Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s 2007 conviction for plunder was apparently insufficient to convince former President Cory Aquino to not issue her December 22, 2008 public apology to Estrada for her role in the January 2001 People Power uprising that deposed him. But perhaps Estrada’s recently disclosed role in ordering the execution of his opponents may cause Aquino, a devout Catholic who reportedly values human life, to reconsider her apology.
In his February 14, 2009 affidavit, Col. Cezar Mancao disclosed the moment in October of 2000 when he heard his Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) boss, Gen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, order Col. Michael Ray Aquino, PAOCTF chief of operations, to liquidate his opponent, Gen. Reynaldo Berroya (“Bero”). Aquino agreed to do so but informed Lacson that “Bigote” had ordered him to finish off Delta first.
In paragraph 10 of his Affidavit, Mancao explained: “Delta” referred to media and PR man Salvador “Bubby” Dacer (Dacer), while “Bigote” was the commonly-known pseudonym of Erap. Lacson however insisted that Aquino rather operate on both Berroya and Dacer simultaneously, saying “Ipagsabay mo na at tingnan natin kung sino na ang mauuna”, which obviously meant that Aquino operate on Dacer and Berroya at the same time and to just see who between them is killed first.”
The PAOCTF surveillance of Dacer and the tapping of his phones had revealed that Dacer was set to meet former President Fidel V. Ramos for lunch at the Manila Hotel on November 24, 2000 where Dacer would show Ramos “highly incriminating” documents exposing the stock manipulations of the Best World Resources company of Erap crony Dante Ang.
What happened to Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, as they headed for the Manila Hotel on the morning of November 24, 2000 is laid out in detail in the extradition complaint for Mancao that was filed by US Attorney Jennifer Keene in the Southern District of Florida on September 24, 2008.
Keene narrated that Dacer and Corbito were “abducted at the intersection of Zobel Roxas St. and Osmena Highway in Manila . Police Officers Thomas J. Sarmiento and Ruperto A. Nemena were identified as among those who abducted Dacer and Corbito. Immediately thereafter, the Sarmiento group made a U-turn at the intersection and headed towards the town of Dasmarinas , Cavite …At about 8:00 o’clock in the evening of the same day, Dacer and Corbito were brought to a creek in Barangay Buna Lejos, Indang, Cavite , where they were killed by strangulation. The bodies of Dacer and Corbito were then placed upon a heap of collected wood and tires, doused with gasoline and burned.”
In paragraph 11 of his Affidavit, Mancao recalled that “at around 11:00 in the morning of November 24, 2000, while Dumlao and myself were at my office at task group Luzon, Dumlao suddenly excused himself because he received a text message from Aquino saying that Dacer was already in the custody of Vina somewhere in the province of Cavite and thus directing him to proceed to the area to conduct tactical interrogation on Dacer. As Dumlao was leaving my office, I told him to share with me the results of his tactical interrogation.”
Mancao noted that “after Dumlao left, I immediately called Vina and verified about the alleged operation. Vina confirmed to me the operation and told me he will take care of it and that the same was upon the orders of Aquino”. Vina was also responsible for getting rid of Dacer’s car.
Later in the day, Mancao remembered that “when Dumlao returned to the office, I inquired what happened to his tactical interrogation of Dacer and he told me that he did not obtain any valuable information from the subject.”
“After learning about Dacer’s abduction”, Mancao added, “I immediately informed Lacson and asked for his guidance on the matter. Lacson instructed me to head the investigation of the incident since doing so will allow PAOCTF to control the situation by covering up the involvement of PAOCTF personnel. Accordingly, I dispatched my men to conduct a regular investigation of the incident; I also required all investigating police stations to forward to us all relevant documents, making us the repository of these documents, and thus enabled us to cover-up for the involved PAOCTF operatives. Due to my successful cover-up of the incident, Lacson and Aquino became warm and appreciative of me again.”
“Several days thereafter, news broke out about Dacer’s car being found dumped in a ravine in Margondon, Cavite ,” Mancao stated. “I chanced upon Dumlao in our office and asked him why it happened that way when Vina continuously assured me that he will take care of the situation. I remember me saying: “Akala ko plinantsa niya ng maayos?! Mapapasama tuloy tayong lahat dito!” (I thought this was supposed to be ironed out well. We’re going to look bad).
In an affidavit executed by Mancao on March 1, 2007, Mancao recalled that “sometime in August of 2001 in a Las Vegas hotel, Michael Aquino was blaming fellow officer Teofilo Vina for sloppily dumping Bubby Dacer’s car into a ravine in Cavite where it was easily discovered. Aquino was complaining that the task had not been carried out correctly. This sloppy work resulted in an investigation which later implicated Michael Aquino in Dacer and Corbito’s disappearance.”
Such sloppiness would not be tolerated. In January of 2003, Col. Vina was shot and killed, supposedly by a balikbayan who had accused Vina of sleeping with his wife. The Vina killing remains unsolved.
In her column which appeared on December 3, 2000, just 9 days after the Dacer-Corbito abduction, Philippine Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod noted that "the circumstances under which Dacer was abducted are strikingly similar to those surrounding the (October 3, 2000) attempt on Chavit Singson [governor of Ilocos Sur province] — the one that convinced him to tell his story. The latter too, was stopped — allegedly for a traffic violation, with other cars trying the ‘sandwich’ operation. The only difference is that Chavit Singson was in a bullet-proof car, and, probably being very familiar with this kind of situation, was able to call for help which came immediately. He was lucky — his mayors were around. Dacer had no such luck.”
Neither did Pagcor casino employee Edgar Bentain. Soon after his name appeared in the press as the person who leaked the embarrassing video of Estrada gambling at the Heritage Hotel casino, Bentain disappeared. In his sworn testimony before the Philippine Senate on August 17, 2001, PAOCTF civilian employee Odor Mawanay revealed that PAOCTF men abducted Bentain and immersed him alive in cement inside a drum. Mawanay identified Col. Michael Ray Aquino as the officer who ordered the drum to be covered and buried near a bridge in Pampanga.
If Estrada had not been deposed in January of 2001, who knows how many more Dacers and Corbitos would have been killed on orders of “Bigote”?