Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts

Volume 2, Number 49              January 19 - 25, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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The Presidentiables

The next Philippine elections are still more than a year away – 16 months to be exact – yet surveys of presidentiables, declarations of candidacy (or non-candidacy) and slimy exchanges of accusations already bombard the public. Whether we like it or not, the election fever is intensifying and it is best to be prepared rather than be manipulated by unscrupulous media spins and political maneuvers. Thus, Election Watch will feature articles related to the political circus called elections. This week, we are posting brief sketches of the survey topnotchers.

Lacson: Hero or Villain?

By Ronalyn Olea

No doubt, opposition Senator Panfilo ‘Ping’ Lacson is among the most controversial politicians in the country today.

Identified with ousted President Joseph Estrada, the former chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) planned two destabilization plots against the Macapagal-Arroyo administration. This was revealed by Reynaldo Berroya, PNP-Central Luzon chief and Lacson’s arch enemy, sometime in October last year.

In one of his privilege speeches before the Senate, Lacson described the Macapagal-Arroyo administration as ‘powerfully corrupt’ and called First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo as the head of the Department of the Underground.  Lacson claimed that Mike Arroyo is responsible for assigning cronies to positions of power and making money out of them.

The senator was among the first to speak about the involvement of Mike Arroyo in the alleged US$14 million IMPSA bribery scandal and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) scam.

Despite his fearless accusations against the present administration, Lacson himself has been linked to many scandals.

In August last year, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed cases of perjury and non-disclosure of assets against Lacson.  This came after the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported that the Lacsons have at least three accounts in various banks in the United States (U.S.), the biggest of which allegedly had a US$ 200,000 (P10 million) deposit.  The U.S. Treasury confirmed the allegations.

When asked whether the accusations were true, Lacson said his accounts were no longer active.

Meanwhile, Col. Victor Corpuz, chief of the Intelligence Services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), bared that Lacson laundered US$ 211.4 million in eight bank accounts in Hongkong, Canada and the U.S.

NBI chief Reynaldo Wycoco also exposed to the media Lacson’s P150-million worth of mansions in Ayala Alabang, Muntinlupa City and BF Homes in Parañaque.  Both properties were not listed in the senator’s yearly statement of assets and liabilities.

Corpuz claimed that Lacson’s wealth came from alleged links with big-time drug leaders and kidnappers.  He supported this claim with various witnesses who testified during the Senate probe on Lacson’s money-laundering cases.

Mary Ong, probably the most celebrated witness, said that Lacson indeed used his position as PNP chief to manipulate his subordinates into becoming runners for the Hong kong Triad, a big drug-trafficking syndicate. 

At the height of the impeachment trial, Lacson allegedly deposited US$1 million in his account.   

Lacson was also implicated in the Kuratong Baleleng rubout in 1995. Although the Court of Appeals has issued a permanent injunction order on the case, civil society groups have demanded the reopening of the case before the Supreme Court.

In an interview with Lacson in 2001, he was asked if he intends to run for president in 2004. He replied: “It has never crossed my mind. If I could only turn back the hands of time, I would not have run for the Senate.”

But as early as November last year, the senator announced that he would seek the presidency, the first politician to do so. Recently, he toned down a bit, coating his intentions with coy pronouncements that the ultimate decision rests with his party, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP).

On the other hand, it would be interesting to turn forward the hands of time and see how history would treat Lacson – a man with criminal links or a top-notched police chief and crime buster.

But for an Ateneo student interviewed by Bulatlat.com, Lacson as president is not an option: “I would go to the hills if Lacson or FPJ (Fernando Poe Jr.) becomes our president,” he said. Bulatlat.com 

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