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Home Sections MiscellaNEWS Michael Aquino’s Habeas Corpus’ Appeal Denied Anew But Gets Ray of Hope
Michael Aquino’s Habeas Corpus’ Appeal Denied Anew But Gets Ray of Hope PDF Print E-mail
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Wednesday, 23 February 2011 17:37

 

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

Journal Group Link International)

  

C HICAGO (jGLi) – Former Philippine police officer Michael Ray B. Aquino lost yet again Tuesday (Feb. 22) in his penultimate bid to gain freedom. But he got a ray of hope when the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania observed “(w)hile we do not comment on their merits, we note the possibility his arguments or proofs may ultimately undermine a finding of guilt.”


A three-judge panel of the Circuit court denied Aquino’s petition for habeas corpus and affirmed the District Court’s judgment, granting Aquino’s extradition to the
Philippines.


The U.S. Supreme Court in
Washington, D.C., is Aquino’s last resort if he intends to file an appeal to the Circuit court’s ruling.


In a three-page per curiam opinion by Judges Anthony J. Scirica, Thomas Michael Hardiman and Thomas Vanaskie, the panel upheld the finding of U.S. Magistrate Judge Esther Salas of the U.S. District Court of New Jersey, who “found probable cause” that there was “competent evidence to justify holding the accused to await trial, … not … whether the evidence is sufficient to justify a conviction.”


The ruling, which did not set any legal precedent,  said, “Upon review of the record, we conclude that competent evidence supports the probable cause finding in this case. Accordingly, and because no substantial issue is presented on appeal, we will summarily affirm the District Court’s judgment.”

 

CIRCUIT COURT CITES AQUINO’S ROLE

 

T he Circuit reiterated the basis of District Court's ruling, citing Aquino’s role at the time of the alleged crimes, as “Chief of the Operations Division of a Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF), which had been formed by Joseph Estrada, then President of the Philippines. Aquino gave order to begin a discreet investigation of one of the victims, Salvador “Bubby” Dacer, who had made comments against Estrada.


“When the first investigator assigned to the project encountered obstacles to sneaking into Dacer’s hotel room to surreptitiously search it and obtain documents, Aquino gave him an order to burn or bomb the room. Aquino later transferred the Dacer assignment to someone else, whose first question to the first investigator included an inquiry about what type of car Dacer had. Dacer and his driver, Emmanuel Corbito, the other victim, were abducted when Dacer’s car was surrounded by armed gunmen while it was stopped at a red light.


“On the day that the victims were abducted, Aquino notified the first investigator and sent him to meet the second investigator to interrogate Dacer, who was then being held blindfolded and guarded in a van. At the conclusion of the interrogation, Aquino instructed the first investigator to return to base after securing all documents for him.


“The second investigator told the first that he would take care of things at the scene. Later that evening, Dacer and Corbito were strangled to death. Their bodies were then doused with gasoline and incinerated (the victims were identified through metal dental plates and a ring).”


The ruling also mentioned about a senator who had been associated with the PAOCTF and had warned Aquino that the new presidential administration was coming after him for the double murders. Aquino fled to the
United States in response.

 

SLOPPILY DUMPING DACER’S CAR

 

T he following year, in a Las Vegas hotel, Aquino blamed a colleague “for sloppily dumping Dacer’s car into a ravine where it was easily discovered. He complained that the task had not been carried out properly.”


“In short, there is evidence in the record that supports the finding of probable cause. We cannot assign error to the District Court’s failure to consider the
DNA evidence that Aquino cites because Aquino did not ask the District Court to consider it.” the opinion said.


“Even if Aquino put the
DNA evidence before the District Court, and the evidence was of the type the District Court could consider, the result would be unchanged.”


While Aquino argues that a report that bone fragments found at the scene tested negative for human
DNA that removes the probable cause in this case, the Circuit also pointed out that “other physical evidence at the scene, namely metal dental plates and a ring, helped to establish that the remains were Dacer and Corbito.


“In any event, Aquino’s argument on this and other issues in the record are for his trial. While we do not comment on their merits, we note the possibility that his arguments or proofs may ultimately undermine a finding of guilt. They do not, however, undermine the finding of probable cause.”


Aquino, 43, filed his appeal pro se (acting his own lawyer). He is among the nearly two dozens of police officials and civilians, named defendants in the Dacer-Corbito murders in the
Philippines. Other officials were former police superintendents Cezar O. Mancao and Glenn Dumlao.


Being suspected as masterminds in the twin killings were then General-turned-Senator Panfilo Lacson, who headed the PAOCTF, and President Estrada. Senator Lacson, who turned fugitive, and former President Estrada have both denied involvement in the double murders.

 

Civil Case Filed in San Francisco

 

M essrs. Estrada, Lacson, Aquino, and Dumlao and three others were named in the $120-million civil suit filed against them last year by Dacer’s daughters, who are either U.S. citizens or U.S. immigrants, before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco in connection with the Dacer-Corbito double murder.


If Aquino is extradited to
Manila, he will be facing a court trial along with 22 others originally accused in the double murders.


A full-blown trial, however, would have to wait pending the arrest or surrender of Senator Lacson, who has gone into hiding after being charged in the murders. # # #

  

Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 

 

 



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