No quarters for Mancao

Palace: We’ll track him down. He is a fugitive PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III on Friday rejected the appeal of fugitive Cesar Mancao for a dialogue to explain why he escaped from the National Bureau of Investigation on Thursday.
Escape. This series of CCTV footage just seconds apart released by the NBI shows former Police Supt. Cezar Mancao leaving his detention cell with an unidentified man. Danny Pata
“We are tracking him down right now. This is not something we will countenance,” presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said when asked if Mr. Aquino was open to meeting Mancao. “He is a fugitive. We will go after him and hold him accountable,” Lacierda added. Mancao, in a radio interview, said the President would understand that he escaped because there was a real threat to his life. The former police officer is among the accused in the murders of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000. Mancao implicated Senator Panfilo Lacson, an ally of the President, in the double murder, causing the senator to go into hiding for about a year to evade arrest before the Court of Appeals cleared him and found Mancao an “incredible and unworthy” witness. When Lacson resurfaced, Mr. Aquino welcomed the fugitive senator without taking him to task for defying the courts and the justice system. Asked how Mancao’s escape was different from Lacson’s decision to go into hiding, Lacierda could not give a categorical answer. Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II offered a custodial arrangement to keep Mancao safe. “If he’s in custody, we can place him in a secure place...We can give him a custodial arrangement so he would not fear for his life,” Roxas said. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has already ordered a manhunt for Mancao while the NBI said it will request a hold departure order against him. In several television and radio interviews, Mancao questioned why he was being treated as a suspect and not a state witness. “They have been too strict with me. But I do not see any justice in my fight as a witness,” Mancao said. When Mancao returned to the Philippines in 2009, he offered to turn state witness but the court hearing the case rejected his bid. De Lima on Friday told Mancao if he did not surrender soon, he would lose the government’s protective cloak. “I am calling on you Mr. Mancao. You are leaving me with no choice,” she said, as she threatened to end his coverage under the witness protection program. De Lima said she was frustrated by the escape, which put her in a bind. “I’m the one caught in the middle of this,” she said. “The court denied his being discharged as an accused, but I did not terminate his coverage under the witness protection program because I felt I have the moral obligation to protect him,” De Lima said. She said the manhunt has been intensified after a Thursday deadline for his surrender expired. Airports all over the country have also been alerted to prevent Mancao from leaving the country despite lack of an existing hold-departure order against him. The national police also formed a tracker team to help the NBI track Mancao, said police spokesman Chief Supt. Generoso Cerbo. Immigration records showed that Mancao has not yet left the country. In several interviews, Mancao said he would not surrender until his personal safety and security are assured. In an interview over Channel 5 yesterday, Mancao said his lawyers said he could continue the legal fight while he was out of detention. “The situation outside is much better for us to fight for my case instead of being inside (the jail) because they might be after my life,” said Mancao. He likened his case to Lacson, who became a fugitive from the law after he was charged in the double murder case. “That is also what happened to Senator Lacson and others—you can fight for your case while you are outside (hiding),” Mancao said, reiterating that he feared for his life if he is transferred from the NBI to the Manila City Jail. He named Lacson as the unseen hand who influenced his transfer. In a statement on Friday, Lacson said he has long forgiven Mancao for linking him to the Dacer-Corbito case. “I have long forgiven him as I have forgiven those who made me suffer for nine years of the Arroyo regime. Having said that, I have no interest in him,” he said. He further said he can’t seen any cogent reason to comment or react to Mancao’s tirades after the court had cleared him of the murder charges. Lacson said he was campaigning for his son Jay, who is running for vice governor in Cavite. The NBI was scheduled to move Mancao to the Manila City Jail on the day of his escape. “I don’t see justice in my case,” Mancao complained in one interview. He said huge amount of money changed hands and “they wield their power and influence” to get favorable decision from the judge and the Court of Appeals. NBI Director Caesar Nonnatus Rojas said they have been receiving leads about Mancao’s whereabouts. He said even though Mancao was giving media interviews, it was difficult to track him because he kept moving from place to place. He said charges have been filed against the two security guards who were on duty when Mancao walked out of his cell at about 1 a.m. Thursday. “Through their negligence, Mancao casually left his cell through its unlocked doors and escaped,” said the complaint. The two guards are detained at the NBI jail.  With Rey E. Requejo and Macon Ramos-Araneta
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