MANILA, Philippines – Fugitive Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson cannot dictate the conditions of his surrender, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima said Thursday.
De Lima said Lacson should follow the advice of his lawyer, Alexander Poblador, and follow the legal process “instead of laying down conditions that are not legally feasible at this point.”
Lacson, who has been charged for the murders of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, earlier said that he will continue to remain in hiding
until justice is served or, in his own words, “when I’m already dead.”
“Senator Lacson has a standing warrant of arrest and is a fugitive from justice. He knows that his present status does not accord him the privilege of laying down terms with a tenor of finality,” de Lima said.
The senator wants her to ask the courts to reinvestigate his case.
The DOJ chief, however, stressed that her office cannot act on Lacson’s motion for reinvestigation as doing so would violate the law. “The DOJ cannot, at this point, review what is for the courts to decide.”
Lacson, through his lawyer, had filed a second motion for reconsideration before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila in his bid to have his case reinvestigated. He also filed a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals with regard to the Manila RTC’s denial of his first motion for reconsideration.
“The issue of reinvestigation is now a single incident pending before 2 courts, the RTC and the Court of Appeals. The DOJ is without jurisdiction to preempt the decision of 2 courts of law on this matter,” she explained.
She said that Lacson's statements could be overtures for negotiating terms of his surrender that should not include involving the lifting of his warrant of arrest and the granting of his motion for reinvestigation.
“The issues Lacson has raised as conditions for his surrender, such as the granting of his motion for reinvestigation, should be discussed after his coming back into the fold of the law,” de Lima said. “If the new evidence as presented by Lacson's lawyers is indeed meritorious, at least one of the 2 courts of law which have jurisdiction over the incident will rule in Lacson's favor, and the DOJ will respect that ruling.”
De Lima added that the most that the DOJ can do is to withdraw its opposition to Lacson's motion for reinvestigation. “Lacson's surrender should precede any favorable response that may come from the government. Surrender, under criminal law, is a mitigating circumstance that can be properly appreciated not only by the courts but also by the DOJ.”
She said the government has to enforce the law and implement the arrest warrant against the senator.
“Any government concession will have to depend on Lacson's show of good faith and respect for our laws which apply to everyone, senator and ordinary citizen alike,” she said.
The DOJ chief also allayed Lacson’s concerns regarding his personal safety after he gives himself up.
“Given his stature, Senator Lacson has no reason to fear that he will be treated differently and persecuted by the government. But his refusal to return to the fold of the law and observe the legal processes will only galvanize the government's resolve to take him into custody, not to persecute him, but to enable him both to properly face his accusers, and to defend his innocence in the only venue where it can be sufficiently proven, in a court of law,” de Lima said.
Palace can’t interfere
The Palace echoed de Lima’s stand on the issue.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the case, including Lacson’s appeal for reinvestigation, is now in the courts’ hands.
"We welcome the fact that Senator Lacson has broken his silence on the issue," Valte said Thursday. "From what I understand there are already two courts that are hearing this matter. So hindi naman po yung executive ang magde-decide nito. Korte na ang may hawak ng kaso."
She said the senator will be given due process after he surrenders. "The fact remains that we will afford him due process if he decides to submit himself to the justice system."
The Malacañang deputy spokesperson declined to comment on Lacson’s apparent distrust of the Aquino administration. "Hindi ko naman po gusto [lagyan] ng kulay yun mga naging statement po ni Senator Lacson dahil yun po yung kanyang saloobin.”
She also explained that the P2-million peso bounty on Lacson’s head is just a proposal.
Aside from a criminal case, Lacson is also facing an ethics complaint in the Senate.
The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption filed the complaint amid Lacson’s perceived failure to perform his government duties since he went into hiding.
His colleague, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, said the ethics committee has yet to act on the complaint.
“The Senate will still have to approve the rules for the ethics committee. I will assure all sides of fairness and due process,” he said.
“I can’t comment on the merits because I have to hear both sides first and be fair in chairing the committee. Having said that, the [Aquino administration] should assure Sen. Ping of justice, due process and that he will be safe if detained,” Cayetano said.
He also urged Lacson to surrender. “Sen. Ping should surface and realize the DOJ and the courts have to treat him like any other fugitive from justice.” – With reports from Ina Reformina, Willard Cheng, and Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News