Manila RTC orders both parties in Dacer-Corbito murder case to submit their comments and reply within 10 days

January 15, 2010 10:50 pm 

MANILA, Jan. 15 — A Manila regional trial court (RTC) directed on Friday both the prosecution and the defense in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case to file within five days their comments and another five days to submit their respective reply.

Judge Myra V. Garcia-Fernandez of the Manila RTC Branch 18 issued the order during the first hearing conducted to determine if there is probable cause for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Senator Panfilo Lacson in connection with the November 2000 kidnapping and murders of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

Judge Garcia-Fernandez said both parties have 10 days to submit their comments and reply.

Lacson was indicted with two counts of murder in connection with the case.

On Monday, Judge Thelma Bunyi-Medina of the Manila RTC Branch 32 granted the motion filed by the prosecution and Lacson seeking for the consolidation of the double murder case against the senator with another case pending before the sala of Fernandez.

Fernandez is hearing the case against the earlier batch of respondents for the same Dacer-Corbito case.

During the hearing to determine if there is probable cause to issue arrest warrant against Lacson, the judge gave both the prosecution and the defense five days to file comments and another five days to submit their reply.

After the submission of the comments and reply of both sides, the issue will be submitted for resolution and the judge will resolve it within another 10 days.

Lacson's counsel, lawyer Alex Avisado said the Manila RTC 18 judge would first resolve whether she would consolidate the case against Lacson with that of the case against former Police Senior Superintendent Michael Ray Aquino et al, after the Manila RTC Branch 32 granted the motion for consolidation.

Last January 7, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed two counts of murder charges against Senator Lacson before the Manila RTC in connection with the Dacer-Corbito case.

The murder charges arose from the complaint filed by the four daughters of Dacer, namely: Carina Lim, Sabina Reyes, Emily Hungerford and Amparo Henson, following the execution of the February 14, 2009 affidavit of former Senior Superintendent Cezar Mancao II while he was still undergoing extradition process from the United States.

The case was raffled off to the sala of Judge Medina but both parties filed a motion to consolidate the double murder case against Lacson with that of the two counts of murder pending at the sala of Judge Fernandez against the earlier batch of respondents.

A panel of prosecutors led by Senior State Prosecutor Peter Ong had found probable cause that warranted the filing of two counts of murder against the senator, giving credence on the positive testimony of witnesses and physical evidence gathered by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Ong said the DOJ panel recommended no bail as murder is a non-bailable offense. However, Ong said it is the discretion of the court whether or not to issue a warrant of arrest.

At the same time, Ong said Lacson cannot invoke immunity from arrest. “This is a crime punishable by more than six years, so he cannot invoke immunity,” he told reporters in an earlier interview.

The panel gave weight on the pieces of evidence that include the testimonies and affidavits of Mancao and former Superintendent Glenn Dumlao, and those of alleged henchmen Willy Cabugin, William Lopez and Alex Loy who admitted to having participated in the abduction, killing and setting on fire the bodies of Dacer and Corbito.

Mancao and Dumlao, former members of the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force previously headed by Lacson, have been enrolled in the DOJ’s Witness Protection Program.

The DOJ also gave weight to the samples of the charred remains recovered by the NBI in Cavite, believed to be those of Dacer and Corbito; Dacer’s dental plates, and the post- and ante-mortem reports of forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun.

The panel rejected Lacson’s defense of alibi and cry of alleged political persecution due to his being critical of the Arroyo administration.

Ong said that Mancao’s statement that he was present when Lacson gave out the order to kill Dacer was more believable than the senator’s assertion that he was out of the country at the time when he supposedly issued such order.

To belie Mancao’s allegations, Lacson claimed that he and several other Cabinet officials, including then Trade Secretary and now Senator Manuel A. "Mar" Roxas, were part of former President Joseph Estrada’s entourage in the United States and attending a United Nations Summit.

But prosecutors pointed out that the travel documents presented by Lacson’s camp showed that their U.S. trip was from September 4 to September 13, 2000. Thus, it was improbable that the alleged order of Lacson to another former PAOCTF officer, Senior Superintendent Michael Rey Aquino, to kill Dacer took place in October.

In his affidavit, Mancao tagged Lacson as the mastermind in the killings, saying he was present in the car when Lacson, then PNP chief and head of PAOCTF, gave out his order for Aquino to implement “Operation Delta,” referring to Dacer, sometime in October 2000. (PNA) scs/JES

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