Lacson to DOJ: Explain Mercado’s casino spree while under witness protection
CLARK, Pampanga — Senatorial candidate Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Monday said the Department of Justice (DOJ) has some explaining to do after former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado was caught gambling in a casino while under witness protection.
In an interview with reporters at Royce Hotel and Casino in Clark, Pampanga on Monday, the former senator said Mercado has no business going to casinos while he is under the Witness Protection Program (WPP).
“Yung WPP has a lot of explaining to do. Dapat, kung high security risk at dapat talaga sine-secure, I don’t see any business for him to be in a casino, much less sa malayong lugar,” Lacson, a former Philippine National Police chief, said.
Lacson questioned how the WPP body guards can protect Mercado when the latter is gambling in a casino.
“When you are a government witness, you should be a government witness. If WPP is protecting a witness, dapat talaga ang protection is talagang in the spirit of protection. So how can you protect a witness na nasa casino? Something doesn’t add up,” he added.
Lacson said Mercado should have stayed at the safehouse instead of a casino. He also said he can only use his WPP guards in connection with his duties as state witness.
Lacson said the justice department may have committed a violation by allowing Mercado to gamble while under government protection.
“I think WPP should really explain bakit ganoon ang manner nila ng pagse-secure ng kanilang witness. Sa alam ko sa witness under WPP, sa safehouse na binabayaran ng national government, ng taxes natin. At pwede lang siya lalabas kung may connection, may relation sa kanyang pagwi-witness. So talagang dapat mag-explain ang WPP,” Lacson said.
“First and foremost, WPP. Sila ang responsible; sila ang may mandate to protect a witness. And since he’s under the WPP, he should really be confined in a safehouse. And he can only move around kung kunektado sa pagiging witness niya. Malinaw yan. I won’t mince a word,” he added.
Lacson is in Pampanga for his campaign sortie. He bumped into Sen. Nancy Binay at the hotel where senator saw Mercado after the latter’s gambling spree.
Sen. Binay accused Mercado of gambling the money paid to him by the Liberal Party to smear the reputation of the vice president.
The United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) spokesperson Mon Ilagan said the DOJ must investigate Mercado’s activities while under government protection – not only his gambling activities, but also his attendance in the campaign sortie of Liberal Party bet Mar Roxas at the Makati Coliseum on Monday.
Mercado’s daughter Karla Mercado is running as vice mayor of Makati with Makati mayor Kid Peña, who was earlier vice mayor until he replaced Vice President Binay’s son Junjun when the latter was dismissed by the Ombudsman over allegations of rigging the purportedly overpriced Makati car park building.
A Binay ally, former Candaba mayor Jerry Pelayo, also saw Mercado coming out of the Widus Hotel and Casino after gambling in Royce.
The Inquirer reported that Mercado lost up to P300,000 in one casino alone.
Mercado, then Makati vice mayor, turned his back against the Binays after a falling-out with the vice president when the latter chose his son Junjun to run in his stead in 2010.
Sen. Binay questioned how Mercado was able to gamble when the latter even broke down in tears over his financial woes since he turned state witness against the Binays over allegations of kickbacks from various infrastructure projects since the vice president was Makati mayor.
Mercado also testified in a Senate Blue Ribbon subcommittee panel which recommended the filing of plunder charges against the Binays. JE
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