testify because I don’t have any knowledge of the incident,” Estrada said. For his part, Lacson insists he is not involved in the killings.
Aquino, Mancao and Dumlao were all detailed with the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), which Lacson headed. Aquino was PAOCTF operations chief; Mancao served as chief of Task Force Luzon of PAOCTF while Dumlao was Mancao's deputy chief for operation.
The three are the highest-ranking officials facing charges of double murder before the Manila Regional Trial Court. They were all subordinates of Lacson, who was then concurrent PNP chief and PAOCTF head at that time.
Based on court records, it is undisputed that it was PAOCTF which abducted Dacer and Corbito. What the defense panel is merely disputing was that some officials were not involved and that there was no conspiracy to execute the crime.
Still, from whom did they get the order to snatch and liquidate Dacer and why?
Initial reports said that Mancao, in a new affidavit executed last February, has finally named Lacson as the brains behind the abduction of Dacer and Corbito. But in an earlier affidavit dated March 1, 2007, Mancao did not directly link Lacson to the killings, but only Aquino.
In the 2007 affidavit however, it was clear that Lacson and Aquino were in close contact even after the latter fled to the US to avoid the criminal proceeding on the case.
For his part, Dumlao issued three affidavits, two handwritten and one typewritten.
In his first affidavit dated June 14, 2001, he tagged Aquino as the one orchestrating the twin murders. However, in the second affidavit dated May 20, 2003, he retracted his initial statements, saying he was pressured at that time.
The following day, he fled to the US on a tourist visa and extended his stay illegally.
On March 2, 2007, Dumlao issued yet a third affidavit, also handwritten, reaffirming his first affidavit, but also insisted that he was under pressure to implicate people in the Dacer-Corbito case.
Dumlao’s first affidavit, if it is to be believed, offers a peek into why Dacer was kidnapped and who’s got the motive to silence him. The documents provided to Newsbreak and an interview with a high-ranking police official by Newsbreak in 2001 somehow jibe with Dumlao’s recollection of the incident.
According to Dumlao, the special operation on Dacer’s movement was revived in Oct. 2000. Clueless on the nature of the operation, Dumlao said Mancao confronted Aquino and asked what it was all about. “Kay kuwan yan Sir… Dacer. Ok na yan sa Malacanang, pnag-usapan na yan.” Pressed if Lacson was aware of it, Aquino allegedly said: “Sila na daw ang bahala sa kanya.”
On orders of Aquino, Dumlao said Aquino tasked him to interrogate Dacer on two issues: Dacer’s conversation with President Estrada and what the opposition was planning, Ramos and Almonte in particular.
Dacer was kidnapped while on his way to a meeting with Ramos. Reportedly, he carried with him some documents that could further implicate Estrada to a scandal.
The documents were mentioned in Dumlao’s first affidavit which Aquino reportedly ordered Dumlao to secure. Dumlao later burned the documents.
What were the documents?
Dumlao did not state what the documents were. But one high-ranking police official told us in 2001 that it could have something to do with the 2000 BW stock manipulation scandal, one of the issues that helped topple Estrada’s presidency.
Unknown to many, Dacer had worked as Dante Tan’s “crisis PR” when the BW scandal broke out. However, based on his letter dated March 15, 2000 to Tan, Dacer severed the relationship over professional matters.
One version of the story known to a small circle of PNP officials during Estrada’s time was that at the height of anti-Estrada protests in 2000, Dacer went to Estrada in Malacanang to show him documents that would further implicate him in the BW insider trading. Estrada reportedly made millions of pesos from the stock manipulation of BW Resources, a firm controlled by crony Dante Tan.
In that meeting, Dacer supposedly told Estrada that the political opposition was already aware of the existence of those documents and was after the evidence.
Dacer said he would withhold the documents if Estrada in exchange for some consideraion. As per the source’s account, Estrada got peeved. When Dacer left the meeting, Estrada gestured toward Dacer’s direction.
Could this be the conversation that Dumlao was tasked to ask Dacer and that the documents he disposed of were related to BW?
Next: Twists and turns of the Dacer murder case
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