August 28, 2001, Inquirer, Kidnap victim from China coming to testify vs Lacson, by Christine Herrera, Carlito Pablo and Armand Nocum, Inquirer News Service,
Posted:11:42 PM (Manila Time) |
FORMER police undercover agent Mary Ong, alias "Rosebud", arrived Tuesday night from Xiamen, China, to testify Wednesday before the Senate on Senator Panfilo Lacson’s alleged involvement in drug trafficking, kidnapping for ransom, and murder.
Ong said she was in Xiamen for the past three weeks along with National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officers led by lawyer Samuel Fiji to convince a kidnap victim to come to Manila and testify against Lacson and his men.
Fiji, chief of the NBI anti-organized-crime task force, is still in Xiamen and coordinating with Chinese authorities for the security and safe travel to Manila of the kidnap victim, Ong said.
Senator Robert Barbers, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, told reporters earlier Tuesday that Ong was to arrive from China where she supposedly collected a 16-year-old Chinese boy who had allegedly been kidnapped by Lacson's group.
Barbers said it was not certain whether the boy would be present at the hearing—the third thus far conducted jointly by the Senate public order, national defense and blue ribbon committees.
Ong, who was a narcotics undercover agent from 1993 until her exposé on Lacson in November 2000, claims personal knowledge of the alleged kidnapping and killing of five Chinese nationals by Lacson and his men.
She said the five—Zeng Jia Xuan, Hong Zhen Quiao, Lui Yao Wu, Sin Ho, Wong Kam Chong and Hiu Ming—were all drug traffickers belonging to the Hong Kong triad and operating in the Philippines.
Colonel Victor Corpus, chief of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAPF), had asked Ong to cut short her "ission" in Xiamen to testify before the Senate on Wednesday.
Ong said she would also testify on businessman Kim Wong's alleged illegal activities if asked to do so. She said Wong and Lacson were partners in drug trafficking.
Another witness, Indian national Danny Devnani, is set to disclose Wednesday how "evil people work in our society," as he promised the Senate last week.
"I will go there to tell the truth. They will be surprised at what they will hear from me," Devnani told the INQUIRER Tuesday in a phone interview. "I'll just pray that God will help me fight off the efforts of those out to discredit my statements."
In a separate phone interview, Devnani's lawyer Leonard de Vera said he would submit a sworn statement detailing the alleged high crimes perpetrated by Lacson, deposed president Joseph Estrada and their close associates, including Estrada son Jinggoy and businessman Charlie "Atong" Ang.
"We are now preparing Mr. Devnani's sworn statement for submission to the Senate," De Vera said. "It will cover all matters which Mr. Devnani mentioned in his prepared statement Thursday before the Senate."
In that three-page handwritten statement, Devnani implicated Lacson and Estrada in the kidnapping for ransom, drug trafficking, and armed robbery undertaken by the Kuratong Baleleng gang, the disappearance of former casino employee Edgar Bentain, and high-stakes gambling.
Barbers said the others invited to testify were former tourism secretary Antonio Gonzalez, police chief superintendent Avelino Razon, and Edgardo Aglipay, former Metro Manila regional police chief.
They will supposedly speak on Wong' alleged involvement in the illegal drug trade. "We expect more direct and detailed revelations,"Barbers said.
Ong said Lacson recruited her in 1993 as an "asset" primarily assigned to penetrate and provide vital information on the suspected drug-trafficking operations of certain Chinese-Filipinos. She also supposedly served as translator of recorded phone conversations detailing operations of the Hong Kong "Triad" criminal syndicate.
Ong said the five Chinese nationals were targets of Lacson and his men's "Oplan Cyclops", which involved surveillance, wiretapping and kidnapping operations.
She said Lacson ordered the arrest of the five and seized from them 200 kilogramss of shabu (methamphetamine hydrochloride) that were later "recycled" and sold locally.
Ong claimed that Oplan Cyclops was put in operation in February 1999 and initially targeted Wong Kam Chong for kidnapping.
She said Chong paid 20 million pesos for his release but was still murdered on Lacson’s orders.
In Devnani's statement on Thursday, he also named the following as Lacson and Estrada’s alleged associates in crime: policeman Edwardo Villanueva alias Edy Boy, Kuratong Baleleng leader Renato Parohinog alias Mike, the late Kuratong Baleleng sub-leader Jovel Arnan, ex-cop Quintin Llorente alias Totoy, senior superintendent Ricardo Dapat of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police, and former casino boss Butch Tenorio.
He also told the senators that he might be able to convince kidnapping victims to come forward and testify.
De Vera declined to say whether Devnani had done so. "I cannot give that information right now," he said.
ISAFP chief Corpus has accused Lacson of involvement in organized crime, including money laundering.
Despite the brickbats thrown his way by some senators in previous hearings, Corpus said Tuesday he was hopeful that the Senate investigation would eventually expose Lacson's supposed crimes. "I am confident that the Senate will succeed in ferreting out the truth," he said.
But he noted that the Senate was only one of two arenas where Lacson could be made to account for his alleged crimes, the other being the courts of law.
Corpus said the government was raising to the Supreme Court a decision issued by the Court of Appeals stopping the prosecution of Lacson and other co-accused in the Kuratong Baleleng "rubout" case of 1995.
He said that despite temporary restraining orders, government lawyers had previously filed charges against Lacson and his men at the defunct Presidential Anti-Organized-Crime Task Force in connection with the kidnapping of Chinese nationals.
Charges will also be filed against Lacson for having accepted and used mobile phones provided by Wong, Corpus said. Other charges are being prepared by the PNP against Lacson in connection with the recent seizure of bugging equipment previously used by the PAOCTF.
"We will bring our evidence and witnesses to all of these before the Department of Justice, which is the appropriate agency to file cases against Lacson," Corpus said.
For the third time in a row, Lacson will not face his accusers at the Senate this Wednesday.
I heard they're going to present another crazy (sonofagun)," Lacson told reporters in reference to a certain "Mar", an alleged ex-civilian agent of the PAOCTF who would supposedly confirm the statements of witness Angelo "Ador" Mawanay.
Lacson insisted that Mar was not a former PAOCTF agent, and that he had never met the man.
"They only claim that I know them," he said of the witnesses earlier presented. He challenged Corpus' camp to present someone he knew next time.
Asked when he was going to face his accusers, as he had promised to do, Lacson said he would wait until they could present better proof of their charges.
"If they can show exciting evidence worth responding to, then I will attend (the hearings)," he said. "`But why will I waste my time confronting witnesses who cannot show anything apart from that which they already related to the media?"
Two of Lacson's colleagues in the opposition, Senators Blas Ople and Teresa Aquino-Oreta, earlier proposed that the hearings be terminated because no solid evidence had been presented in what Oreta described as "storytelling time".
The proposal drew protests from various sectors, as well as assurances from other senators that the hearings would continue.
Senate president Franklin Drilon assured reporters Tuesday that the hearings would not be terminated. But in the future, he said, the chamber would put up measures to strictly screen prospective witnesses.