Aquino-Galman, Dacer-Corbito Murders

Ghosts of the past often find a way to haunt us, taunt us in our latter years. Two recent news items reminded me that could be true, too, for a nation or its leaders.

I am referring to, one, the release of the convicted killers of Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. and Rolando Galman and, two, the new development in the investigation into the November 2000 killing of Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito. The first is an older issue, the latter a newer one. But both sensational cases happened in the waning years of the reigns of two presidents ousted by people power.

My take:

–I used to admire the aggressiveness of Public Attorney’s Office Chief Persida Rueda-Acosta, but her spirited reinterpretation of the Aquino-Galman murder case and his effort to evoke pity for the convicts has become grating to the ears. If former military men Rogelio Moreno, Ruben Aquino, Arnulfo Artates, Romeo Bautista, Jesus Castro, Arnulfo de Mesa, Rodolfo Desolong, Claro Lat, Ernesto Mateo and Filomeno Miranda were eligible for parole and President Arroyo granted them executive clemency, so be it.

But let us not overdo the publicity to the point of forgetting one important point: after almost three decades, these ten (out of the 16 convicted for the 1983 airport tarmac killing) seemed determined, like the others who have died before them, to bring whatever they knew of that dastardly act to their graves. That, for me, dampens whatever pity we may have for them now.

Closure in the Aquino-Galman murder case can only be had if truth is fully acquired. For starters, the claim of the convicts that Ninoy was killed by Galman, who was in turn shot by the military men present in the airport that now bears Aquino’s name, is punched with many holes. And who was the mastermind?

The convicts were insiders when the killing, which sparked the protest actions that eventually toppled the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, and yet they either continue to lie or refuse to talk. They might have been released from jail, but their refusal to tell us the truth has not fully set them free.

–We don’t know yet what former police superintendent Cesar Mancao II will tell us once he is extradited by the United States and sent back to the Philippines. So far, what we have is the claim of the lawyers of Bubby Dacer’s daughter Karina that Mancao has signed a sworn statement stating what he knew about the Dacer-Corbito killings.

The Dacer-Corbito case is part of the most under-discussed aspect of the administration of Joseph Estrada, who had at that time Panfilo Lacson as Philippine National Police chief. I am talking about the violent acts that apparently was part of the effort to hide the truth about the allegations against Erap and prop up his rule. It was during this period, for example, that the attempt on the life of Luis “Chavit” Singson was reported, which was followed by his turnaround and his testifying in the Estrada impeachment trial.

The best defense is offense and this early Lacson has insinuated that whatever Mancao will say, minions of the Arroyo administration had a hand in it. Maybe, but in the meantime we wait and hope that the truth in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case will come out. This even if time and politics (which rehabilitated both Erap and Lacson) have muddled our view of the Estrada administration.

(I wrote this for my March 6, 2009 Candid Thoughts column in Sun.Star Cebu)

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