Last of two parts
In the almost forgotten double-murder case of publicist Salvador 'Bubby' Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, the government had hinged its case on the testimony of former Police Senior Superintendent Glenn Dumlao.
Brandished as a star witness, Dumlao was deputy operations chief of Task Force Luzon of the defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), then headed by former National Police Director-General now Senator Panfilo Lacson.
But with Dumlao’s flip-flopping testimonies, government needs a new star witness to bolster its case. Former Senior Superintendent Cesar Mancao II, in his affidavit, has named his former boss, Senator Panfilo Lacson, as having knowledge of the crime.
Mancao’s fresh revelations bring life to the case.
After almost eight years since the government filed it, the prosecution finally rested its case.
A review of court documents shows, however, that the prosecution was only able to identify the alleged perpetrators, but not the mastermind.
Apparently, the government had banked on Dumlao to lead them to the brains behind the twin slays. But Dumlao gave conflicting testimonies. He has issued three affidavits, so far: the second recants the first, but the third and latest one affirms the first, and partly, the second.
By his own admission, in his first affidavit dated June 14, 2001, it was Dumlao, among the accused high-ranking police officials, who last saw Dacer and Corbito alive.
On instruction of his superior, former Senior Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, he interrogated the blindfolded Dacer inside a van. He was told by Aquino to ask what Dacer and former President Estrada had talked about and what the opposition leaders were planning to do.
A month after they were abducted, charred bone fragments, believed to be those of the victims, were found in a river bed in Indang, Cavite.
Dumlao executed his handwritten affidavit 10 days after he was arrested on June 4, 2001. His lawyer, Rogelio Agoot, told abs-cbnnews.com/Newsbreak that Dumlao appeared to have executed the affidavit without pressure.
Based on court records, the prosecution has four other state witnesses---brothers William and Jimmy Lopez, Alex Diloy and William Cabaguin—who are all civilian agents of the PAOCTF.
These four confessed they were present when PAOCTF agents strangled Dacer and Corbito to death and later burned their bodies.
Still, the only ranking official they could tag was Senior Supt.Teofilo Vina, chief of PAOCTF-Visayas. Vina was later gunned down by an assailant in January 2003. They could not provide the motive and the context of the killing.
It is Dumlao’s affidavit that provides the circumstances behind Dacer and Corbito’s abduction and murder, tagging Aquino as the man on top of the situation. He also related that the operation had the blessing of Malacañang, quoting Aquino.
Dumlao also burned the documents that Dacer was carrying at the time of the abduction. It was not clear what the documents were, but circumstantial evidence hints these were related to the stock manipulation of BW Resources, a gaming firm.
His testimony was deemed crucial, prompting the prosecution to seek for his discharge as one of the accused. But something got in the way.
On May 11, 2001, or three days before the mid-term race where Lacson won as Senate seat, a case was first filed before the sala of Regional Trial Court Judge Rodolfo Ponferrada of Branch 41 indicting Dumlao et al.
The initial information against Dumlao et al charged them as behind the deaths of Dacer and Corbito. But on May 23, 2001, the government filed an amended complaint with abduction as additional qualifying circumstance.
In June, Dumlao was arrested, and on June 14, 2001, he issued a handwritten affidavit linking Aquino and Mancao, the Task Force Luzon chief, to the crime. This prompted the prosecution to file a motion for reinvestigation which Ponferrada granted. In Sept. 2001, an amended information that included Aquino, Mancao and Vina was filed.
The amended information also sought to discharge three individuals and Dumlao from the list of accused “as they are now witnesses for the State.”
But by this time, Aquino and Mancao had left the country supposedly on Lacson’s behest. Based on Mancao’s affidavit dated March 1, 2007, it was necessary for the two to leave so as not to affect Lacson’s presidential ambition. “On July 1, 2001, I followed Lacson’s instructions, left my family and flew from the Philippines. to Hongkong where I met up with Aquino. From there the two of us flew to the US…”
Ponferrada, however, refused to admit the new information that included Aquino and Mancao, which prompted the prosecution to seek his inhibition. The judge relented and the case was re-raffled to Branch 18, then under Judge Perfecto Laguio.
In January 2002, the prosecution asked the Supreme Court (SC) to set aside Ponferreda’s order, but the SC tossed the issue to the Court of Appeals (CA). In April 2002, the CA upheld the prosecution’s move to include Aquino and Mancao but refused to discharge Dumlao as one of the accused. The CA ruled that Dumlao, being a police officer, could not be admitted to the Witness Protection Program.
Some of the accused, led by SPO4 Marino Soberano, contested the CA ruling before the SC. They argued that accepting the amended information would violate due process.
From state witness to fugitive
While his status as state witness was pending in the SC, Dumlao, if his second affidavit is to be believed, underwent further interrogations by government agents.
In his second affidavit dated March 20, 2003 that recanted his first affidavit, he related that former police Supt. Reynaldo Berroya and Victor Corpus were coercing him to implicate Lacson in the twin murders. Berroya is now transportation assistant secretary.
“These series and continuing pressures on me have indeed taken its toll on my person. On account of which, I have decided to call it quits to all these fabricated and scripted drama,” he said.
Two days after executing his second affidavit, he was already in the US. This is based on a third affidavit he executed March 2, 2007
Agoot said he was not aware of the second affidavit. He said he learned that Mancao intended to seek asylum in the US and the second affidavit may have been executed to support this.
In the third affidavit, while he reaffirmed the contents of the first, Dumlao reiterated that his life is under threat in the Philippines. He said he fears that he “would be subjected to psychological and physical, torture, and/or worse, be killed by people connected to the present Philippine government” if he returns to the country. In a way, he is hinting of political persecution, which could be a ground for asylum.
Developments in the court case show that Dumlao may have miscalculated. In an Oct. 2005 decision, the SC’s second division, chaired by then Justice (now Chief Justice) Reynato Puno, rendered a decision granting Dumlao’s exclusion as among the accused.
In the light of the unfolding events, what exactly is Dumlao’s status right now? Is he included among the accused despite the SC ruling?
In November 2008, or five years since he took flight, the government sought Dumlao’s extradition. On December 10, 2008, magistrate judge Kathleen Tomlinson, of the Eastern District of New York, ruled for Dumlao’s immediate extradition.
One of the grounds that Tomlimson cited was that Dumlao “is currently named in an amended information…charging him with double murder.”
But, as borne by court records and the SC decision, Dumlao is no longer among those accused.
Agoot said the arrest warrant against Dumlao was issued for leaving the country without court permission. “But he is not on record included as among those charged.”
Thus, Agoot said, he will file a motion to quash the arrest warrant against Dumlao when he returns to the country “since he is not one of the accused.”
He added: “Our basis would be the SC ruling.”
Essentially, the prosecution finds itself with an accused who has been discharged by the SC as a witness but is basically unreliable to the case because of his conflicting affidavits.
Moreover, his knowledge of the crime and the mastermind appears to be limited, and the fact that Dumlao has been given the go-signal by the SC to become state witness proves he is among the least guilty.
In the ongoing court trial, the counsels for Aquino and Mancao have sought the dismissal of the case on the ground that the prosecution supposedly had failed to prove conspiracy.
In a motion for demurrer to evidence, the defense counsel pointed out that testimonies so far by witnesses failed to mention any conspiracy between Aquino and Mancao.
The defense panel also argued that Dacer and Corbito’s bodies were never found, which is essential in establishing the crime. The bone fragments, the defense said, were found to be negative for human DNA. Aside from bone fragments, also recovered were two metal dental plates and a ring allegedly belonging to Corbito.
We sought to interview Sigfrid Fortun--Aquino and Mancao’s counsel--but he declined. Judge Fernandez is expected to resolve the defense panel’s motion next month.
Given the unpredictability of Dumlao as a witness and the defense panel’s contention that the case is weak, is this reason why the government scrambled and trained its eye on Mancao?
In the published affidavit of Mancao executed on Feb. 13, 2009, Mancao basically corroborated Dumlao’s affidavit but with a twist.
Quoting Aquino, Mancao tagged Lacson as having knowledge of the killings.
He said he was told by Lacson to cover up the crime to protect PAOCTF officials involved in the execution.
As for Estrada, the operation was supposedly carried out because the former President was already fed up with Dacer.
Agoot said that the prosecution cannot simply set aside Dumlao since his original testimony dovetails Mancao’s testimony. “But if the government drops him as one of the witnesses, I am even willing to fight his case based on the merits,” Agoot said.
He said including him as one of the accused yet again will mean they will begin from scratch, given the SC ruling. “There should be a new preliminary investigation.”
The Dacer-Corbito murder case is just unfolding.
PART 1 of 2: Dacer murder case: Who has the motive?
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