MANILA, August 29, 2003 (STAR) GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc  - Ping Lacson says his exposé on the Jose Pidal alias account is a fight against corruption in high places. Yet as senator he has been slinging mud at the very institutions that can help him in his laudable aim.

The judiciary was among the first he hit. In his privilege speech, he said two Supreme Court justices frequently visit LTA Building, though not necessarily the 8th-floor office of his principal target, First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. Indirectly admitting he was having them tailed - his star witness Eugenio Mahusay swears to have worked at LTA only up to March 2002 – he said one of the two went there "in the first week of May 2003, or after the 13-0 decision on the Kuratong Baleleng case in my favor was unbelievably reversed to a 10-4-1 verdict."

At a time when Chief Justice Hilario Davide is striving to clean up the judiciary, Lacson insinuated that justices are on Arroyo’s payola. He gave no proof. He ignored the SC request to identify the two, thus raising suspicion if he is with a dark force that Davide has long been denouncing for demonizing the judiciary. His slander likewise hinted at coercing the SC to favor his motion for reversal of the 10-4-1 verdict that revived the multiple-murder case. To which he, who early this year pre-empted that ruling with a planted news item, feigned: "Aha, do they have inside info that a decision will soon come out?"

Lacson didn’t stop with the SC. Urged by fellow-senators and Arroyo to prove his avowals in court, his reply was non sequitur. "Why should I, when the judges are all appointees of Malacañang," he sneered, hiding the fact that President Gloria Arroyo has sat for only two-and-a-half years, as long as resigned President Joseph Estrada did, and thus could not have named the thousands of judges nationwide. Majority of the magistrates in fact became so under Ramos, Aquino and Marcos.

Lacson didn’t spare the banking institution. He demanded that the Anti-Money Laundering Council, which he created as co-author of the Anti-Money Laundering Act, summarily freeze the Pidal deposits as soon as he gave his speech. He knows it can’t. Only last December, when Congress amended the threshold amount for AMLA coverage, he and the House Minority Leader also took away the AMLC’s power to freeze and gave it to the Court of Appeals – purportedly so that the Administration cannot harass the Opposition as elections draw near. That’s why the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force remains unsatisfied with the AMLA. But Lacson looks self-satisfied with his tirade against the AMLC, which has been begging him to turn over stronger evidence than just photocopies when it goes to the appellate court.

Lacson tarnished the already demoralized police as well. When PNP graphologists announced findings that the signatures of Jose Pidal and Jose Miguel Arroyo were written by different persons, he dismissed them with a crafty soundbyte: "What can you expect from appointees of the President?" He was PNP chief for two years, and knows that only that top post merits presidential appointment, and only through the Napolcom. He knows too that the handwriting experts joined the Crime Lab long before President Arroyo came to power.

His imputation that the police fabricates reports to suit a President’s whim can boomerang on his own service record. He had laid down a no-take policy from jueteng lords by regional commanders. Did he do so because his President wanted to corner everything for himself?

Lacson had the same opinion of document experts from the NBI, an agency under his elite Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force from 1998-2000. In denigrating the law-enforcement institution along with the courts, he is giving the impression that no justice can be attained ever. What’s he up to?

Lacson demeaned the Senate no less, and the press that he so slyly beguiles with crafty one-liners. He slandered business and media men while hiding behind parliamentary immunity, but curiously did not mention fellow-Opposition figures who also go to LTA for various reasons. On the alibi that the Administration would get to them, he refused to give addresses and contact numbers of witnesses to the Blue-Ribbon committee that will investigate his claims and issue summonses. When Mahusay on television was expressing fear of liquidation upon outliving usefulness, Lacson was crying on other channels that his witness was kidnapped. His machinations foment public distrust of Congress and the press.

Lacson played with the law itself. For two weeks after his speech, he kept taunting Arroyo to answer his charges – not in the Senate which set a hearing only for next week, or in court where he refuses to file charges, but through the media. "Silence is guilt," he deadpanned. He gibed Arroyo to hire experts from the FBI or Scotland Yard to disprove the Pidal signature as his, when the burden of proof is on the accuser. Reminded of this by Blue-Ribbon chairman Joker Arroyo, Lacson shouted even louder "to let the people judge." For him, every Tom, Dick and Harry – not the authorities on handwriting, documents and law – must now sit in judgment of a man who he claims, through clever overlays in a Powerpoint presentation, had signed as somebody else.

That Jose Pidal is an alias account seems true, of course. No one has come forward to claim it. No record of the name exists in birth, tax or travel registries. If at all, he is someone long dead, the father of Arroyo’s grandma. That he signs as his great-grandpa will have to be proved with more than one witness, as legal rules require.

As an official who writes laws, Lacson must now call on the law to compel the banks to reveal who the alias user is. This, instead of using his parliamentary immunity and media against a man with a Velcro image (as opposed to teflon) so that everything he throws at him sticks.

Another such Velcro-type was in the news recently – a pal of Lacson. All sorts of allegations on that man too stuck. When he was being extradited to face criminal charges in the US, he yelled accusations at most everybody around him, trying to bring the house down with him. Is that what Lacson is aiming as well, now that a Senate report on his criminal activities is being reviewed?

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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