The Return of the Fugitive
MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday denied he had struck a deal with the government to have the charges against him dropped in exchange for his vote to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Lacson, a retired general and former national police chief, was accused in 2009 of ordering the abduction and murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.
He evaded capture for more than a year while on the run before an appellate court last month cleared him of murder charges and revoked the warrant. That decision was finalized last week.
Lacson, a vocal critic of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said he did not come out from hiding to help President Benigno Aquino III impeach Gutierrez, an Arroyo ally.
Sixteen votes are needed in the 24-member Senate, which Aquino does not control, to convict Gutierrez.
“There is no deal,” said Lacson, who is known as an Aquino ally.
“I’m not a shoo-in judge who will vote for the impeachment of Ombudsman Gutierrez, that much I can assure you. I have been a victim of twisted rules of evidence.”
Last week, Gutierrez was impeached by the lower house of Congress, sending her for trial for betrayal of public trust for sitting on several corruption complaints against Arroyo.
Lacson said he had returned from Hong Kong on Saturday using a temporary travel document because his passport had been revoked after he had fled the country.
While on the run since January 2010, his whereabouts were unknown and even international police could not find him.
Lacson recalls life on the run
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News’ Lynda Jumilla on Monday, Lacson recalled the hardships he went through while he was a fugitive from law.
“Palipat-lipat. Di ka naman puwede mag-stay sa isang lugar lalo na kung may information na dumadating na alam na iyung lugar na iyon. Di ko na iintayin iyun. I feel kasi na I have to be 2 steps ahead… dahil kung hindi talagang yari ka,” he said.
He added that he received help from some friends overseas.
“Merong kaibigan na nagsabi, mga supporters ninyo kami nun pang kampanya niyo and huwag mag-alala dahil bukas tahanan,” he said. “Pero at the same time magi-isip ka din dahil hindi mo naman iyan mga dating kaibigan… but then wala ka choice. You don’t have luxury of choosing… or time to think abt staying there.”
Lacson said he was ready to spend the rest of life hiding.
“Actually Lynda, prepared na ako mamamatay hiwalay ng pamilya. Iyun bang for the rest of my life prepared na ko mag-spend ng time sa labas… napaka unjust, unfair sa isip ko ung ginagawa nila,” he said.
He added that he felt helpless at times when he could not be near his family.
“May mga problem na nangyayari and yet wala ako doon to lend a hand, advice. Ang dami – na-open open heart surgery misis ko. wala ako doon, what if may nangyari? Mga anak ko may sarili din problema… napakabigat talaga dalhin,” he said.
“Pero maganda na rin iyung training ko na stability under pressure, somehow natatanggap ko, talagang nangyayari sa buhay ng tao. Talagang mabigat dalhin. Ang pinakamabigat sa loob mo is iyung you feel so helpless.”
Lacson said he did housework for friends who sheltered him.
“Siyempre makikisama ka. Natuto ako mabilis maghugas ng pinggan. Natuto ako syempre magluto, maglinis ng bahay, mag-mop, mag-make ng sarili kong bed. Di puwede porke’t bisita ka, syempre ikaw mismo,” the senator said.
“Inalis ko na pagiging senador. Tinuruan naman kami nung maliit kami. Nag-occupy sa isip ko, iyung challenge na mag-bake ng pandesal. Halos araw-araw nagluluto, nagbe-bake, kahit ensaymada natutunan ko na rin.”
He said he has yet to identify who is behind the moves to have him imprisoned for the Dacer-Corbito case.
“Aalamin ko pa. Kaya ko alamin oiyon dahil dati naman ako nagi-imbestiga. Obvious, sundan mo na lang malalaman mo na,” he said.
Lacson expressed hopes for a closure in the case.
“I hope the truth will finally come out and iyung malagot, malagot. In fairness to the Dacer family, kaya hindi ko din makuha magalit sa kanila. Narinig mo ba sumagot ako sa kanila, because I understand perfectly they lost a father. Even Corbito. Kakampi naman ako victims ng crime,” he said.
The senator said he wants to focus next on improving the justice system.
“Andun pa rin advocacy ko against corruption. Ang isang pagtutuunan ko ng pansin iyung injustice done to many similarly situated or maybe worse because they’re incarcerated,” he said. “How many falsely accused now suffering in jail? Medyo gagawi ako dun siguro sa legislative work or even my personal capacity to help those who deserve a better application of justice.” – Reports from Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News; Reuters