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Mancao escapes, fears for his life

Accuses Ping of slay plot; manhunt on The government ordered a massive manhunt for a suspect and witness in the November 2000 Dacer-Corbito double murder after former police officer Cezar Mancao II escaped from the National Bureau of Investigation early Thursday morning. NBI Director Ceasar Nonnatus Rojas said he had alerted all bureau units nationwide about the manhunt. “What is important now to have Mancao back. The manhunt will be continuous because this is a big slap on us,” he said. He also said heads will roll and appropriate charges will be filed against all those responsible for the escape of Mancao, one of the accused in the November 2000 abduction and killing of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito. “We are now conducting a full investigation to pinpoint the people responsible for the escape,” Rojas said. NBI Deputy Director Reynaldo Esmeralda said Mancao escaped shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday and was seen on the closed-circuit TV system leaving his room and going out of the NBI gate on Taft Avenue towards a waiting vehicle. He said Mancao left a note inside his cell that read: “Don’t remove my things without an inventory. I’m a victim of injustice here. Thank you. C M.” Esmeralda said he believed Mancao’s escape was triggered by his scheduled transfer to the Manila City Jail. Mancao has been under the NBI’s custody since January 2012 following an order of the Manila RTC Branch 32. After the same court denied his motion to become a state witness in the double-murder case, it ordered that he be moved to a regular jail. Esmeralda said he had been texting Mancao to surrender peacefully. He said the two guards on duty when Mancao escaped were already under investigation. But Mancao, in an interview over ANC from an undisclosed location, said the guards did not know anything about the escape. “I just pulled one over them,” he said. Mancao also said he had talked to Esmeralda hours after his escape, and described the NBI official as “reasonable.” President Benigno Aquino III ordered Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to conduct an investigation to determine how Mancao was able to escape and who should be held liable. The incident was discovered by NBI officials at 3 a.m. After being informed of escape, De Lima said she immediately talked to Mancao on the phone. “He (Mancao) was apologetic. He said sorry for what he did. He repeatedly said he has no choice because he fears for his life – that he would be certainly killed once transferred to the city jail,” De Lima said. “So I told him we can address his fear, but I demanded and urged him to surrender right away because running away would exacerbate his situation,” De Lima added. De Lima said she even volunteered to pick him up so he could feel safer, but Mancao asked for a few days to think it over, a request the Justice secretary refused. In his ANC interview, Mancao said there was an orchestrated plan to transfer him to the city jail to get him killed. He blamed Senator Panfilo Lacson, whom he had accused of being the mastermind in the double murder, for arranging his transfer. Lacson didn’t take calls. Mancao also complained about his treatment at the NBI, where he said he was not fed properly and was kept in the heat while other prisoners had air conditioned cells. He also complained of “a big man” lurking near his cell. “Am I supposed to simply wait for the bullet?” Mancao said to explain his escape. Lacson and two other principal accused—former Sr. Supt. Michael Ray Aquino and Supt. Glenn Dumlao—were earlier cleared of the double murder charges, leaving Mancao as the lone principal accused in the celebrated case attributed to the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force. Lacson was head of the task force at the time. Mancao, who had gone into hiding after the double murder, was extradited from the United States in 2009. On his return, he agreed to testify against Lacson. But the Court of Appeals nullfied the charges against Lacson and declared Mancao as an “incredible and unworthy witness.” The Justice Department kept Mancao in its witness protection program for the cases against the other accused. Mancao’s former lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said the court’s refusal to have him discharged as an accused in the case weighed heavily on Mancao. In a statement, Topacio said Mancao has a “justifiable frustration with the way he was being shabbily treated by the DOJ.” “Mancao, who has risked everything—life, honor, family— has remained living the life of a miserable prisoner, who cannot earn a living, away from family and friends, without livelihood and liberty and neglected by the state that had initially sought his help,” he said. In his affidavit executed in Feb.14, 2009 in Broward County, Florida, Mancao said it was Lacson who ordered the killing of Dacer and Corbito, prompting the daughters of Dacer to file a double murder case against the senator. With  Rey E. Requejo and  Joyce Pangco Pañares
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