JUSTICE will caught up Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson because of a very weak defense in connection to his involvement in the November 2000 killing of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

Then justice secretary Raul Gonzalez made this statement Saturday over a radio interview.

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“I don't think he can hide from this forever,” Gonzalez said.

“The case is strong, more than probable cause. Ping's problem is that his defense is his alibi. He said he was not here at the time (the crime was committed). (This) alibi is the weakest possible defense in a criminal case," he added.

On Friday, the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 18 issued a warrant of arrest against Lacson. The arrest order was issued by Judge Myra Garcia-Fernandez.

Gonzalez furthered that instead of hiding, Lacson should face his case and exhaust all legal means to prove his innocence. “He can go all the way to the Supreme Court if he wants to.”

Earlier reports said that Lacson, who was out of the country since January 5, is staying in Australia.

But the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) ruled out such report after verifying immigration information with the Australian authorities. The NBI said Lacson may still be in Hong Kong.

The opposition senator released a press statement, saying he left the country to escape “harassment” from the Arroyo administration.

Gonzalez was the justice secretary who looked closely into the case, including the execution of affidavit of former police officer Cezar Mancao, linking Lacson to the double murder case.

He was also responsible for the extradition of Mancao from the United States.

The justice department on Friday said that Lacson officially became a fugitive when the Manila court issued the warrant arrest.

The NBI served the warrant at his Senate office and his two residential homes in Ayala Alabang and Paranaque City.

It said serving the warrant in Lacson's “known residences and offices” is a standard operating procedure as part of evidence to show that the lawmaker is out of the country and for extradition purposes.

The cases were based on a complaint filed by the daughters of Dacer.

Interpol tapped

To further the manhunt operations on Lacson, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said it was already trying to secure a "Red Notice" from the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) to expedite his arrest.

Senior Superintendent Benito Estipona, deputy chief for operations of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), said the PNP has sought assistance from the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime (PCTC) to do this.

“Yes, we are just waiting for the Red Notice,” Estipona said in a text message to Sun.Star.

The Interpol on its website said a Red Notice is not considered an “international arrest warrant,” but would only allow arrest warrants issued in local courts to be circulated worldwide.

“The persons concerned are wanted by national jurisdictions (or the International Criminal Tribunals, where appropriate) and Interpol's role is to assist the national police forces in identifying or locating those persons with a view to their arrest and extradition,” the Interpol said.

The notice can be enforced in countries with which requesting state has an existing extradition treaty. The Department of Foreign Affairs had said the country has existing extradition treaties with 10 countries.

Estipona added that three teams are tasked to locate Lacson in Metro Manila. All regional offices of the CIDG have likewise been furnished copies of the arrest warrant, he said.

Prelate comes to the rescue

Lacson meanwhile found an ally on retired Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, who admitted he knew Lacson was leaving three days before.

“He is not a coward. He just does not stand a chance, and would have difficulty in getting a just trial," he said. "I was listening to him. His decision to leave the country is justifiable." Cruz said in a news item posted on the official website of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines.

The prelate believes Lacson's claim that he is innocent of the double murders. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)