Even by Philippine standards, the manhunt for Ping Lacson in the 188 member countries of Interpol has an absurd feel to it.
I especially liked the revelation that Ping was spotted by Jinggoy Estrada in Hong Kong.
The eldest son of ousted President Joseph Estrada said he saw Lacson strolling with wife Alice at the ground level of the famous Ocean Terminal and shopping center in Tsim Sha Tsui.
He said he and his wife Precy were likewise strolling on the second level.
Despite the bad blood between them, Estrada said he did not hesitate to call Lacson’s attention: “Ping! Ping!” he shouted, using the other man’s nickname.
He said Lacson appeared startled but yelled back: “Who’s with you?”
He said the Lacsons waved and then disappeared in the crowd of holiday shoppers.
Ha, ha – too good! “Who’s with you?” – did Ping think he had strayed into one of Jinggoy’s movies and was about to be rubbed out Kuratong Balaleng style in the final scene?
I wonder whether the police forces of the Interpol countries will feel that their time is well spent hunting down Lacson when the authorities in his home country have proved so lackadaisical in taking action against him.
Ping has not exactly been cowering under a stone in the nine years since the grisly murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his unfortunate driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000. In fact Lacson has been almost too visible, running two successful senatorial campaigns and one unsuccessful presidential campaign in 2004 (in which he managed to split the opposition to Arroyo and let her in for a second term).
Nor is Ping’s alleged role in the double murder anything new. Ever since witnesses to the gruesome murder emerged in early 2001, Ping’s former staff have been busy fleeing to the States (Aquino and Mancao in July 2001, Dumlao in May 2003), getting conveniently murdered (Viña in May 2003), or spilling the beans (Mancao in February 2009).
Yet the glacial progress of Philippine justice meant that charges were not filed until 7 January 2010, by which time, as the Jinggoy anecdote above shows, Lacson had already flown the coop.
This timing may not be coincidental. Lacson was one of the main critics of presidential candidate Villar’s C5 road scam (see next post). If, as the rumours go, the administration has forged a deal with Villar, this sequence of events means that (1) a prominent Villar and Arroyo critic is out of the way, (2) the chance of a messy pre-election trial with claims and counter claims is reduced, and (3) the Philippine cops will be saved the unedifying task of arresting their former boss on a double murder charge.
The whole thing seems to be a charade and if there is even one reader out there who thinks it will end up with Ping serving time I’d be very surprised.
Finally, another bizarre twist to this tale is the unexpectedly high showing in the latest Senate opinion poll of Alex Lacson, an inoffensive Chauncey Gardner type figure who has written a book called 12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country. If you find it surprising that having the same family name as a man being sought in 188 countries on a double murder rap would increase your chance of being elected senator you probably need a refresher course in Philippine political logic. There will be plenty on offer in the next three and a half months.