Ping linked to ‘bugs’

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE wiretapping equipment seized by police near the home of former President Corazon Aquino last week was very similar to the bugging devices used by agents of the defunct Task Force Habagat and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force then under National Police Chief Panfilo Lacson, a retired police officer said yesterday.

Former Gen. Reynaldo Berroya, now chief of the Land Transportation Office, said the devices found near Mrs. Aquino’s Quezon City home were identical to those seized by former Police Gen. Eduardo Matillano at the Kiangan Hall and used by the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission and Special Project Alpha agents before the May 1998 elections.

“Look who’s talking!” Berroya said. “Wasn’t it him who was implicated in the illegal bugging operations inside the headquarters of the Task Force Habagat at the Kiangan Hall in Camp Crame, Quezon City?”

Berroya dared Lacson to come up with evidence before for pointing an accusing finger at the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces as the group behind the wiretapping of Mrs. Aquino’s landline phones.

Berroya and Matillano, Lacson’s classmate in the Philippine Military Academy Class 1971, raided the Task Force Habagat headquarters that led to the confiscation of several bugging devices and cassette tapes containing voice recordings of civilians and police officers inside Camp Crame.

Berroya said among the voice recordings found was that of former Senator Leticia Ramos Shahani, sister of former President Fidel Ramos, and other senior police officers including Gen. Reynaldo Velasco.

Matillano filed wiretapping charges against Lacson before the Ombudsman, but those charges were mysteriously dropped when President Joseph Estrada won in the 1998 presidential elections.

Former anti-drug agent turned whistleblower Mary Ong, alias Rosebud, said Lacson, who is seeking re-election as senator under the Genuine Opposition party, was living under the shadow of his own lies and sins.

“Pointing at others doesn’t make Lacson less of a sinner, and blaming others for his own sins does not make him a hero,” Ong told reporters in a text message.

“It’s sad people have forgotten how he pushed me to expose his involvement in such crimes as murder and illegal drugs,” she said. “It’s painful to see him even rise after he committed those sins.”

Berroya also rejected Lacson’s claims that the bugging devices found near Mrs. Aquino’s residence cost P500.

“Pati yun inover-price pa n’ya, eh P160 lang ang worth nun,” [Even those things he had to overprice, when they cost only P160]” he said.