MANY Cebuanos feel short-changed. In 1991, the City Council made Sen. Panfilo Lacson “adopted son.” That capped awards by groups from Cebu Chamber of Commerce, Cebu Bankers Club to Rotary Club of Cebu Port Center.

These citations are dutifully recorded in the on-line vitae that depicts Lacson as “the man behind the relentless warrior.”

But Lacson skipped town before Manila Judge Myra Fernandez issued a warrant of arrest. Cebu’s “adopted son” is facing charges for the murder of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito.

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National Bureau of Investigation asked Interpol to issue a “red-flag notice” against Lacson. He is orbiting outside the Philippines, having skipped town Jan. 5.

Going on the lam ahead of the law is a well-beaten path here. Agriculture undersecretary “Joc Joc” Bolante barreled into a US immigration detention cell. He tried to avoid Senate investigators--including Lacson.

Erap cronies Jaime Dichavez and Dante Tan took the same route. Recently, Mayor Tomas Osmena’s pet Cebu Charter Day awardee, SPO1 Adonis Dumpit, came in from the cold to face court charges.

“Lacson cannot keep running all his life," said Carina Dacer, the slain publicist's daughter. She urged “the relentless warrior” to face the music. “He always talks to the media but that has no bearing on the murders.”

“He who flees from trial confesses his guilt,” the Syrian writer Publius Syrus wrote in the first century BC. No court has yet tried, let alone convicted, Lacson of having Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) men rub Dacer and Corbito.

Twenty-two armed men in civvies flagged down Dacer and Corbito in Makati on November 2000. Their burnt remains turned up in Barangay Buna Lejos, Indang Cavite. UP forensic pathologists identified Dacer and Corbito, based among others, on metal dental plates and a ring.

PAOCTF washed its hands. Then Gen. Panfilo Lacson oversaw this agency with aides: Michael Ray Aquino, Cesar Mancao, Glenn Dumlao and others, under President Estrada.

Bitter privilege speeches between Lacson and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada preceded this bailout.

Lacson had Dacer-Corbito murdered, Estrada claimed, not President Joseph. Lacson said Erap creamed jueteng payoffs, extorted Philippine Long Distance Telephone shares from industrialist Alfonso Yuchengco to favor Manny Pangilinan, etc.

Both camps have the goods on each other,” observed Inquirer columnist Solita Collas-Monsod. “And why not? They were together for so long.” With signature candor, the professor-economist added: They were “a crooked duo.”

Both Estrada and Lacson sought high posts. The two shun “command responsibility” and wash their hands of accountability.

Both did not lie. Both told the truth-–about the other. Both took a decade before ventilating each other’s transgressions. And both have been shown up as unfit for public office.

Under President Estrada, Lacson and other “mistahs” of PMA Class 71”-–which Marcos used as a mailed fist-–“continued (their) rise to power within PNP,” writes Alfred McCoy in “Closer Than Brothers” (Yale University).

Will the “relentless warrior,” who once sought the presidency, become just another Joc-Joc wandering in aimless circles, Cebuanos ask. The answer indicates the future of this troubled nation.

(juanlmercado@gmail.com)