MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday filed two murder charges against Sen. Panfilo Lacson in connection with the November 2000 abduction and killings of publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

A panel of prosecutors led by Senior State Prosecutor Peter Ong found probable cause to charge Lacson based on the testimony of witnesses and evidence gathered by the National Bureau of Investigation.

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The panel did not recommend bail for Lacson. It said, however, that it was up to the court to decide whether to issue a warrant for his arrest.

Immunity

“This is a crime punishable by more than six years, so he cannot invoke immunity,” the prosecutors said.

Ong said the Manila Regional Trial Court’s Office of the Clerk of Court will decide whether to consolidate the charges with the pending case before Judge Myra Fernandez of the Manila RTC Branch 18 or assign this to another judge as a separate case.

The court is usually given 10 days to decide whether to agree with the finding of probable cause and issue a warrant of arrest or dismiss the case.

Among the evidence considered by the panel were the testimonies and affidavits of former policemen Cezar Mancao II and Glenn Dumlao and those of alleged henchmen Willy Cabugin, William Lopez and Alex Loy, who admitted to having participated in the abduction and setting on fire the bodies of Dacer and Corbito.

Mancao and Dumlao are former members of the now-defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), which was once headed by Lacson.

The two are now in the DOJ’s witness protection program.

The Manila RTC, however, has yet to rule on the motion of the prosecution to discharge Mancao as a respondent.

The DOJ also gave weight to the samples of the charred bodies recovered by the NBI in Cavite, which are believed to be that of Dacer and Corbito. The panel also gave weight to Dacer’s dental plates and the post- and ante-mortem report of forensic expert Dr. Raquel Fortun.

The panel dismissed Lacson’s alibi and allegation of political persecution.

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

Lacson had said he and several other Cabinet officials, including then trade secretary Sen. Mar Roxas, were part of former president Joseph Estrada’s entourage in the United States for a UN summit.

But prosecutors pointed out that travel documents presented by Lacson showed that their US trip was from Sept. 4 to Sept. 13, 2000.

They said it was not improbable that the order by Lacson to Michael Rey Aquino, another former PAOCTF officer, to kill Dacer was given in October.

The murder charges were filed based on the complaint by the four daughters of Dacer – Carina Lim, Sabina Reyes, Emily Hungerford, and Amparo Henson – following the execution of the Feb. 14, 2009 affidavit of Mancao while he was still undergoing extradition proceedings in the United States.

In his affidavit, Mancao tagged Lacson as the mastermind in the killings. He said he was present in the car when Lacson, then PNP chief and head of PAOCTF, ordered Aquino to implement

“Operation Delta,” referring to Dacer, sometime in October 2000.

The Dacer children also sought to file an amended complaint before the DOJ to include Estrada as res-pondent. (Sunnex)