It has also been one of the most politicized criminal cases in the history of the Southeast Asian country. Fidel Ramos, Estrada’s predecessor, was the one who first alerted the media and the police as to the possible fate of Dacer. Ramos was to accuse the Erap administration with responsibility for the alleged crime of kidnapping and murder of the PR man and his driver.
The case was subsequently used as one of the issues in the anti-Estrada movement propaganda campaign and continued to be a hot issue even after the ouster of the former President. The case particularly hugged the headlines until early 2001 and once again in 2009, highlighted by the September privilege speech “bombshell” of Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) under the Estrada administration.
Lacson has now been formally charged with the double-murder, based in part on the affidavits of his former men in the now-defunct Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF)–but not before a host of whodunit articles in the media and blogosphere mostly pointed the accusing fingers at Estrada. The many questions and twists in the case, along with the propaganda-level biases in the media and blogosphere, beckon the sober to carefully sieve through the many tales and try not to get the country burned by the politically motivated fires of deception. Using the criminal justice investigative basics of evidence, motive and opportunity, who most likely perpetrated the dastardly double-murder—Sen. Lacson, ex-President Estrada, or the one who first told the world about it, ex-Pres. Ramos?
Who was Dacer?
Bubby Dacer was “a Sultan of Spin,” a publicist of the Philippines’ rich and powerful, accepting PR work both for the guilty and the clean or innocent figures including politicians, policemen and soldiers, business and people. His list of clienteles included the last two former Presidents, then-Vice-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and gambling tycoon Dante Tan. During the first year of the Estrada administration, Dacer served as a sort of unofficial “meetings facilitator” whose requests were always approved by the President.
According to an ABS-CBN report, his career is said to have reached its pinnacle during the administration of former President Fidel V. Ramos. Dacer’s professional life was, perhaps, also most controversial back then as he was instrumental in the rebidding of the Subic port management deal in behalf of the International Container Terminal Services. The deal had already been won by Hutchison Whampo of Hong Kong when Ramos’ order for a new bidding prompted the disgusted businessman to hastily pull out.
Inimical-to-RP SGS Contract
Dacer also earned some adverse publicity for his role in procuring the government’s deal with the giant Swiss customs surveillance/’trade services’ firm Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS S.A.), which was valued at a staggering amount of $100 million annually. The customs contract involved “pre-shipment inspection” (PSI), which has been described as a “global racket” involving players, some of which have been convicted of bribery of high Third World officials.
The publicist defended the contract forged during the Ramos administration by claiming that the company deserved the huge fee because the resulting rise in customs revenue collection and decrease in smuggling more than compensated for the amount. President Estrada subsequently cancelled the controversial customs inspection deal, reputedly one of SGS’s most lucrative PSI contracts. Erap’s government reasoned that the expensive contract has actually not really saved money for the Philippines.
Antonio Lopez writes in the 2000 article, “Gone Missing: The abduction of a prominent PR man raises disturbing questions,” that in his job as spin doctor for the powerful entities, Dacer might have “made some powerful enemies — there are plenty who might want him dead.”
Witnesses and Evidence?
Back in late 2000 and early 2001, when the media loudly played up the “murders” of Dacer and Corbito and danced to the tune of Ramos’ public accusation that the Estrada administration was behind the supposed crime, questions and loopholes marred the official evidence presented.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) headed by Reynaldo Wycoco presented in November 2000 two farmer-witnesses, Jimmy Lopez and Alex Diloy, who pointed to officers of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) as responsible for the twin crime. They pointed to charred bone-and-teeth remains in Indang, Cavite, claiming that policemen killed Dacer and Corbito by strangulation and subsequently set the bodies on fire.
Lopez claimed to have assisted in making pyre from tires and wood. However, a family friend who visited the supposed crime scene, Fr. Gabriel Baldostamon of the Sun Valley parish church in Paranaque, noticed that the pyre site was too small to burn two adult human bodies. The Daily Tribune’s Ninez Cacho Olivarez also questions how an improvised cremation can be possible with such a small amount of tires and coconut tree wood and in so short a time, as recounted by the witness.
Questions have also been raised as to the reliability of the first witnesses, or whoever was behind them. A salient loophole concerns the brown shoes Diloy was wearing on the day the NBI “arrested” them and which the witness claimed to have been taken as crime booty by one of the policemen and given to them.
Because Dacer only wore white, Diloy claimed he dyed it brown. However, based on ex-Sen. Ernesto Maceda’s account in the Manila Bulletin, one of the Dacer children denied the shoes were their father’s since he never wore “topsider.” When Diloy retorted that it must have been Corbito’s, the wife also denied ownership, saying the shoe size was too big for her husband.
Herein, it is worth noting that the issue of the ‘mysterious’ shoes reveal the apparent bias of some media entities. The ABS-CBN Dacer-Corbito timeline article published March 19, 2009 claims that Diloy was supposedly wearing Dacer’s WHITE shoes when the NBI took them. However, at least one archived media reports dated March 2001 indicated that the loafers presented by Wycoco’s witness were merely dyed brown.
Conflicting Forensics: Charred Remains of Human or Cattle?
On April 14, 2001, more than three months after President Estrada was deposed, the NBI presented two dental plates and a ring in the creek of Barangay Buna Lejos, Indang, Cavité and which the Dacer children believed were their father’s.
Based on the September 2009 complaint filed by Assistant United States Attorney Jennifer Keene before the Southern Florida District Court “for and on behalf of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines,” forensics expert Dr. Raquel B. del Rosario-Fortun of the University of the Philippines College of Medicine supposedly confirmed the charred remains to be those of Dacer and Corbito, and the found dental plates as matching their ante-mortem dental plates.
Lacson’s legal counsel disputes the Fortun findings, belatedly saying that a 2001 forensic testing conducted by the UP Natural Sciences Research Institute (UP-NSRI)–upon the request of no less than NBI’s Wycoco showed that the remains are not human. According to Atty. Alex O. Avisado, the public should know that Arroyo’s government deliberately withheld said findings to hide the truth from the Filipino people.
Avisado speculates that since the UP-NSRI results show the remains as not human, they must have been cattle remains. Thus, Lacson’s camp argues that there is yet no corpus delicti or body of evidence. (It should be noted that Dacer’s and Corbito’s skulls were not part of the supposed charred bones and teeth remains).
Herman Tiu-Laurel of the Daily Tribune echoes this position. He writes:
…the University of the Philippines Natural Sciences Research Institute [UP-NSRI] stated thus: “Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis targeting the 121 bp intergenic region of the COH and tRNAlys genes of the mitochondrion gave Negative Results for the presence of human DNA.”
This was the official report submitted to the late Gen. Reynaldo Wycoco, NBI director at that time who was also a political appointee of Mrs. Gloria Arroyo. These results were strangely never given emphasis by subsequent reportage. Instead, dental plates not found by the NBI composite team — composed of dozens of investigators who scoured the crime scene for 31 days — but allegedly retrieved by the hired forensic expert of the Dacer family in a subsequent four-hour search were given more weight.
Before Lacson’s formal indictment last month, many writers of the press and blogosphere had judgmentally insinuated, if not categorically tagged, Estrada as the mastermind behind the twin murders based on clouded accounts of the former President’s link with Dacer. The swiftness of the pointing of accusing fingers at former President Estrada defies logic and criminal justice system basics in which premium should be placed on the establishment of a suspect’s motive even amidst the presence of evidence of the suspect’s DNA sample. Additionally, a scenario of the deposed President having ordered his kumpadre’s killing would be implausible without including in the picture an act considered as extremely hateful by the former.
What heinous sin could Dacer have committed enough to make his (former) boss to want him dead? The “motive” floated by those painting Estrada’s guilt is that the former President supposedly suspected Dacer, his two-time kumpadre, of being involved in destabilization attempts against his administration. From an objective viewpoint, it is hardly plausible that a veteran politician like Erap with no prior history of murder raps will pull the trigger (or ask someone else to) on mere rumors. Largely why Erap has not been considered a suspect in the case—at least, not officially–by the Department of Justice all this time is because no clear motive has been established, apart from the lack of non-hearsay evidence.
Estrada’s Motive #1? Prove the Destabilization Conspiracy
If Lacson and segments of the media insist on linking Estrada, they need to present exactly the supposed destabilization acts of Dacer. The PR man’s falling out with Estrada supposedly started when Manila Standard columnist Emil Jurado wrote on March 24, 1999 in identifiable but unnamed terms that Dacer was part of the ‘demolition team’ set up to “for the sole purpose of embarrassing President Estrada by attributing to his administration all sorts of perceived faults and scams with the end in view of covering up anomalies and scams also committed during the Ramos administration.”
If the purported motive of deadly vengeance for a seditious betrayal is to stand, the veracity of the destabilization scheme has to first be investigated. It is ridiculous to assume that President Erap, with all the intelligence resources of the government at his behest, acted only on baseless rumors of political betrayal to have Dacer liquidated.
The truth of the supposed involvement of the PR man in a coup conspiracy would have to be provided if a scenario of Estrada having masterminded the Dacer-Corbito killings is to be credible. To do that, however, entails proving that a conspiracy against the Joseph Estrada administration was hatched several months before the EDSA II coup ouster of Estrada–which would be a date sometime in 2000 or earlier.
Ninez Cacho Olivarez reported back in October 2000 about the ‘Omerta’ group, which was:
…composed of representatives of business groups and Catholic Church leaders as well as representatives of celebrated personalities [that] came together and met formally early this month to fine tune the plan to ‘constitutionally’ oust President Estrada under ‘Oplan Excelsis.
As everyone knows now, Erap was indeed constitutionally ousted during EDSA II, deposed in what the New York Times dubbed as “opportunist coalition of church, business elite and left” and what Hong Kong-based political analyst William Overholt report to be “It is either being called mob rule or mob rule as a cover for a well- planned coup.”
The Edsa II Coup
As it stands today, EDSA II players are not admitting to any conspiracy against Estrada (the seeming exception, the late President Corazon Aquino, only went as far as apologizing to ex-President Erap without going into the details of the “uprising”). In fact, the “civil society” of the EDSA 2 infamy claim would like the world to believe the opposite—that the Edsa 2 was a “spontaneous” development. Thus, if the ‘Estrada-ordered-it’ thesis is to stand, Dacer needs to be linked to the Omerta or any destabilization group. If the destabilization/vengeance motive is to hold, the possible Oplan Excelsis link to Dacer, if the conspiracy did occur, should first be established.
Herein, the 2001 revelations inadvertently made by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo by Nick Joaquin during his interview with Philippine Graphic should be investigated. Therein, he admitted to hatching ouster plans (A & B) together with former Ilocos Gov. Chavit Singson and certain active and retired military generals. Estrada had complained of a conspiracy to oust him back in 2000 and following the 2001 EDSA 2 coup, consistently claimed that big business groups, shadowy forces in the military, church leaders and opportunist politicians were behind his ouster.
Without investigating the multiple oust-Estrada conspiracy theories, all insinuations or finger-pointing at Estrada are nothing but demonization of a popular political figure. Perhaps, media members of the ‘civil society’ need to be reminded that without letting the real and complete truth coming out, genuine justice will not serve Dacer, Corbito, nor the Filipino people.
Dacer’s work & anti-Erap conspiracy
Anyone insisting on Estrada’s possible complicity in the twin murders would need to look into Dacer’s role in Estrada’s government. How did Dacer’s advisory work with Estrada fit into these foreign and local reports of destabilization conspiracy? The veracity of reports of conspiracy months or a year or more before EDSA 2 should be particularly investigated.
What exactly did Dacer do that supposedly angered Estrada so much to put the former President in killer mode? Since it was PR job he handled, it must have involved important information. In such a scenario, who were Dacer’s connections in the anti-Estrada destabilization camp and what critical information did he leak to them, if ever?
A mid-2000 report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism can perhaps give a clue. It reports that during the early part of 2000, Dacer fell from the former President’s favor, based on how Estrada himself distributed among Cabinet members a white paper tagging Dacer as being "behind 'Oplan DDD' (disinformation, dissatisfaction destabilization) against his administration."
Ramos’ former National Security adviser Jose Almonte presented the media with a series of Dacer’s letters to Ramos, to Estrada, and to businessman Dante Tan. The subject matters of the Dacer-to-Estrada letters include (1) “Black Propaganda aimed at Driving Wedge Between Us, June 9, 1999,” and (2) “Ping Lacson’ Maneuvers for PNP Director-General Post, Oct. 8, 1999.” Herein, two questions need to be asked: have the letters have already been authenticated, and by whom and how? How did they end up in Almonte’s hands?
The Daily Tribune’s Olivarez asks where Almonte got the letter in which Dacer expressed apprehensions over getting the ire of both President Estrada and Lacson. ABS-CBN.com, which published the letters, reports in an article first posted online last September 2009 but which cover developments as of 31 January 2001, that the “PR executive always furnished Almonte copies of his important letters.”
One gets to ask if it was really plausible for Dacer, who seemed to be so professional, to have engaged in such an act that breaches the trust and privacy of the then-incumbent President Erap? If ever, why would the PR man’s loyalty be with Ramos instead of the President, his kumpadre, whom he was then working for at that time or several months before?
Estrada’s Motive #2?
Hazy or unspecific posts also connect Dacer’s death to his supposed knowledge of corruption in Estrada’s government. At Midfield posted in November 2008 that there was a talk that circulated about his “having been murdered in connection with documents in his possession.” A host of media and blog items has speculatively but categorically pointed to Estrada as mastermind of the supposed slaying of Dacer and Corbito.
The scenario such reports of “talk” and “rumors” seem to make is that Estrada had Dacer killed so as to prevent the expose of his supposed corrupt deals. To be able to convincingly establish this possible motive, however, entails ascertaining the veracity of his alleged possession of damning confidential information and, as well, of determining whether Dacer did engage in political espionage.
One would have to ask if it was in line with Dacer’s character to betray his clienteles, given that until early 2000, Estrada much trusted the PR man and allowed him considerable influence in his government (then-Appointments secretary Veronica Bunye-Jose said that back then, Erap always approved Dacer’s requests).
Dacer, SGS man, an Anti-Corruption Lone Ranger or Ramos spy?
It defies logic that a publicist used to spinning facts for the PR sake of clients, whether clean or otherwise, suddenly turned moralist and betrayed a kumpadre and big-time client all on his own. How is it possible than the man responsible for the multi-million-dollar SGS deal that proved heavily disadvantageous to the Philippine government all of a sudden became an anti-corruption lone-ranger crusader, as the anti-Estrada write-ups on the twin murders want the people to believe?
A more plausible scenario that would support an Estrada murder motive would be that Dacer was a Ramos DPA (deep penetration agent). After all, it is no secret how Ramos strongly disapproved of Estrada’s ascendancy as President. In 1999, a Senate Blue Ribbon investigation produced the testimony indicating that the people at the Centennial Exposition project were asking contractors for LAKAS campaign contributions because they were “desperate in (sic) coming up with all means and money to prevent Erap from winning in the elections.”
The same At Midfield article reported “about his having intended ‘to disengage’ from a controversial client,” suggesting the client to be no less than Erap. ABS-CBN also published one of the six alleged Dacer letters presented by Almonte in which Dacer sounded like he was ready to shift to Ramos’ side and was just awaiting his former boss’ go signal because Estrada’s government was supposedly “bent on stepping up its efforts to smear the good name of former President Fidel V. Ramos, and undermine his legacy to the nation.” Said letter is dated November 10, 1999 but Dacer actually continued to work for Estrada up to about early 2000.
If the Almonte-presented letters are authentic, the Nov. 10, 1999 Dacer letter raises very serious conspiracy questions when considered in the light of the Senate Blue Ribbon investigations on the Centennial Expo scam. Just why would Dacer speak so glowingly of Ramos who had wanted to prevent the election of President Estrada whom he was already working for or worked for months before? Just why would Erap, who seemed to trust him so much, later accuse him of engaging in ‘disinformation, dissatisfaction, destabilization’ against his government if there was really no conspiracy?
The Dacer letters, if they can be authenticated along with with the At Midfield report, can together be taken as possible support to explore the angle of the anti-Estrada conspiracy theories, with Dacer figuring as a possible DPA. Specifically, this scenario seems to jibe with the Jurado report pointing to Dacer as operator in a simultaneous Ramos corruption scandals cover-up and anti-Estrada demolition conspiracy.
BW Documents tied to the murders?
Crucial to the scenario of the supposed threat of corruption expose as Estrada’s motive for silencing Dacer is the Best World (BW) Resources Corp. stock market insider trading and manipulation scandal. Investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippine Stock Exchange supposedly revealed Dante Tan’s heavy buying of stocks. Tan then reportedly sold them around to artificially jack up share prices and show active trading of the BW stocks. Estrada’s former Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu had testified based on hearsay that former President had 50 percent interest in the company.
The Tan-BW Resources case was actually already dismissed in 2007 for lack of evidence. Early in 2009, the Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s decision and ordered Tan’s criminal prosecution. This prompted Erap’s son, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, to cry foul over the near simultaneous revival of the BW and Dacer-Corbito cases.
It is perhaps worth mentioning that ex-President Estrada’s conviction of plunder in late 2007 included the count of receiving commission for BW stocks. However, the BW evidence presented pointed not to the deposed President but to businessman Jaime Dichavez as beneficiary. Estrada has also consistently maintained that he never touched even a centavo of public funds because his conviction involved jueteng and that the Special Sandiganbayan Plunder Court was especially created to convict him as a way of legitimizing Arroyo’s power grab via Edsa 2.
It should be noted that after the initial media hypes of the new Arroyo administration in 2001, nothing much happened to the Dacer-Corbito murder case. That Mancao was suddenly extradited and the BW case revived just about a year before the presidential elections raise some politically-colored suspicions. If it’s justice for the Dacer-Corbito families that the administration really wants, why wasn’t the case pursued with gusto much earlier?
Justice Antonio Carpio’s Judgmental Speculations
Current Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio speculated back in 2001 on the motive for Dacer’s murder in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column based on the June, 2001 affidavit of Dumlao, PAOCTF chief of operations. He wrote that:
“It is possible that… Dacer came to know that Estrada had a substantial interest in BW. Dacer may even have come into possession of documents to prove Estrada’s ownership of BW stocks.” Carpio charged that a “shocking document that has surfaced is a letter by Estrada’s own lawyer, brazenly written on Malacañang letterhead and addressed to Tan, demanding the turnover to Estrada of BW stocks worth over P500 million. This document inextricably links Estrada to the BW stock scam.”
Such a scenario inevitably links back to the conspiracy reports? Are those supposed corruption-related documents part of the reported destabilization efforts? If so, how did Dacer and the information connect to Oplan Excelsis or the eventually successful Edsa 2 coup against Estrada and which installed his other client, Gloria Arroyo? Did Dacer have other spies working with him and against the former President? In turn, to whom was he reporting or to whom will he give the supposed damning documents/information?
Dumlao’s Conflicting Affidavits Belie the Prosecution
What’s wrong with the old Carpio speculation, which the Inquirer chose to reprint March of 2009, is the fact that Dumlao subsequently refuted the cited statement with his May 2003 affidavit. Therein, Dumlao stated that the government was applying pressure so he would pin down opposition members.
The more recent twists in the case involved two conflicting developments:
1. March 2009, the Department of Justice announced that Mancao, chief of PAOCTF Task Force-Luzon supposedly issued a third affidavit wherein he’s affirming the authenticity of his 2001 affidavit.
2. However, Dumlao canceled his flight back to the country because, as according to his lawyer, the former PAOCTF officer petitioned against his extradition since his written implication of Lacson and Estrada to the Dacer-Corbito murders was made only after he was tortured.
3. Dumlao was finally extradited in July 2009 and in September 17 of the same year, turned state witness. The motion to drop him from the list of accused in the case is under review.
4. On November 11, 2009, his lawyer told the media that Dumlao only signed his affidavit after he was tortured into doing so;
5. Dumlao’s testimony is not yet complete.
How “final” and reliable will Dumlao’s testimony this time is anybody’s guess. Aside from his conflicting affidavits, 1 or 2 of which he claims to have been made under duress, the former police superintendent has also made conflicting press statements on the case through his lawyers. With regards the letter pointed out in Carpio’s column, it seems unlikely that Estrada would allow such an illegal BW-related request in writing, on official Malacanang letterhead at that.
Apparently, that “shocking document” was part of the later-repudiated first affidavit dated April 2001 which told of important documents being deliberately burned on orders of Mancao (Dumlao’s July 2003 affidavit in effect negated the first statement).
Even if Dumlao will eventually affirm his first affidavit, the statement is in conflict with Mancao’s statement. Dumlao’s first statement claims that his role in the ‘Special Operation’ against Dacer was carried out following the orders of Aquino and Mancao; whereas, Mancao claims that he did not personally engage in the Dacer-Corbito operation.
Out of Dacer’s Character
Speculations that Dacer was silenced because he wanted to expose Estrada’s supposed BW insider trading all on his own does not hold water because the former neither had the history nor the character to crusade against corruption. In fact, as a PR man, his work involved glossing over his clientele’s public relations flaws or manufacturing a positive public image. He himself was involved in controversial contracts during Ramos’ administration.
Thus, without the determination of the veracity of the oust-Estrada conspiracy angle and the PR man’s involvement in them, neither of the alleged motives of (1) vengeance over Dacer’s politically motivated betrayal or (2) cover-up of BW/corruption activities can be substantiated.
Without serious investigations of the alleged conspiracy to depose Estrada, all speculations on the former President’s complicity in the Dacer-Corbito killings amount to nothing but trial by publicity or even a vilification campaign/ bandwagon amidst Estrada renewed campaign bid for the presidency.
Proving the conspiracy is easier said than done, of course, because even after nine years have elapsed, those who hold power are in denial mode over Edsa 2. No mainstream Philippine media will seriously write on, and no Edsa 2 player—Ramos in particular—will admit to, any conspiracy in Estrada’s ouster. Still, despite the destabilization conspiracy denial, certain writers continue to illogically, perhaps maliciously link, Estrada to Dacer’s murder.
Did Estrada have the opportunity to commit the double murder? Nobody seems to think he did it himself so the proper question is, perhaps: Did the deposed President have the opportunity to mastermind the killing?
Aside from the Ramos-instigated insinuations and Mancao’s later hearsay testimony, suspicions are cast on Estrada as being the possible mastermind primarily because of witnesses’ testimonies that link PAOCTF men to the kidnapping of Dacer and Corbito. This scenario assumes that the former President could order about or influence PAOCTF agents into committing illegal acts such as murder.
While it is a fact that Estrada was the one who created the elite crime-fighting unit and that it was indirectly under his command as President, such can hardly be considered an opportunity by itself. To show that the deposed and defamed President had the opportunity to mastermind the slays, his personal connection with PAOCTF operations needs to be established. Lacson’s September 2009 Senate privilege speech seemed drawn up to support this scenario.
Lacson’s Speech Links Erap to PAOCTF Operations
The direction of Lacson’s September 2009 Senate speeches was clearly to move away from his own possible culpability in the Dacer-Corbito double murder. At least in his first privilege speech ‘bombshell,’ he stated that he was essentially not in control of his men at PNP and the PAOCTF because Estrada was giving them “direct orders and instructions [as he did] deep into the layers of the entire government bureaucracy.”
This claim of Lacson seemed intended to effectively cast doubt on any testimony linking him to the murders and, instead, open the door towards directly linking Estrada to the crime. However, this possible angle, or attempt to redirect the case’s investigations appeared to have been weakened by the testimonies of Erap’s former Cabinet secretaries who belied the senator’s claim, saying: “The Cabinet is one in observing and attesting that President Estrada was not a micro manager.”
Mancao’s Testimony: He Cheated for Erap?!?
On Sept. 3, 2009, PAOCTF head for Task Force Luzon former Senior Supt. Cesar Mancao confirmed his earlier affidavit but which only lamely supports the opportunity question for Estrada, given that his knowledge was only based on hearsay. According to him, he knew about the former President’s order to have Dacer killed under codename Oplan Delta based on what he overheard from the discussion of Lacson and Aquino.
The problem with Mancao’s testimony, aside from its being based only on hearsay, is that it came with, or woven into, a claim that sounds incredible. In media interviews, he stated that he and Estrada had known each other personally and that he supposedly even conducted “Dagdag-Bawas” electoral fraud operations under “Special Project Alpha” to ensure Estrada’s victory in the 1998 presidential polls.
That ex-President Estrada needed to cheat in 1998 is a rather unbelievable tale because every independent pre-electoral and exit polls bore out Estrada’s victory. Had Mancao skipped the “cheating” part, his latest testimony would have been worth giving some weight to.
Even Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, the former Defense chief who turned against the former President during the Edsa 2 coup, surprisingly vouched for Estrada’s integrity as he claimed that as far as he is concerned, the latter “had not given [him] any illegal order” during his service in Erap’s government.
Estrada Angle Linked to Conspiracy
The Estrada angle is very much dependent on what the EDSA II players are not admitting to—coup conspiracy against the former president. If the destabilization/vengeance motive is to stand, the possible Oplan Excelsis link to Dacer, if the conspiracy did occur, should first be established. The next step should be to link Dacer to the Omerta group.
Thus, if Estrada’s vengeance over his believed involvement of Dacer in the destabilization efforts is to be pursued as motive, the following leads should be established:
• Were the destabilization attempts reported by Jurado in 1999 for real?
• Did “Oplan Excelsis” and the conspiratorial “Omerta” group exist?
• If yes to Nos. 1 & 2, how are the two anti-Estrada conspiracies connected?
• Is the Mike Arroyo account of the EDSA 2 conspiracy also linked to the other conspiracy reports?
• What was Dacer’s link to any and all of the above conspiracy reports?
• If ever, who were other members of the conspiracy/conspiracies known to Dacer?
BW Stocks & Dacer Espionage?
With regards the more limited threat of BW/insider trading expose as Erap’s possible motive, a scenario of Dacer being an anti-corruption lone ranger is out of character with his being a practical and not-exactly-come-clean publicist. It does not make sense that Dacer, who worked for Ramos whose administration was marred by several corruption scandals, would find the supposed Estrada BW insider trading windfall worth crusading against—unless he was a spy or demolition team member.
Thus, exploring the BW insider trading angle again brings one back to the determination of whether Bubby Dacer worked as a DPA or spy. How true are claims by certain media articles saying that Dacer was “secretly working with those planning to depose Erap”? Dacer’s other (former?) clients Ramos and possibly, Arroyo, seemed poised to benefit from an Estrada ouster. What were the PR man’s exact relationships with them? Given Dacer’s seeming fondness of Ramos as based on the Almonte-presented letters, did the PR man spy for the latter?
In the first place, was there really insider trading at BW? How real is the claim that Estrada earned from the BW stock trading, and if ever, does it tie to reports that the late Sen. Cayetano also profited from BW stocks around the same time? Or did the PR man work for another individual/group?
It must be pointed out that those who conclude or try to make others believe that Estrada indeed masterminded the killings of Dacer and Corbito are generally wont to show that Dacer was innocent of any involvement in destabilization activities and/or that the alleged coup were merely baseless suspicious of Estrada. What counters this part of the vengeance motive scenario is the fact that the coup/conspiracy reports were made independently–by the local Daily Tribune before it took place and by foreign entities including the New York Times in describing the EDSA 2 ouster of Estrada. And, of course, there were the inadvertently detailed revelations of coup plans involving military officers made by no less than Mike Arroyo, husband of the beneficiary of Estrada’s ouster,
Estrada Has No Vengeance Motive?
The opposite scenario–that Estrada did not really have a motive in having Dacer killed–finds support in different testimonies or reports. This appears to hold true within even within a scenario of an anti-Estrada conspiracy actually having transpired.
Estrada claims that he has no reason to have the PR man killed because, for one, he had already met with and made peace with him a few days before he went missing. Tiu Laurel writes that this is supported by a report of GMA-7’s Karen Davila’s whose interview of Ampy Dacer confirmed that Estrada and her dad did reconcile during their meeting over a merienda.
An ABS-CBN article says that according to Dacer’s daughter, the PR man was hesitant to meet with the former President. Rodel Rodis also writes that during their meeting on November 21, 2000, “Estrada severely berated Dacer… and the latter left the Palace in fear of his life.” However, these reports or claims are belied by the Davila interview of Ampy Dacer.
Journalist Fernando Gagelonia’s recollection of Dacer’s last words to him several days before his disappearance can also be taken to support the view that the latter and Estrada were on the way to a patch-up as was apparently what occurred during the meeting in Malacanang. According to the writer, Dacer told him that “Things will be resolved, we’ll be helping each other and the bickering will end.”
Additionally, Mancao’s February 14, 2009 affidavit executed in the United States not only makes no mention of Estrada’s actual involvement in the order for Dacer’s killing but also includes hearsay of the former President having “turned indifferent”(emphasis supplied), with the news that Dacer “had been neutralized.” Granting that the hearsay was factual and that Mancao was not lying in the said affidavit, shouldn’t Erap have reacted with pleasure or approval over the news if he indeed masterminded the double-killing?
Ping Lacson Angle
Sen. Lacson is officially the chief suspect/brains in the Dacer-Corbito case because as PAOCTF head and concurrent PNP chief, he had the means, opportunity, and motive to perpetrate the twin slays. The Department of Justice charged him for the twin murders on January 7, 2010 supposedly, based on physical evidence and witness testimony.
Lacson Means & Opportunity
The testimonies of the early witnesses pointed to the complicity of the PAOCTF men directly under Lacson. Jimmy Lopez even pointed to Lacson as the alleged mastermind (Lopez was killed early morning of September 2, 2009, a day before his scheduled appearance before the Department of Justice to reiterate his allegations and corroborate the Dacer family’s affidavit).
Lacson’s own subordinates Mancao and Dumlao also testified against him, pinpointing the former anti-crime czar as the one who gave direct orders to have Dacer and Corbito killed. Mancao already testified in court against the senator. Dumlao did issue a second affidavit and statement(s) effectively retracting his first statement but what his testimony and cross-examination as DOJ witness will yield remains a matter of speculation, particularly given his penchant to change his mind.
Lacson Attempts to Pin Opportunity/Means on Estrada
As earlier mentioned, however, Lacson’s September 14 privilege speech refuted this means & opportunity angle. By claiming that ex-Pres. Estrada was a micro-manager who personally directed people, including his PAOCTF and PNP men, he wanted it shown that he himself was not involved with his men’s operations—which should include any involvement with the Dacer-Corbito case.
Lacson’s claim that he was not actually the one on top of PAOCTF operations appears lame and uncorroborated. It has, in fact, been belied by Estrada’s former cabinet secretaries who immediately came out to refute that point of the senator’s privilege speech.
What could yet be the most damning testimony to prove that Lacson had the motive to have Dacer and Corbito killed can come from a new witness, Lymith Bagual. She said in an interview that she witnessed how Lacson berated Dacer back in November 2000 in a Batangas resort. Bagual claimed to have overheard a furious Lacson, who was seated beside Mancao, tell the calm Dacer: “You’re not following what we agreed on. You’ll get me in trouble.” When Lacson stood up, he supposedly ordered one of his men to get Dacer out of the room but the PR man refused to budge as the driver made a remark to the effect that they’d rather fight to the death.
Lacson refuted the claim of Bagual whom he dubbed as “laundrywoman” during his Sept. 22, 2009 privilege speech. The senator claimed that Dumlao relayed to him that Mancao’s lawyer, Atty. Topacio, asked help to convince the former PAOCTF officer to corroborate the new testimony. He also charged Estrada of being behind the quick production of the new witness and insinuated that Topacio was reporting to the former President.
Herein, Lacson seemed to have contradicted himself because a week before his second privilege speech attack against Estrada, he accused another May 2010 presidentiable Sen. Manny Villar and the Nacionalista Party of possibly being responsible for Bagual’s appearance as witness.
If it can be shown that Lacson did order PAOCTF men to have Dacer and Corbito killed, a corollary question is whether he plotted the crimes on his own. If Lacson is to be pinned down as the mastermind, his motive for perpetuating the murders will need to be established.
Up until about the second half of the year, the only clear possible motive for a possible Lacson masterminding the murders himself came from the letters Almonte claimed to have come from Dacer. Based on the June 9, 1999 and Oct. 8, 1999 letters, it appears that Lacson and Dacer were not exactly in the best of terms—suggesting a scenario where the former might have wanted the publicist eliminated out of revenge.
Lacson might have been angered by Dacer’s opposition to his appointment as PNP chief. Based on the letters, Dacer believed that Lacson was supposed to be one of those engaged in the “black propaganda aimed at driving wedge” between him and Estrada. Moreover, the PR man was strongly persuading Estrada not to appoint Lacson as PNP director-general on grounds of his insubordinate attitude and how “many foresee a POLICE STATE, and this will be very bad for the domestic economy and set back Your Excellency’s campaign to attract foreign investors.”
In an ABS-CBN news clip, Almonte also showed an unencashed check of several million pesos which supposedly represented Lacson’s offer for Dacer to take his case but which the publicist refused.
The case against Lacson seems to satisfy means, motive and opportunity elements, based on admissible evidence presented or are likely to be presented in court. The question is whether they are strong enough to lead to a conviction, particularly given that there are no actual or complete dead bodies of Dacer and Corbito.
Moreover, are the courts that will try the case apolitical and neutral enough to render due justice? An arrest warrant has already been issued for Lacson, who admits he’s in hiding in another country. The beleaguered senator claims he is being persecuted for his many corruption exposes against Gloria Arroyo and her husband. Interestingly, recent news reports show that the judge who issued the Lacson arrest warrant is a candidate for the position of the Court of Appeals.
Another angle that is worth exploring in the Dacer-Corbito murders is the possible involvement of former President Ramos and his national security chief Jose Almonte. The mainstream media largely ignores this angle but in the interest of truth, justice, and fairness, it ought to be explored.
Late for an Hour—Disappeared!
Ex-President Ramos’ public role in the Dacer-Corbito murder mystery began on the day the publicist went missing. On November 24, 2000, Ramos hastily announced to the world that he feared Dacer had disappeared because they were supposed to meet an hour ago.
Surprising as it is, Ramos made the announcement and tipped the police of Dacer’s disappearance only after anhour of their scheduled meeting. Even more surprising are other stories that connect Ramos to the developments of the case.
1. Herman Tiu-Laurel reported in March 2001 of the story told to close friends by Ampy and Sabina, Dacer’s children:
“...the Ramos visit to Dacer’s office on that fateful day of the disappearance was very uncharacteristic. In the many years of Dacer and Ramos’ professional dealings, never once did Ramos visit Dacer’s office. But on the day of Dacer’s kidnapping Ramos did, and after only an hour of waiting he started making it too obvious he was concerned….”
2. Perhaps, the most explosive story linking Ramos and ex-national security chief Almonte to the case is the revelation made by Fr. Baldostamon of the Sun Valley parish church in Paranaque where the Dacers reside. According to News Today (April 11, 2001):
Soon after the November 24, 2000, abduction of Dacer and Corbito, Father Baldostamon overheard … Almonte tell the PR man’s family that in case the kidnappers return Dacer to Almonte’s group, “they would try to sneak him out to the USA.” In any case, Almonte reportedly said on December 3, Dacer’s family should continue to mourn for him in public “until the opportune time.’ Why would anyone make such a proposal unless he had some way of influencing the victims’ abductors?
3. On April 16, 2001, Cacho-Olivares writes: “And wonder of wonders. The day the Dacer children claimed that their father was indeed dead, Ramos had, in the newspapers, a condolence note, claiming too, that Dacer was dead.”
4. Tiu-Laurel also later reported the account of his friend that two days before Dacer disappeared, the PR man complained “that he was being evicted from his Manila Hotel office and he couldn’t update his rent because Ramos (FVR) owed him a six figure professional fee and wouldn’t pay up.”
Today, nine years after the Dacer-Corbito disappearance, the Ramos, along with Almonte, has yet to squarely address the many questions on his role in the case. Worse, the NBI has never considered Ramos a suspect. The mainstream media has played along, pretending such questions never exist while insinuating, if not actually accusing ex-Pres. Estrada of guilt (the same more or less applied to Lacson more or less until he switched over to the side of another presidential candidate Noynoy Aquino).
Even the Dacer children have surprisingly failed to confirm or deny Fr. Baldostamon’s statements. No wonder that less gullible bloggers and media practitioners continue to ask whether former chief –of-staff ex-Pres. Ramos wields too much influence to the point that genuine truth and justice are being denied not only the Dacer-Corbito families but, as well, the Filipino people.
Dacer & Corbito Are/Were Alive?
Amidst the UP NSRI DNA findings and the parish priest’s revelations suggesting that Almonte’s camp could make Dacer surface or continue hiding him, the government should look into the possibility, no matter how seemingly remote, that the supposed victims are still alive.
Corollary to this, Ramos, who is closely tied to Almonte and who holds no less motive and potential means as Lacson and Estrada, should be seriously investigated. His suspiciously very hasty reporting of the disappearance of Dacer on the day they are supposed to meet can perhaps be taken as opportunity for the crime.
There are a number of evidence that merit investigating ex-President Ramos’ involvement in the Dacer-Corbito case. Perhaps, the evidences are weak—as weak as those linking former President Estrada to the same case; however, shouldn’t they be also be looked into in the full pursuit of justice not only for the publicist and his driver but for the Filipino people as well?
Ramos’ role in Anti-Estrada Conspiracy?
Almost as much as the Almonte letters present possible evidence of motive for Estrada, they do the same for Ramos. How come Dacer regularly provided Almonte with copies of important official communications, especially those from the office of President Estrada? Such a scenario Almonte wants the people to believe is weird even among best friends. This is unless Dacer was a DPA or seditious spy working for Ramos.
If Dacer was Ramos’ spy, the PR man could have taken part in illegally providing the latter or other Omerta/destabilization group members with confidential Estrada documents for use in the reported OplanExcelsis that apparently saw fruition in EDSA II. This, in turn, raises questions as to Ramos ‘ possible motives for wrecking the Estrada administration: did he fear Estrada’s pursuit of his previous administration’s corruption cases or what?
Another possibility, perhaps, is that the Almonte letters were not voluntarily given by Dacer to the former security adviser but, rather, taken by Ramos during his ‘uncharacteristic’ visit to the publicist’s PR office on the day of his disappearance–if Tiu Laurel’s report is accurate. As well, it is also not entirely impossible that Ramos made up at least some of the letters using the letterhead stationery he could have taken from Dacer’s office that same day.
These facts, along with the absence of corpus delicti, should be enough for the criminal justice authorities to at least look into the direction of the FVR/Almonte camp. If it can be reasonably established that there was indeed Oplan Excelsis or any ouster conspiracy at works a few months before Dacer’s death, the possible FVR involvement should be extended to include other anti-Estrada conspirators in the twin murders, or twin disappearance.
Ramos’ Role in the Dacer-Corbito Murder?
Whether or not the supposed destabilization conspiracy can be conclusively proved, a scenario where Ramos masterminded the crime–either hiding the PR man and his driver (A) or actually murdering Dacer and Corbito (B)–is not implausible. It has, after all, been established that Estrada and Dacer did have cordial merienda in Malacanang.
A. Ramos Hid Dacer & Corbito?
Under the Ramos scenario A of hiding Dacer & Corbito, the possible motive is linked to that of Estrada’s and can be established by ascertaining the veracity and details of Oplan Excelsis/destabilization conspiracy. If there was indeed a conspiracy, scenario A jibes with the Jurado articles’ claim that the destabilization was meant at “covering up anomalies and scams also committed during the Ramos administration.”
B. Ramos behind Dacer & Corbito Murders?
It is possible that after the Malacanang merienda, Ramos might have feared that Erap was able to secure Dacer’s services to effectively proceed with the plan to go after FVR’s role in the alleged Centennial Expo scam. If the conspiracy wasn’t real, this Ramos scenario B can stand on itself because Estrada had publicly announced this plan several times, enough for Ramos to become worried.
Another possibility is that Ramos had Dacer and his driver silenced AFTER Estrada was already ousted. Farfetched as others may think, Fr. Baldostamon’s revelations point to the possibility that Ramos might have made it appear that the latter was missing so the former can blame and scandalize the Estrada administration, as an effective part of a conspiracy to bring it down. Admittedly, this scenario makes an unlikely assumption that the two were still alive—at least during the height of the report of their disappearance during the last months of the Erap administration.
Of course, it does not sound plausible that after a decade of being missing, the PR man and his driver could still be alive. However, it is also a possibility that Ramos and Almonte–if they did have Dacer–might have ordered the two liquidated some time after Estrada was already ousted so as to cover up their tracks.
The US Role
The participation of the government of the United States of America in this case is also worth looking into. Concededly, the US government has always interfered with internal Philippine affairs but it has not actually shown much interest in murder stories until this one.
In the case of the Nida Blanca slay, the US courts twice rejected the Philippine government’s request to extradite the prime suspect, her husband Roger Lawrence Strunk. Of course, Strunk was an American citizen (before the creep committed suicide). Still, the Dacer-Corbito case seemed to have been considered exceptional enough for the US government to have been much too helpful opening the door for the return of Mancao and Dumlao (the US government arrested the two upon RP government’s extradition requests).
It’s also rather suspicious that Dumlao “voluntarily” provided the US government with information on the twin murders because why he fled to the US was obviously due to his intent to avoid the case. Also, how normal is it for the American government to do what it did in the case of Aquino–US Attorney Christopher J. Christie asked the court for a higher sentence because of his involvement on the Dacer-Corbito case based only on some testimonies and with the twin murders still very much unresolved?
The case is obviously political but the apparent US political interest in its resolution can further cloud the truth as to who the real perpetrators and mastermind are. As Tiu-Laurel wrote back in March 2009:
Reliable military intelligence sources we talked to insist that the affidavits of Mancao and Dumlao will implicate Estrada, as what Michael Ray Aquino’s will later do. They are convinced that this campaign, which involves the US, vividly betrays Uncle Sam’s fear of Estrada as being the only serious obstacle to its 2010 plan of installing a new Gloria Arroyo puppet…..
If indeed the US is unduly interfering in the Dacer-Corbito case, that would render the testimonies of the PAOCTF men half-truth as best. If it’s also true that the ultimate goal is get Estrada smeared and make him less viable for the 2010 presidential race, how will the public ever be certain that Ramos and Almonte indeed had no hand in the twin murders?
Non-Body of Evidence?
Normally, murder cases can advance only if the corpses can be found. While there are witnesses claiming to have perpetrated the killings on orders of Lacson’s men, even pointing to the actual site of the crime and the disposal-by-burning of the bodies, the two DNA results in this case squarely conflict with each other. While Dr. Fortun’s analysis concluded that the charred remains belonged to Dacer and Corbito, the UP-NSRI findings yielded negative presence of human DNA.
If the prosecution can only produce non-human remains as evidence, based on the UP-NSRI report, it should render the testimonies presented by Wycoco’s witnesses as seriously questionable. It is, of course, up to the courts to decide which DNA analysis is more credible and determine whether the charred remains presented by the NBI are truly the victims’ or mere cattle/animal remains.
Veracity of Testimonies
The veracity of testimonial evidence should, of course, also be looked into. The reliability of the early witnesses who claimed participation in the crime is marred by the ‘Dacer shoes’ claim. Alex Diloy is now dead but his testimony before the Justice Department stands–including perhaps his false claim of ‘brown-shoes-but-formerly-white’ which he showed the press belonged to Dacer, or to Corbito.
Dumlao recanted his 2001 testimony (a basis of Lacson’s indictment), which is where a number of speculators base their malicious imputation of the guilt of Estrada. He is supposed to have made a later testimony affirming the first but through his lawyer, he issued a November statement claiming that he only linked Estrada and Lacson because he was tortured. Besides, Dumlao’s reliability as a witness could be questionable given the multiple times he has changed his mind on the matter. As well, his claims that the government only tortured him into issuing affidavits against Lacson and Estrada suggest that the case is politically motivated.
Mancao’s testimony, marked by his denial of criminal involvement, links Lacson and Estrada to the case but is pure hearsay. Fr. Baldostamon’s expose is also hearsay but can easily be corroborated or denied by the Dacer children. Mysteriously, both the camps of the Dacers and Almonte have chosen to keep mum over the issue; more perplexingly (or is it suspiciously?), the Arroyo administration has not bothered to even look into the angle.
The media and bloggers owe it to the Filipino people to speak or write only of the truth. If it’s genuine justice for Dacer and Corbito they want, all possible angles or leads should be discussed without favor or without prejudice to anyone. That the Ramos angle has been hardly explored despite leads pointing to him, while Lacson and especially Estrada have been practically judged as guilty by writers, certainly does not serve the dissemination of truth and justice in this country. At the same time, glossing over Dacer’s possible role in a conspiracy against the Estrada government also does not do justice to the Filipino people.
That government officials–including the politicians who wanted Estrada ousted back in 2000/2001–have politicized the case also seems evident. A disturbing recent news is that the judge who signed the arrest warrant for Lacson is a candidate for a Court of Appeals post. Perhaps more disturbing is why Arroyo’s government has ignored or even kept under wraps the UP-NSRI findings which conflict with Dr. Fortun’s report with regards the question of whether or not the charred remains found in Cavite belonged to Dacer and Corbito.
The Filipino people, especially those with a history of gullibility (as in EDSA 2 mob gullibles), should be wary of those entities whose business it is to misshape public opinion by deliberately withholding selected information. Unfortunately for Dacer and Corbito, justice for them seems as evasive as political justice and journalistic objectivity in this country.
by Jesusa Bernardo
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