MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE 2) The Court of Appeals on Thursday cleared fugitive Senator Panfilo Lacson of involvement in the murders of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.
Saying there was no probable cause to implicate Lacson in the twin murders, the appellate court reversed the ruling of the Manila City Regional Trial Court and ordered the warrant for his arrest revoked.
Lacson has been on the run since January last year, days before the trial court issued the arrest warrant for allegedly ordering the abduction and murders of Dacer and Corbito.
Lacson was then the national police chief under former president Joseph Estrada, who was ousted in a military-backed popular uprising a year after the murder and subsequently convicted of large scale corruption, then pardoned.
Political analysts have suggested Dacer was killed because of his knowledge of alleged wrongdoing in the Estrada administration.
On November 25, Lacson, through his counsel Alexander Poblador, told the appeals court that the Manila court?s finding of probable cause was based solely on the February 13, 2009 affidavit of former police officer Cezar Mancao.
Mancao, in his affidavit, said he heard former police Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino and Lacson discussing about a plan to ?neutralize? Dacer.
But Poblador said Mancao?s November 11, 2010 comment admitted that he only learned of the ?sordid affair ex post facto (from after the action).?
The lawyer said Mancao?s admission was consistent with the testimony of another prosecution witness, Glenn Dumlao, who attested that Mancao knew nothing about the murder plot.
The appeals court, in an 80-page decision, agreed with Poblador saying Mancao ?is not a credible and trustworthy witness.?
?Under oath he contradicted himself on material points. Inconsistencies and material contradiction affect the credibility of Cezar Mancao and the veracity of his statements,? said the decision penned by
Associate Justice Ramon M. Bato Jr.
The appellate court said that the testimonies of Mancao showed ?beyond a penumbra of doubt that extraneous factors or other persons may have influenced him.?
Prior to the execution of the February 13, 2009 affidavit, the appeals court said that Mancao admitted that on September 27, 2009, Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief Brigadier General Romeo Prestoza asked him to fabricate some charges against Lacson in exchange for his reinstatement to the police force, financial support and relocation of his family to Singapore.
?There being no probable cause to justify the filing of two separate information for murder against petitioner, consistent with his constitutional right to be presumed innocent and in consonance with existing jurisprudence, he (Lacson) should be relieved from the pain and agony of trial,? the appeals court said.
It said that the allegation of Dacer?s daughters Carina Dacer, Sabina Dacer-Reyes, Emily Dacer-Hungerford and Amparo Dacer-Henson that Lacson masterminded the killing of their father because he opposed Lacson?s appointment national police chief ?is nothing but an inference or conjecture not supported by substantial evidence on record.?
Associate Justices Juan Enriquez Jr. and Isaias Dicdican concurred with the decision. With Nikko Dizon, Inquirer and Agence France-Presse