Lacson's ex-aide ordered to pay Dacer daughters
MANILA, Philippines – What they couldn't get in the Philippines, they sought to find in the United States (US): A semblance of justice.
Daughters of slain publicist Salvador "Bubby" Dacer were granted relief in a ruling issued Wednesday morning (Philippine time), January 22, by a US district court, which ordered their father's alleged killer, former police official Michael Ray Aquino, to pay them damages amounting to over $4.2 million.
Dacer was a known publicist in the Philippines who was brutally killed, along with his driver, in November 2000, shortly after he was summoned to the presidential palace for allegedly pushing for the impeachment of then President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Ejercito Estrada.
In 2001, the justice department filed with a Manila court double murder charges against Philippine National Police officials including Aquino and Cezar Mancao for Dacer's and his driver's death.
Aquino and Mancao fled to the US that same year, however, where they found work. Both are former close aides of ex-senator Panfilo Lacson, who was chief of the Philippine National Police and is now in charge of the Aquino government's rehabilitation program post-Yolanda (Haiyan).
Eventually, Mancao was extradited to Manila, but Aquino tried to resist all efforts to extradite him to the Philippines. In 2005, he was arrested in New Jersey over an expired visa. US authorities later charged him for a separate case: espionage. He was discovered to have transmitted classified US documents to the Philippines. (Mancao, on the other hand, escaped from the National Bureau of Investigation in May 2013)
Help from law
Aquino's detention at the New Jersey Federal Prison emboldened the daughters of Dacer, who were already based in the US, to seek justice. In 2010, they filed a $60-million damage suit against 7 former Philippine officials, including Estrada, Lacson, and Aquino.
The case was based on the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), which allows American courts to hear cases of human rights abuses filed by non-citizens against officials of a foreign government for abuses committed anywhere. Those who filed the case were Carina Dacer, Sabrina Dacer-Reyes, Amparo Dacer-Henson and Emily Dacer-Hungerford.
"It is important to deter extrajudicial killings of publicists, especially when the victims include 4 United States citizens. Despite 'silencing' Salvador Dacer in such a gruesome manner, Michael Aquino has apparently escaped relatively unscathed," read the ruling signed by Judge William Alsup.
The events Dacer's daughters cited to justify the claim included the strangling of their father with a wire and the burning of his body in a dry creek.
"The cruel manner in which defendant (Michael Aquino) orchestrated the abduction, torture, and killing of Salvador Dacer is chilling," Judge Alsup said.
The $4.2-million TVPA relief was ordered in a default judgment, after Aquino failed to appear in more than 8 hearings including the pretrial conference.
Where is he?
Aquino was extradited to the Philippines in 2011. He was jailed at the National Bureau of Investigation but was eventually released in 2012 after a Manila regional trial court dismissed the murder case against him.
Aquino is now in Manila and as of last year was known to be working as a security consultant for a big corporation.
Following Judge Alsup's ruling, Aquino won't be able to enter the US unless he has paid the $4.2 million to the Dacers.
Judge Alsup said the $60-million damage suit was "excessive," and granted only less than a tenth of the figure cited by the Dacers.
The Dacer sisters wanted considered in the determination of the claim the opportunities lost and the emotional damage incurred after the death of their father. Dacer, they said, was the primary family supporter – paying the house mortgage, financing business ventures, etc.
Alsup noted how the estimates of the daughters don't quite fit given the income of Dacer at the time. He also considered adjustments for present value.
"There is insufficient evidence to find that Salvador Dacer made enough income to provide such a sum to his daughters or that such a large sum was indeed provided," the order read.
Factors such as but not limited to brutality of the act, physical and mental injuries, and how long the torture lasted are considered in determining the amount of the damages to be paid. – Rappler.com