Fugitive former police Senior Supt. Cezar Mancao II on Friday said he did everything he could to make Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson stop harassing him, but his former boss in the Philippine National Police (PNP) ignored his pleas.
“I talked to everyone whom I believed could help me. Even my mother, who is already old, went to the Senate and talked to him,” Mancao said in a telephone interview with the Inquirer.
“I talked to his brother, Tata Romy, his son who is a candidate for public office in Cavite, his classmates, everyone whom I thought could help. But he ignored them all,” he said.
He said that he had been trying to reach out to Lacson since last year.
“But all of my efforts were rejected. He ignored me, and never granted my request to talk to him,” he said.
Mancao, a suspect in the 2000 murders of well-known public relations agent Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, said he would not surrender as long as he felt his life was threatened and the authorities continued to ignore his plea for justice.
Mancao escaped from his cell at the National Bureau of Investigation headquarters in Manila early on Thursday, beating by hours his court-ordered transfer to the city jail.
He called news organizations to say that he had learned about a plot to move him to Manila City Jail and kill him there, and claimed Lacson was behind the plan.
Lacson, former chief of the PNP and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), refused to comment on Mancao’s allegation.
In the interview with the Inquirer on Friday, Mancao said he felt he was under surveillance even at the NBI headquarters, where he was supposed to be under government protection.
Mancao confirmed that he also talked to his former coaccused in the Dacer-Corbito case, former police Senior Supt. Michael Ray Aquino, whom Lacson trusted, and asked him to intercede for him so their former boss would leave him alone.
“He (Aquino) suggested a public apology might move (Lacson), but I did not do it because he might also ignore it,” he said.
Aquino, who fled to the United States in 2001 and was extradited to the Philippines last year after serving a jail term for espionage, was dropped from the Dacer-Corbito case after the court found no evidence to prosecute him. He is now chief of security at Solaire, not security guard as earlier reported.
Mancao, who fled to the United States in 2001 and returned to the Philippines in 2009 offering to serve as state witness, had linked Lacson to the Dacer-Corbito murders, charging that the then PNP chief ordered the hit on Dacer because the PR agent was a fierce critic of then President Joseph Estrada.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) brought murder charges against Lacson in 2010, but the senator fled the country before the court could order his arrest.
He returned to the country in 2011 after he was cleared by the Court of Appeals.
In a phone interview aired on television Friday morning, Mancao said he would eventually surrender, but for now he preferred to be a “moving target.”
“It’s better to fight outside. I’m a moving target that’s difficult to hit,” Mancao said.
“In jail, I’ll be easy to get and kill,” he said.
“I will not live long in the custody of the NBI or in the Manila City Jail,” Mancao said in his interview on Friday.
“Now I’m safe here outside. I can talk. In jail, they did not want to listen to me,” he said.
Mancao’s escape is the latest embarrassment for law enforcers, who have long been dogged by accusations of incompetence and corruption.
“Excursions” outside of prison involving high-profile convicts and the kidnapping for ransom of a convicted murderer in the New Bilibid Prison have led to shakeups in the Bureau of Prisons under the administration of President Aquino.
But Mancao’s escape is particularly embarrassing for the NBI because he walked out of jail with ease in the dead of night, apparently with help from his guards.
NBI guards Pablo Lani Remalante, 49, and Ibrahim Musa, 60, who were on duty on Wednesday night, have been detained for investigation.
The two guards, however, denied aiding Mancao. NBI Director Nonnatus Rojas said the two had been charged with evasion through negligence.
Rojas said five members of the NBI Security Management Division, including its chief, Rodrigo Mapoy, had been relieved.
He said an investigation showed that “no money was involved” and that Mancao managed to escape because of “negligence” at the NBI.
Footage from a security camera showed Mancao casually walking out of his cell at 1:14 a.m. on Thursday. He was carrying a big, black travel bag and he was wearing a bullcap.
The two guards were not visible in the video.
No help from guards
In a radio interview on Thursday, Mancao said the two guards did not help him escape.
“I don’t want them to be involved in my case,” he said. “They are loyal to the service, but still not regular employees. But if you have connections, you are permanently hired after three months. Poor guys.”
In his interview with the Inquirer on Friday, Mancao complained that Rojas ignored his appeals and requests.
He cited a court order that required him to travel to Compostela Valley to attend a hearing. Rojas, he said, disapproved his travel request.
Rojas explained that he disapproved Mancao’s travel request because of the short notice from the court, which did not allow time to get a clearance from the DOJ and the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“We had limited time to secure the clearance, the logistics like tickets not only for him but also for the agents who would accompany him,” Rojas said.
Rojas clarified that Mancao was not a detainee at the NBI and that he remained under government protection.
Surrender or else
But Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Friday threatened to drop Mancao from WPP if he did not surrender soon.
After the Court of Appeals found Mancao unfit to serve as state witness because of inconsistencies in his testimony, the Manila court hearing the case rejected his petition to be accepted as witness for the state.
De Lima did not withdraw Mancao’s government protection at once because he was entitled to appeal.
“I’m standing by (your WPP coverage) despite the court’s adverse ruling. But if you don’t surrender as soon as possible, I have no choice but terminate your WPP coverage,” De Lima told Mancao through reporters.
If his government protection is withdrawn, Mancao will be treated again as an accused in the Dacer-Corbito case, De Lima said.
The government also may not help him appeal his transfer to Manila City Jail, De Lima said.
She said she would have no choice but to comply if the court denied Mancao’s motion for reconsideration of the decision to reject him as state witness.
De Lima said the court viewed Mancao as an accused so he must be hunted down and returned to government custody.
Assurance of safety
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas on Friday called on Mancao to surrender if he wanted protection against the people who he claimed wanted him dead.
“If it is safety that he is concerned about, then safety is clearly best secured while under government custody,” Roxas said in a statement.
Roxas reminded Mancao that he is now a fugitive.
“Anybody can harm him,” Roxas said. “That is not a threat. That is a possibility,” he added.
Roxas did not directly answer reporters’ questions about an investigation of Mancao’s claim that Lacson was trying to get him killed.
“The NBI is in the best position to do that. All of these are allegations, one [against] the other,” he said.
“What is important is for him to be placed under [state protection]. We in the PNP and in the NBI are ready [to provide custodial services for] Mr. Mancao,” he said.
No sanction for Rojas
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said there was no order from President Aquino to “sanction” NBI Director Rojas.
Told that Mancao was seeking an audience with Mr. Aquino, Lacierda said Roxas had already assured Mancao of protection if he surrendered.
Lacierda said it was unfair of Mancao to ask the President to be fair, as the Dacer-Corbito case was already in court.
The PNP has deployed a tracker team to find Mancao. The NBI is also hunting him and the Bureau of Immigration is watching the ports in case he tries to leave the country.
Danger to Mancao
Retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz said on Friday that he believed Mancao’s claim that he escaped because his life was in danger.
“I believe him because he was already in a safe place and yet he still left,” Cruz told reporters.
“If there is no danger where he was, why would he leave the place and why expose himself to more danger?” Cruz said.
Cruz said he hoped Mancao’s escape would lead to the reopening of the Dacer-Corbito case. With reports from Nikko Dizon, Michael Lim Ubac, Jocelyn R. Uy, Jerome Aning and AFP
First posted 12:35 am | Saturday, May 4th, 2013