MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) Former president Joseph Estrada and Senator Panfilo Lacson should just submit themselves to the investigation of the murders of Salvador "Bubby'' Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito instead of blaming Malacañang for their woes, officials said Friday.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde denied claims by Estrada and Lacson that the administration had pressured Cezar Mancao into linking them to the plot to kill Dacer in November 2000.
"Mancao has spoken for himself very strongly about the issue. He does not need our help in order to articulate his own independence on the matter. In fact, we would like to leave this matter before the justice system, and we appeal to everyone, including the accused, to freely submit to the justice system and to due process,'' he said at a news briefing.
Mancao testified in a Manila court Thursday that Estrada, Lacson and former Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino were among those behind "Operation Delta,'' the purported plan to kill Dacer. This was denied by Estrada and Lacson.
Remonde said that denials by Estrada and Lacson of involvement in the twin murders were expected.
"We would like to believe that the law should be applied equally to all `otherwise,' as Mayor [Alfredo] Lim said `none at all','' he said when asked if Estrada and Lacson could evade prosecution.
Remonde said it was his first time to hear of "Operation Delta," the plan which Mancao claimed was designed to "neutralize Dacer.''
"Personally, this is the first time I've read about Operation Delta,'' he said.
Remonde also said that Wednesday's fatal shooting of Jimmy Lopez, a witness in the Dacer-Corbito case, would scare off other witnesses.
"The killing of any person is a cause for concern. The fact that the recent victim of murder was witness to the biggest case of the time which is the Dacer-Corbito double murder case will indeed have a chilling effect on other witnesses,'' he said.
"And therefore that is a serious concern not only for the Palace but all those who believe in justice, including the accused in this case,'' he added.