Where is Lacson? High court may hand down ruling anytime

Posted: 2:42 AM (Manila Time) | Oct. 07, 2003
By Christian V. Esguerra, Philip C. Tubeza and Christine O. Avendaño
Inquirer News Service

Ruling may come Tuesday

SENATOR Panfilo Lacson has made himself scarce amid reports that the Supreme Court will rule anytime now against him and 33 others implicated in the case of the murder of suspected members of the Kuratong Baleleng criminal gang in 1995.

As a principal suspect, Lacson faces arrest if the high tribunal calls for reopening the multiple murder case against him.

A high-ranking Philippine National Police (PNP) official associated with Lacson said that only police Chief Superintendent Francisco Zubia might be around to face arresting officers if the tribunal handed its decision down.

Only Zubia among the police officers implicated in the case may be in the country, the PNP official told the Inquirer. As for the others, "even if they're here, they won't allow themselves to be captured alive," he said.

Lacson was the head of the defunct Presidential Anti-Crime Commission's Task Force Habagat when 11 suspected members of the Kuratong Baleleng gang were killed eight years ago. Their bullet-riddled bodies were found in a van on a flyover in Quezon City on May 18, 1995. Witnesses said the suspected gang members were summarily executed while in the custody of arresting officers.

Sources in Lacson's camp said the senator had been advised to "make himself scarce" starting Monday for two reasons.

One was that Lacson's friends in the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had received reports of threats on his life, apparently from people not keen about his delivery of the third installment of his exposé against the President's husband, the sources said.

Another was that Lacson's friends advised him that he would be put under surveillance because the Supreme Court was set to rule Tuesday on the reopening of the Kuratong Baleleng "rubout" case, the sources added.

A warrant of arrest for Lacson is reportedly going to be issued immediately and enforced after release of the court ruling, the sources said.

If no warrant is issued Tuesday, the sources said, Lacson would attend Wednesday's session to deliver his privileged speech against First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, whom he has accused of corruption and money laundering.

Lacson deferred Monday his delivery in the Senate of what should have been the last part of his exposé against Arroyo.

The Senate through Senate President Franklin Drilon was informed that Lacson was not attending Monday's session because he had an "out-of-town engagement."

Lacson's chief of staff, Ermin Garcia, said Lacson "is in town, but I have no idea where."

"He is probably missing two people like Wycoco and Matillano, who are after him," Garcia said, referring to National Bureau of Investigation chief Reynaldo Wycoco and police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group head Eduardo Matillano. "Otherwise, I have not heard anything unusual about his movements."

An official of the Department of Justice said authorities were prepared "for any eventuality" if the Supreme Court rules with finality that Lacson be charged in connection with the Kuratong Baleleng case.

"We are ready to implement whatever the Supreme Court's judgment will be. The important thing is to uphold the majesty of the law," Justice Undersecretary Jose Calida said.

Talk spread Monday that the Supreme Court would hand down the ruling Tuesday. Calida said that if the high court decides to revive the charges, the Quezon City Regional Trial Court would issue an arrest warrant against Lacson.

Multiple murder "is a non-bailable offense, so the judge will have to issue the arrest warrant," he noted.

When the case was filed with the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, the judge dismissed it. A petition to reopen the case was filed before the Supreme Court, which on April 2 ordered the reopening of the case, including the multiple murder case against Lacson.

The Supreme Court directed the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 81 to "forthwith proceed with Criminal Cases 01-101101 to 01-101112 with deliberate dispatch."

Lacson asked the Supreme Court to reverse its decision by filing a motion for reconsideration.

06/10/2003

Bron : Inq7.net

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