MANILA, Philippines - A lawyer said Thursday that there should be no rush to cancel the passport of Senator Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, who is wanted for the November 2000 murders of publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito.
Lacson's lawyer Alex Avisado said cancelling the passport of the senator would render moot their pending motion for the determination of probable cause before the Manila City Regional Trial Court Branch 18.
The Dacer sisters on Wednesday asked the lower court to consider asking the Department of Foreign Affairs to cancel Lacson's passport and officially declare him a fugitive.
The Dacers’ lawyer, Demetrio Custodio, told ANC’s Dateline Philippines that Lacson’s prolonged stay out of the country means he has no intention of facing the murder charges in court.
“With his continuing non-appearance, it would now be right to declare him a fugitive from justice,” Custodio said, adding that the cancellation of the senator’s passport would prevent him from hopping from one country to another.
Avisado said the Dacer sisters’ motion has no basis.
He said Lacson can only be declared a fugitive, and his passport cancelled, if he has completely abandoned his defense in court.
“We still have a pending motion for reconsideration, motion for inhibition and other several pending motions. He cannot be declared a fugitive. His passport could not be legally cancelled,” the senator’s lawyer said.
He said that if the senator’s passport is cancelled and he appears in court voluntarily or involuntarily, their pleading before the lower court would become moot.
Avisado said they feel that the Dacer sisters’ move to rush the arrest of Lacson has a political angle.
Instead of focusing on Lacson, who has been cleared by former police superintendent Glenn Dumlao in the Dacer-Corbito double murder, Avisado said the sisters should go after former President Joseph Estrada, who is running again for the presidency in the May 10 elections.
“The way we see it, the branding of Lacson as a fugitive is merely for show. There is no legal purpose,” he said, adding that Lacson’s camp has been waiting for the Dacer sisters to make good their threat to file murder cases against Estrada for his alleged involvement in the double murder case.
Avisado said that aside from Dumlao’s testimony clearing Lacson, the testimony of former police officer Cezar Mancao cannot be used as a basis for the filing of murder charges against the senator.
He said Mancao has told the court that he was not sure about Lacson’s alleged role in the murders.
The lawyer was referring to Mancao’s testimony that he overheard Lacson ordering another former police officer, Michael Ray Aquino, to kill Dacer and his driver.
He said that during cross-examination, Mancao admitted that his interpretation of the conversation between Lacson and Aquino could have been wrong because he was only eavesdropping.
“In most criminal cases, this would automatically result to a dismissal of the case,” Avisado said.