PING ASKS PALACE TO PROBE ELECTION KILLINGS

MANILA,  May 6, 2004
 
(STAR)
By Jose Rodel Clapano  -  Independent presidential candidate Sen. Panfilo Lacson called on Malacañang yesterday to order the speedy resolution of all election-related violence and not just focus on high-profile cases.

Lacson, a former police general, said he finds it hypocritical for President Arroyo to direct the Philippine National Police (PNP) to solve without delay the brutal murder over the weekend of three foreigners in a posh villa in a resort in Boracay, Aklan.

The President, Lacson noted, has remained silent on the 81 cases of election-related violence that have resulted in the death of 69 people, including 24 candidates for various local elective posts.

Lacson was reacting to the President’s direct order for the PNP to launch a manhunt for the suspects in the slaying of German nationals Manfred Schoeni and Anton Faustenhauser, British national John Cowperthwaite and a Filipina maid of Faustenhauser, a property developer.

Schoeni is the owner of two art galleries in Hong Kong while Cowperthwaite is a Hong Kong-based architect.

The bodies of the victims were found early Sunday by a friend of the German owner of the villa. They had been stabbed repeatedly and the house was turned upside down. Police are looking into robbery as a possible motive.

"Is there a double-standard here? When 69 Filipinos were being killed in election-related violence, Malacañang does not lift a finger. But when three foreigners are murdered, Mrs. Arroyo is quick to order the PNP to launch a manhunt," Lacson said.

Lacson, who headed the PNP during the short-lived term of jailed ex-President Joseph Estrada, reminded the government to be steadfast and consistent in going after criminals if it wants its drive against criminals to succeed.

The Boracay murders, he said, are a clear indication that the peace and order situation in the country is far from being good as what the President would like people to believe.

"I fear the day that because government is unable to secure the lives of foreigners in this country, regional headquarters of multinational corporations and agencies will just pack up and leave the country," Lacson said.

An "iron fist," Lacson said, should be used by a president to solve the peace and order problem and discipline the 1.4 million government employees, including the almost 400,000 uniformed personnel of the PNP and the Armed Forces.

Lacson, who is running under a platform of "justice, law and order," is known for his no-nonsense drive against criminality, specially taking pride in his track record as head of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) when Estrada was still Vice President.

However, he has been tagged as a human rights violator after his stint as a member of the feared Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group during martial law.

Lacson graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in 1971. He has also served as provincial police commander for Cebu and Laguna before rising to fame as PAOCTF and PNP chief.

"An improved peace and order situation is a prerequisite for economic development since this will provide the conducive atmosphere for foreign investors to come in and create jobs for our countrymen," Lacson said.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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