Philippine Politics: Frivolous and Deadly Serious

Southeast Asian Affairs, January 1, 2002 | Go to article overview

Philippine Politics: Frivolous and Deadly Serious


As the new Senate and House were settling down, more political fireworks began. While many of the charges and counter-charges aired by one side against the other seem more than a bit exaggerated, the game being played was nevertheless quite serious and in the closing days of the year proved deadly.

Among the opposition senators, newly elected Panfilo "Ping" Lacson was an especially close associate of Joseph Estrada, and had headed the special police unit, the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF). During the Estrada presidency, Lacson and the PAOCTF were subjected to numerous accusations of criminality, including premeditated murder. However, it was not until the new Macapagal-Arroyo administration assumed power that other police officials were willing to investigate the rumours. By early August, Colonel Victor Corpus, head of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, levelled numerous charges against Lacson. Principal among the charges was that during his tenure as PAOCTF chief, Lacson filled numerous Hong Kong and U.S. bank accounts, bought homes, and started businesses with monies from drug smuggling operations. Offered as evidence were a series of bank account numbers and two former PAOCTF witnesses, Mary "Rosebud" Ong and Angelo "Ador" Mawanay.

Though seeming to confirm popular belief, it was not long before the evidence became suspect. The Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank quickly denied that the Lacson accounts existed, while the U.S. account numbers did not match the number sequences for the California banks where illegal funds were alleged to be stored. The credibility of Corpus' evidence was further undermined when he produced a picture of Lacson's supposed Hong Kong drug lord associate, only to have the photograph turn out to be of a Chinese-Filipino businessman and restaurant owner of the same name.20 The case soon unravelled and in September the hearings went into a temporary state of limbo while the government reviewed its case for another assault on Lacson.

Meanwhile, the opposition was not silent. The President and her husband became the target of various allegations of corruption and abuse of power and influence. …

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