MANILA — Two decades since the downfall of former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson said he has no regrets over his decision as national police chief then to withdraw support from the former's administration.
Lacson, who is seeking the presidency this May, spoke about the historic January 2001 event branded as the second people power revolution “EDSA Dos”, during an interview with Boy Abunda that was shown Monday night on the latter's YouTube channel.
“Walang regret. Kasi noong magkasama kami sa PACC, Vice President siya, nakita ko the noblest of intentions. Up close eh… But somewhere along the way, when he became president, maraming mga nagbago,” Lacson said of Estrada, who was elected as the country's chief executive in 1998.
(No regrets. When we were together in the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission when he was still Vice President, I saw in him the noblest of intentions... But somewhere along the way, when he became president, many things changed.)
Estrada was accused by then Ilocos Governor Chavit Singson, among others, of being a jueteng lord who protected and gained money from the illegal numbers game, leading to mass protests, his impeachment and then, his eventual downfall.
Lacson recalled how he had warned Estrada against tolerating jueteng as a way of paying his debt of gratitude to local government officials.
Estrada claimed he had no funds to draw from to support local officials, due to an allegedly bankrupt government that he was about to inherit in 1998, according to Lacson.
The presidential aspirant recalled a conversation he had with Estrada in the latter’s residence in May 1998, telling him to tolerate jueteng.
“Hindi lang legalizing, tolerate,” Lacson said.
“Because ang una niyang sinabi sa akin, ‘Ang laki ng utang na loob natin sa mga governors, mayors na tumulong sa atin. Pagbigyan naman natin, wala silang pagkukunan. Bangkarote ang mamanahin nating gobyerno kay President Ramos. Iyan lang ang puwede nating maitulong.’"
(Not just legalizing, but to tolerate... The first thing he told me was, 'We owe governors and mayors who helped us a debt of gratitude. Let's give it to them, since we can't also support them financially. It's a bankrupt government that we are inheriting from President Ramos. And that's they only way we can help them'.)
"Sabi ko ‘Sir,’ ito exact words, ‘Presidente ka na, larong lupa iyan. Diyan ka, Sir, madidisgrasya. Sasabog tayo diyan.’ True enough. Prophetic. Saan ba nagsimula ang downfall?”
(I replied with these exact words, 'Sir, you're now the president... That will put you into trouble... True enough. Prophetic. Where did his downfall start?)
“Parang prophetic eh. Sinabi ko sa kaniya, ‘Sir, sasabog tayo diyan.’ If he listened, siguro hindi siya na-EDSA Dos.”
(It was kind of prophetic. I told him that's trouble. If he listened, probably there was no EDSA Dos.)
Lacson vowed to lead by example when he becomes president, saying he has done so during his time as chief of the Philippine National Police, contributing to his success in eradicating kotong cops.
He also vowed to adopt one standard in combatting corruption, describing his leadership style as “strong willed.”
“Why was I successful in eliminating kotong cops? Because they knew,” Lacson said.