Monday, July 30, 2007

Connecting the Dots

The free online encyclopedia Wikipedia informs us that Philippine publicist Salvador “Bubby” Dacer was murdered on November 24, 2000 by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP): “Bubby Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, were abducted in Makati. They were later killed, and their vehicle dumped.

In 2001, a number of arrests were made One of the accused, police colonel Glenn Dumlao named Cesar Mancao and Michael Ray Aquino as the organizers of the murders. Mancao and Aquino both fled the country. Dumlao later disappeared.

Wikipedia further notes: “The ultimate reasons for Dacer's murder remain a subject of debate. (former Philippine president) Fidel Ramos has publicly accused his successor, Joseph Estrada, of giving the original order — Estrada was mired in a corruption scandal at the time, and according to some reports, believed Dacer was helping Ramos destabilize his rule.

Panfilo Lacson, then a top police officer (now a senator), is also accused by some. Dacer had worked for Roberto Lastimoso, an enemy of Lacson, and according to Dacer's daughter Amparo, Dacer had evidence of crimes committed by Lacson.”

Two weeks ago on July 18, 2007, former PNP Col. Michael Ray Aquino was sentenced to six years and four months in prison by US Judge William Walls in New Jersey for his role in a plot where he obtained secret US documents in an effort to undermine the Philippine government. Before the sentence was rendered, however, US Attorney Christopher J. Christie submitted a 92-page memorandum asking for a higher sentence for Aquino because of “Aquino’s involvement in the abduction and murders of Dacer and Corbito.” Aquino's lawyer had asked for a sentence of less than four years.

The Memorandum, a copy of which was obtained by this writer, noted that PNP Col. Glenn Dumlao had submitted a sworn statement on June 21, 2001 implicating Aquino and Col. Cezar Mancao in the murders of Dacer and Corbito. Col. Dumlao fled to the US in 2001 and was also contacted by US Attorney Christie during the government’s investigation of Aquino. In an interview in 2006 in New Jersey with his lawyer Felix Vinluan present, "Dumlao affirmed that Aquino participated in the abduction of Dacer-Corbito by directing him and others to kidnap and interrogate Dacer and Corbito, and destroy evidence of the crime.”

According to the government's Memorandum, Dumlao voluntarily provided detailed information to the US government about his and Aquino’s participation in the double murders. Col. Mancao, who fled to the US with Aquino in 2001, was also contacted by the US Attorney in 2006. “Likewise," the Memorandum stated, "Mancao voluntarily submitted to several interviews with the (US) government (in the presence of his attorney, Michael Schutt). During those interviews, Mancao told the government, among other things, that he believed that Aquino was involved in the abductions of Dacer and Corbito because Aquino told him that he had ordered others to hide evidence of the crimes.”

Aquino’s role in the murders was as “coordinator” of the “PAOCTF men in charge of abducting Dacer.” The PAOCTF (Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force) was headed at the time by Gen. Panfilo Lacson. The Memorandum noted that Aquino “gave direct orders” to the participants and “was obviously stage-managing the entire operation via cellular telephone that culminated in their slayings.” The memorandum noted further that “in the face multiple investigations for his involvement in, among other things, the KB (Kuratong Baleleng) Incident, the Dacer-Corbito murders, and the State of Rebellion charges, Aquino (together with Mancao) fled the Philippines on or about June 21, 2001” and went to the US on tourist visas.

“Mancao affirmed that he and Aquino ‘heard’ from Lacson that they would be arrested ‘in an effort to destroy Lacson’s reputation and negatively affect Lacson’s possible chances of a presidential bid in 2004’…Lacson later directed Aquino and Mancao to leave the country.”

In the section “Aquino Acts as Lacson’s Agent After Fleeing from the RP,” the Memorandum detailed the activities of Aquino fter moving to New York. When Lacson traveled to the US in September of 2003, Aquino went with him to Florida to meet with Mark Jimenez before Jimenez was sentenced to 27 months in federal prison for tax evasion and election fraud.

Leandro Aragoncillo, Aquino’s co-defendant who was sentenced to 10 years for espionage by the same federal judge, acknowledged that Aquino was the one who informed him in September of 2003 about Lacson’s visit to Jimenez, the
Memorandum noted, “belying Aquino’s assertion that he had limited contact with Aragoncillo prior to January 2005.”

In January of 2005, Aquino introduced Aragoncillo to Lacson as a “US Marine who was assigned to an FBI intelligence unit”. Aquino told Lacson that Aragoncillo wanted to provide Lacson with information about “briefings attended by Aragoncillo about the political situation in the Philippines…Specifically,
Aquino wrote that Aragoncillo sought to provide information to Lacson about changing the current RP government with a revolutionary government.”

“Aquino (using his intelligence training) suggested to Lacson that they listen to Aragoncillo and ‘confirm/check’ or vet his information. Foreshadowing efforts to remove President Arroyo, Aquino recommended to Lacson that they use Aragoncillo and his information ‘especially if this will be a catalyst for change in our country’. …Sometime shortly after, Lacson communicated with Aragoncillo.

In turn, Aragoncillo began transmitting classified documents and information, including documents containing national defense information, to both Aquino and Lacson, approximately two weeks later.” Two months later, in March of 2005, Aquino was arrested by US immigration agents for being an overstaying alien. While Aquino was in federal custody,
Aragoncillo visited him, identifying himself to the authorities as an FBI agent. This piqued the immigration officials' interest, causing them to inquire from the FBI about Aragoncillo.

When the FBI conducted its own investigation of Aragoncillo, officials discovered the trail of emails from Aragoncillo to Aquino and Lacson transmitting classified FBI documents.

While in immigration custody, Aquino's bail was set at $50,000 which required a posting of 10% to the bail bondsman. The Memorandum noted that it was Lacson who sent the money to Mancao in Florida to send to Aquino’s family in New York for Aquino’s bailout.

As a result of the FBI investigation, both Aquino and Aragoncillo were arrested by US authorities in September of 2005 and charged with espionage and conspiracy. Lacson was named as an unindicted co-conspirator. Just before the US Attorney Karl Buch was set to travel to the Philippines to depose Lacson, Aquino pled guilty to the charges against him, saving Lacson from the humiliation and legal complication of having to subject himself to a deposition. Like a good samurai, Aquino had fallen on the sword for his Emperor.

The Los Angeles-based daughter of Bubby Dacer, Carina, is not satisfied with the sentence of Aquino. “He only receives orders. Like everyone else who was jailed for my father’s murder, they only took orders,” she said.

The question remains: who gave the orders to abduct and kill Dacer and Corbito?

No comments: