Robredo coddling Ping?

PNS — They condemned it during then President Gloria Arroyo’s time in Malacañang, but now that they occupy the same Palace, they now sing the same song she sang, whenever allegations were leveled against the President and his Cabinet members: Show the proof.

Reacting to accusations made by a lawyer of a state witness in the Dacer-Corbito twin murders that Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo is coddling fugitive Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Malacañang yesterday dared Ferdinand Topacio, counsel of former Police officer Cesar Mancao, to come up with evidence that Robredo is protecting Lacson.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Topacio should back up his charge that Robredo has been shielding Lacson from arrest.

A day earlier, in a TV interview, Topacio alleged that Robredo has been “protecting” Lacson after the Local Government chief refused to put up a P2-million reward for the arrest of the senator.

Under the law, Lacierda said that the burden of proof would be on Topacio to prove his allegations.

Malacañang ridiculed Topacio’s charges on the basis of Robredo’s opposition to the Department of Justice’s (DoJ)’s proposal to impose a P2-million bounty on his head.

“My good friend Ferdie Topacio is always fond of doing sound bites. I would like to see first his basis for saying that. The mere fact that the Secretary of

Interior and Local Government said that no reward is needed means that the bounty is not necessary just to show our intention (of arresting Lacson),” Lacierda said.

“I’ve spoken to Secretary Robredo and he said that he doesn’t want to telegraph his punches. At the end of the day, Senator Lacson is a fugitive from justice and the law enforcement agencies will perform their duties with or without a reward,” he added.

In the same vein, Lacierda also rejected the suggestions of Mary Rosebud Ong—the police agent who previously implicated Lacson in many anomalies during his stint at the defunct Philippine Anti-Organized Crime Task Force—for President Aquino to make a strong statement against the fugitive senator including the possibility of issuing a “shoot to kill order” in the event he struggles to fight the authorities once he gets arrested.

“That’s very, very speculative. We know the motives of Rosebud in issuing statements like that. She’s a little bit biased. Our position remains that we are continuing our efforts to search Senator Lacson,” Lacierda said.

Lacierda stressed that the pronouncements of DoJ Secretary Leila de Lima with respect to the her department’s actions on this matter should serve as enough indication that the Aquino administration is serious in its vow to see justice served.

He said the mere statement of the President that he does not wish to consider the Lacson manhunt a priority should not be taken against the entire government and the law enforcement agencies which are doing their part to locate the whereabouts of the fugitive lawmaker.

“It does not require the President to order. They are doing it based on outstanding warrant of arrest. We have heard the statement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and that should be sufficient. What they want to do is to pin the President into a corner but you don’t have to do that. The determination of our administration and the law enforcement agencies concerned to look for the whereabouts of Senator Ping Lacson is already there,” Lacierda explained.

He insisted that Aquino’s continuous detachment from the predicament of Lacson, his known ally and one of his closest associates in the Senate, is not enough reason to claim that his administration is coddling him.

When asked if Malacañang is satisfied with the way the National Bureau of Investigation agents are handling their investigation on the whereabouts of Lacson, now that the DoJ has reportedly indicated their disappointment with their perfomance, Lacierda opted to be circumspect.

“Based on the intelligences that they gather, we are not competent to say whether they had enough intelligence. We trust them to do their jobs, it’s the duty of the law enforcement agencies and they are continuously making efforts to find Senator Ping Lacson in the areas where they think he is being coddled. So as far as the government is concerned, the hunt for Senator Lacson goes on with or without a reward,” said the Palace spokesman.

At the same time, the DoJ clarified that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has no jurisdiction to arrest murder suspect Lacson.

DoJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III made the clarification in the wake of allegations that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) does not seem to be sincere in looking for the exact location of Lacson.

Baraan explained that the order issued by the court is a warrant of arrest which only the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the NBI have the jurisdiction to implement and serve against the senator.

In a related development, Sen.Gregorio Honasan said he is not about to abandon plans of introducing a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the reinvestigation of the Dacer-Corbito case involving their colleague.

The appellate court had already thumbed down a reinvestigation of the case as well as junked Lacson’s motion for a temporary restraining order against his arrest warrant.

Honasan said he will be pursuing this despite earlier pronouncements from Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile who had disapproved the idea, saying the move would be seen as a transgression of the separation of powers of the legislature and the judiciary.

“Although our Senate president has already spoken on the matter, I will still have to consult the other officers (of the upper chamber.

“If there is no showing that this will not be feasible, then I will not insist on it. It’s just that I feel that it’s my duty as a lawmaker to come up with such a proposal so that justice may be served not only to Lacson but also to the family (of the victims),” he said, the latter referring to the families of Dacer and his driver.

“So if after a consultation with the other officers and my colleagues in the Senate they’re not inclined to support such a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the case of Lacson deserves a second look, why should I continue with it?” he said.