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Lacson denies involvement in torture group during Martial Law; maintains innocence in Kuratong Baleleng, Dacer-Corbito cases

By NICK GARCIA Published Jan 23, 2022 8:26 pm

Sen. Ping Lacson maintained that his hands were clean during the dark days of Martial Law, as a history book identified him as part of an elite torture group.

During the presidential candidate’s interview with GMA Network’s Jessica Soho on Jan. 22, Lacson was asked about his thoughts on American historian Alfred McCoy’s 1999 book, Dark Legacy: Human Rights Under Marcos Regime.

An excerpt of the book was shown on screen, which read: “Then Lieutenant, now General, Panfilo Lacson, for example, joined the MISG right after graduation and spent the next fifteen years in this elite torture unit, rising to deputy command.” MISG refers to the Metrocom Intelligence Security Group, which was behind the torture and disappearance of activists and critics of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“Alam mo, maraming mali sa sinulat ni Alfred McCoy,” Lacson said. “Nilahat niya iyong aking buong klase, iyong (Philippine Military Academy) Class '71.”

Lacson denied involvement with the torture of political prisoners, saying that in MISG, he was part of the Police Intelligence Branch, which focused on criminality. It’s the Security Branch that handled insurgency issues, he explained.

Lacson said his work focused on investigating kidnap-for-ransom, robbery hold-up, and common crimes cases.

“Iyon po ang aking pinamumunuan noon. Kaya mali ho agad yung kaniyang premise na ako kasama doon sa mga nagto-torture ng mga political prisoners. Hindi po totoo iyon,” he said.

Human rights groups have estimated that under the Marcos regime, there were over 3,200 extrajudicial killings, 35,000 tortures, 70 “disappearances” or desaparecidos, and 70,000 imprisoned.

Lacson went on to describe the supposed positive effects of martial law at least for the first six months but took a turn for the worse because of greedy officials.

“Napakadisiplinado ng mga tao. Alam mo, nagkawala, maski istambay,” he said. “Ang dumarating sa aming mga complaints noon, away ng kapitbahay. Iyon ang pinakamalala.”

“But over time, after six months, pumasok na iyong abuso. Pumasok na iyong greed,” he said, adding that as a result, the implementation of the measure had been for naught.

Still, Lacson insisted that he did his part in preventing abuses during the dark period in Philippine history.

From law enforcer, lawmaker to lawbreaker?

Soho also asked Lacson about being a “lawbreaker” by leaving the country and going into hiding in 2010 after being implicated in the murders of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.

Lacson said that he didn’t break the law, as jurisprudence allows someone who has been accused like him to leave the country, even with a warrant of arrest.

“Noong ako’y umalis, wala ho akong warrant of arrest. Wala akong viniolate kasi wala akong hold departure order,” he said, stressing that his actions were within the criminal justice system upon consultation with his lawyer.

Lacson also reiterated that he didn’t have a hand in the Kuratong Baleleng massacre in 1995.

In 2001, former military intelligence chief Col. Victor Corpus accused Lacson of being behind the summary execution of 11 members of the Kuratong Baleleng robbery group.

The Supreme Court eventually affirmed the lower court's rulings that absolved him in both cases.

"Napatunayan ng korte at talaga wala akong kinalaman,” he said. “Napaka-flimsy ng ebidensiya.”

I'm looking at you straight in the eye, Jessica, napatunayan ng korte at talagang wala akong kinalaman.

Lacson also said that the people who went against him in the past due to the two cases have apologized for their actions. They include Corpus and former police senior superintendent Cezar Mancao, who tagged him as mastermind behind the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

He expressed confidence that he’s not guilty of the crimes.

“I'm looking at you straight in the eye, Jessica, napatunayan ng korte at talagang wala akong kinalaman,” he said.

'Too many safeguards’

In the interview, Lacson also defended the controversial Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 2020, which he’s a principal sponsor of, assuring the public that the measure won’t be prone to abuse as it has lots of safeguards.

“Nakagarantiya sa batas. Katakot-takot ang safeguards diyan,” he said.

Lacson cited safeguards in the ATA, like the reporting of the suspects' arrests within 24 hours to the nearest courts, the Commission Human Rights and the Anti-Terrorism Council.

The Supreme Court has declared portions of the ATA as unconstitutional, specifically the part which defines terrorism as "advocacy, protest, dissent, stoppage of work, industrial or mass action, and other similar exercises of civil and political rights."

Change of heart on death penalty due to Netflix

Soho also questioned how all it took Lacson to change his stance on death penalty was a movie from streaming giant Netflix.

Lacson, who was previously a staunch advocate for the reinstitution of capital punishment for heinous crimes, said he had a realization upon watching “The Life of David Gale.”

Mas mahirap iyong na-realize mo na meron kang maling pag-iisip, ayaw mo pa rin baguhin ang iyong pananaw o posisyon sa isang bagay.

“Awakening sa akin iyon eh,” Lacson said, referring to the movie. “I was awakened by the fact na pwede talagang ma-execute ang taong inosente. Napakaliwanag.”

"So, masama ba na magpalit ka ng pag-iisip dahil namulat ka sa isang katotohanan na talagang pwedeng mangyari sa isang tao?” he said. “Mas mahirap iyong na-realize mo na meron kang maling pag-iisip, ayaw mo pa rin baguhin ang iyong pananaw o posisyon sa isang bagay.”