Monday, March 11, 2013
Ping Lacson: Getting Away With Murder
I was initially going to write about the Sabah front until another grim headline from the Philippines unexpectedly crossed my computer screen. The headline was accompanied by a headshot of the controversial Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson. The headline stated that the Philippine Supreme Court had terminated the legal case for murder against the solon. Identified with the 1995 killing of the Kuratong Balaleng criminal ring and deeply implicated in it as well, it seemed at one time that any reprieve for Lacson was out of the question.
But anything is possible in the Philippines provided you have the connections or money or both. Lacson apparently had both and not only escaped conviction as a result, but even any trial whatsoever. Calling this a travesty of justice does not come close to expressing how this case was concluded.
This was not first time that the senator, the former chief of the Philippine National Police under Joseph Estrada, also a former presidential contender, and a former fugitive from justice, literally got away with it.
In 2010, Lacson took off like a thief in the night and fled the Philippines before an arrest warrant for the murder of Joseph Estrada’s publicist Bubby Dacer could be carried out. Despite an international warrant for his apprehension, Lacson was able to avoid capture for about a year until a Court of Appeals in the Philippines rescinded the warrant. Exacerbating the gaping hole in justice as it was not meted out to Lacson was his stretch as a member of the infamous Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group (MISG) under the Marcos dictatorship.
The MISG was then under the Philippine Constabulary, which was Marcos’s feared apparatus of repression. The MISG was headed by an equally homicidal character, Colonel Rolando Abadilla. Abadilla it was said, “towered over other heavies in that closed, tight-knit, psychotic club of martial-law enforcers.” Lacson, mentored as he was by Abadilla, was one fellow of that psychotic club of blood strewn henchmen. For his unswerving loyalty and involvement with the group over a 15-year period, Lacson was eventually made its deputy commander. God knows how many people Lacson tortured and murdered during his time in the MISG. At least Abadilla already met his deserved fate in a public assassination.
Lacson however, despite this appalling record of systematic wickedness, is thanking his lucky stars and reveling in his flight from the law and return to political paradise as a respected senator, a post which acts as his insurance policy from any possibility of conviction. Adding insult to injury are the reports that President Noynoy Aquino is planning to offer Lacson a cabinet post––in response to the reports, Lacson said “When I get on board, it’s going to be exciting. And I’ll create more enemies.”––after his senatorial tenure ends.
It’s as if all the bloodletting, the cruelty, the human rights violations, and the cries and suffering of the torture and “salvaging” victims––much of which can be directly attributed to Lacson––was some old story that Filipinos have heard so many times that they are sick of hearing it. Well, Filipinos are sick of hearing it in part because they think there’s nothing we can do about it anyway.
I wish I could say that that Justice served and political expediency uninterrupted are finely balanced notions in the Philippines, but we all should know by now that there is almost no truth to this. Justice in the Philippines has been fighting a losing battle against the evil of lopsided self-interest and endemic corruption, against the elevated cult of material enrichment, and against the lack of empathy among the rich and powerful. The Philippine Supreme Court’s latest sham of a ruling exonerating Lacson shows that we are still playing this destructive game of sweeping all the dirt under the carpet because pursuing justice is deemed to be too hard to make it worthwhile.
I’m aware that the actual achieving of justice is not guaranteed to set a rock-solid deterrent to future misconduct in Philippine society. There will still be villainous douchebags like Ping Lacson walking around, flaunting their status and thumbing their noses at the law no matter what. But I don’t care: I want justice served if for no other reason than having these moral reprobates pay an excruciating price for their dreadful actions. If they make innocents suffer terribly, so may they suffer terribly as well.