Two years ago this month, former Pres. Joseph “Erap” Estrada was found guilty of Plunder by the Philippine Anti-Graft Court (Sandigan Bayan). In a column I wrote about the verdict (“No Tears for Estrada”, September 17, 2007), I expressed my regret that the Sandigan Bayan judges never charged Estrada for his role in the abduction and murders of Salvador "Bubby" Dacer, Emmanuel Corbito and Edgar Bentain.
“According to members of his family, Bubby Dacer was bawled out by Estrada in Malacañang in November of 2000 shortly before he and his driver, Corbito, were abducted by members of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) headed by Gen. Panfilo Lacson and tortured and executed. The PAOCTF soldiers who admitted killing Dacer and Corbito pointed to Col. Glenn Dumlao as their commanding officer. Before he fled to the US, Col. Dumlao pointed to Col. Cezar Mancao and Col. Michael Ray Aquino as the officers who gave him the orders. Before they could point their fingers as to who directed them, Mancao and Aquino fled to the US upon instructions of Lacson. If Lacson had been fingered by Mancao and Aquino, would he have pointed the finger to Estrada?” I asked.
The answer is an unqualified "Yes!". In two privileged speeches delivered on the floor of the Philippine Senate this past week, Sen. Lacson “pointed the finger” directly at Estrada as the man who gave the orders to neutralize Dacer. Lacson said that Estrada had the means, the opportunity and the motive. But Sen. Lacson did not provide the full picture.
Dacer’s problems with Estrada began when Emil Jurado, a newspaper columnist of the Manila Standard daily, wrote in his March 29, 1999 column that a “demolition team” composed of “two former members of the Ramos Cabinet; a former Lakas spokesman and propaganda chief; a head of the Ramos media bureau; and another – a well-known PR practitioner” was formed “for the sole purpose of embarrassing President Estrada by attributing to his administration all sorts of perceived faults and scams with the end in=2 0view of covering up anomalies and scams also committed during the Ramos administration.”
On April 5, 1999, D acer wrote Estrada to deny the charge of Jurado who “virtually identified [him] as the one behind the so-called demolition team.” In his letter, Bubby Dacer assured Estrada of his clear conscience, support and “abiding loyalty.”
On June 7, 1999, Jurado again wrote in his column that “[o]n the flight to Tokyo, the President expressed his great disappointment in a PR man whom he had considered a friend, and in fact is a compadre twice over, who has been identified with a demolition team out to embarrass not only his administration but his presidency as well.”
On June 9, 1999, Dacer again wrote Estrada to refute the “lies” which he believed “were caused by envy” of people “attempt[ing] to drive a wedge” between them. Dacer also wrote Jurado directly to express his “deep sorrow” about the latter’s columns and voiced his suspicion that “Gen. Ping Lacson has been rekindling all the inimical gossip against [him]…in revenge of [his] support for Gen. Bobby Lastimoso,” then PNP Director-General and Lacson’s nemesis in the so-called “Generals’ War,” the long-running feud between the two generals.
When Estrada started looking for a replacement for Gen. Lastimoso, Dacer openly lobbied Estrada against the appointment of Lacson. In his October 8, 1999 letter to Estrada, Dacer noted Lacson’s “ruthless abuse of power in pursuit of his goals.”
Despit e Dacer’s opposition, Estrada promoted Lacson as Director-General of the PNP on November 16, 1999. Lacson, in turn, appointed Col. Aquino as the Deputy Director (and acting OIC) of the PNP-Intelligence Group (“PNP-IG”), the country’s counterintelligence agency.
Col. Aquino then ordered Col. Dumlao to “conduct discrete Background Investigation” on Dacer. He directed Dumlao to monitor Dacer’s visitors and to enter his office at the Manila Hotel to plant listening devices there.
In September of 2000, Dacer met with Butch Tenorio, a PAOCTF consultant, and Dante Tan, the chair of Best World resources (BW) and a businessman crony of Estrada. Dacer again vehemently denied that he was involved in any effort to destabilize Estrada’s government.
After Tenorio and Tan reported their conversation with Dacer, a group of PAOCTF operatives was convened in or about the first week of October 2000 “to neutralize Dacer” after a “clearance from Malacanang was given.” Tenorio and Tan were tasked to handle the expenses of the “operation”; Col. Dumlao and his assistants were ordered to handle the monitoring, surveillance and abduction of the “target individual”; and Aquino and Task Group-Visayas Chief P/Supt. Col. Teofilo Vina were directed to take care of the “final phase.”
On November 21, 2000, Dacer was summoned to Malacanang Palace to meet with Estrada. At the meeting, Estrada informed Dacer that his intel ligence operatives had confirmed to him that Dacer had been actively working with former President Ramos and the opposition to have him impeached. Dacer vehemently denied the charges but Estrada could not be placated. Dacer left the Palace in mortal fear of his life.
On November 24, 2000, Dacer left his home headed for the Manila Hotel for a lunch appointment with former Pres. Ramos. En route, PAOCTF operatives intercepted his car and abducted Dacer and his driver, Corbito, and brought in a van to a town in Cavite. While blindfolded and in handcuffs, Dacer was interrogated by Col. Dumlao who was also ordered to pick up Dacer's attaché case. According to Dumlao, the case contained Best World (BW) documents which Dacer planned to hand over to Ramos. On Aquino’s orders, Dumlao burned the documents at the Balara Dam.
Among the BW documents that later surfaced was a July 1999 letter from BW chair Dante Tan authorizing the transfer of 300,000 shares of BW Stock to PNP Gen. Lacson worth 3.21 million pesos. Another document was a letter from Estrada’s lawyer written on Malacanang Palace stationary directing BW chair Tan to turn over 500 million pesos to Estrada.
Means, opportunity and motive.