Estrada welcomes Aquino’s statement clearing him in Dacer-Corbito slays
MANILA, Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada indicated on Sunday that he felt vindicated by Michael Ray Aquino’s reiteration that he received no order from Estrada to harm publicist Salvador “Bubby’’ Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito way back in 2000.
While the statement of of the former police senior superintendent sought to clear him, Estrada, however, said he would be ready to face any accuser in court, if he was ever summoned to shed light on the twin murders.
“There was really no order. I didn’t give orders to him. In fact, even my Cabinet members, I gave them the freedom to run their respective departments,’’ Estrada said in an interview by phone.
Estrada initially declined to comment on Aquino’s arrival statement, as he maintained that he had no hand in the 2000 abduction and killings of Dacer and Corbito.
“I have nothing to say. From the very start, I have no knowledge of anything that happened because Bubby is my kumpadre (friend),’’ he said, maintaining that he was fond of Dacer.
“Two days before he was abducted, he was in Malacañang. We had merienda (afternoon snack), and we had an enjoyable moment together. It was so sad when he was abducted. So I have nothing to say except to pray for the poor soul of my friend,’’ he added.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson did not reply to text and calls.
Aquino, who was extradited from Los Angeles to face trial for the Dacer-Corbito case, arrived in Manila Sunday morning, and declared that he received no order from Estrada or Lacson to abduct, harm or kill the pair.
When the abduction-slays occurred, Aquino was working for the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force then headed by Lacson during the short-lived Estrada administration.
Estrada was impeached and ousted by a people’s revolt in January 2001 on charges of corruption, incompetence and inefficiency. He was convicted of plunder but was pardoned by the Arroyo administration.
The standing theory by those who suspect Estrada’s role in the murders is that Dacer knew way too much about Estrada’s alleged involvement in stock market manipulation and other shady deals during that time and that the publicist was meeting with the opposition at that time to share with them information.
On the possibility that Aquino would be pressured to link him to the case, Estrada said: “I’m willing to face anybody. They might do this, they might do that. All of that is speculation. I will say I have nothing to do with that. My conscience is clear.’’
Estrada also said that it was the Department of Justice’s call to determine whether Aquino’s testimony would put a closure to the case.
“That’s up to the DoJ. It’s not my turf anymore. I’m an independent simple citizen Erap. I have nothing to do with the investigation,’’ he said.
Lacson, who disappeared in January 2010 and emerged in March this year after the Court of Appeals quashed a warrant for his arrest in connection with the Dacer-Corbito case, earlier sounded upbeat about Aquino’s return.
Lacson said Aquino might just help the senator’s cause if he testified in the case, citing Aquino’s affidavit declaring that the senator, then PAOCTF head, had no hand in the killings of Dacer and Corbito.
In the affidavit, Aquino disputed Mancao’s statement that Lacson was in charge of the Oplan Delta, the plot to neutralize Dacer and Corbito in November 2000 during the Estrada administration.
“So I would say his return is favorable to me,’’ Lacson said more than a week ago.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima had hoped Aquino would testify on the possible involvement of the PAOCTF in the crime.
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