Monday, August 08, 2005
Illegally acquired assets of Lacson
By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star
Wednesday 2 p.m. in California (Thursday 5 a.m. in Manila) is Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s moment of reckoning. Faced with a bench warrant, he must show up at the Superior Court in Alameda County to pay damages of $31,262 to a Filipino-American businesswoman, whose handcuff supply to the Philippine National Police he had reneged as its chief in 1999. Paying up is the easy part. Lacson’s office announced last week that friends in the US would advance part of the equivalent of P1.7 million. That may not be the end of it, though. The controversial politician is also under the judge’s order to explain how he intends to recompense Blanquita Pelaez with clean money. On pain of contempt of court, he must submit bank statements, real estate titles, business books, car registrations, stock certificates, insurance policies, and other proof of wealth – in compliance with US money-laundering laws. That could unravel details of Lacson’s alleged hidden wealth that a Senate inquiry in 2001 did not disclose.
Pelaez’s lawyer Rodel Rodis gives a preview of what is to come, in an article written for Fil-Ams entitled "Questions to Ask Lacson." Excerpts:
"Lacson apparently doesn’t like me. In interviews with Manila dailies and radio stations on Aug. 20, he called me a liar for telling an ABS-CBN reporter that Judge Barbara Miller had issued a bench warrant for him. He insisted this wasn’t true. Unfortunately for him, the TV reporter (Christi Morales) was present in court on Aug. 17 when Judge Miller rejected the excuses of Lacson’s counsel for why he didn’t show up at the hearing. The judge then ordered that a bench warrant be issued. The warrant would be withheld until Sept. 7, Judge Miller said, when Lacson will be given a final opportunity to appear in court to answer questions about his assets.
"Assuming he will appear at the hearing to lift the bench warrant, I will finally be able to ask Lacson what I was going to ask him on Mar. 5, 2003, the date the first order of examination (OEX) that I applied for on Jan. 13, 2003. I had personally served Lacson the OEX at a Manila TV talk show called Strictly Politics on Jan. 21, 2003.
"In that TV program Lacson had publicly declared he was willing to go to the Superior Court on Mar. 5 to answer my questions under oath. It would be a chance to clear the record, he said. But the senator then did everything he could to void or avoid the OEX hearing. He retained lawyers in San Francisco to set aside the default judgment I had obtained against him.
"Over the last two-and-a-half years since then, Lacson’s lawyers tried to throw out the case for lack of jurisdiction, but succeeded only in reducing the amount of the judgment. After the matter had gone through various hearings and submissions of innumerable briefs, the judgment against defendant Panfilo Lacson remained. I was finally able to apply to the court for another OEX to compel Lacson to appear in court to answer my questions under oath.
"Lacson was served the OEX on Aug. 1, ‘sneakily’ he claimed, but in conformity with California law. He was required to appear in court on Aug. 17 and he didn’t; thus, the bench warrant.
"Lacson has once again announced that he is willing to appear in court on Sept. 7 to answer all my questions. And once again, I believe, he will do everything to avoid it. But if Lacson does show up, I am prepared to ask him questions about his assets.
"I will ask him about the home he purchased on 1011 Laguna Seca Loop in Chula Vista, California, on Mar. 1, 1996. Where did he get the money to buy it? When he sold it on July 20, 1999, where did he deposit the proceeds? Did he then buy the property on 2305 Sea Island Place in Chula Vista? What other properties did he purchase?
"According to his Apr. 22, 1996 bank statement, Lacson had two bank accounts in his name at a Bank of America branch in Rancho Cordova, California. One was an interest checking account (17471-00188), the other a regular savings account (17478-00046), together totaling $104,793.26. His Oct. 23, 1996 bank statement showed that his two accounts had risen to $178,544.88. In 1996 Lacson was chief of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission. What was his salary then? After he closed these two bank accounts, where did he transfer his funds?
"On Nov. 13, 2000, Lacson remitted $100,000 to his wife Alice at her Bank of America account in Woodman Sherman branch, Van Nuys, California, through the Bank of New York. Two days later on Nov. 15 the amount of $49,980 was sent by Teresita Go to her same Bank of America account through HSBC Bank in New York. On Nov. 27, $149,980 was remitted to her same account also through HSBC-New York. On Dec. 26 another $144,339.62 was again remitted to the same account through the Bank of New York. Where did all this money come from and what happened to it?
"On Jan. 8, 2001, Lacson’s wife had two Bank of America accounts (24306-01369 and 24301-01390) totaling $356,464.54. Where did this money come from?
"Four months later on May 8, 2001, these same accounts had $251,174.25 left. From these two accounts on June 5, 2001, Lacson’s wife withdrew $246,199.25. Where was this money transferred? "From that Bank of America account, Lacson’s wife made two checks to purchase two Toyota Sequoia SUVs from Longo Toyota in Sacramento, one on Dec. 3, 2000 for $50,000, the other on Dec. 27, 2000 also for $50,000. Where are these SUVs now?
"On Dec. 27, 2000, Lacson’s wife formed a limited liability company called Orient Light LLC, with corporate papers filed with the California Secretary of State on Jan. 8, 2001. On Mar. 16, 2001, Lacson’s wife made two checks to Orient Light Freight Intl. Inc. (Nos. 106 and 107), each in the amount of $50,000. On Apr. 6, 2001, Alice filed a statement of information on Orient Light LLC as ‘President/CEO’ of the limited liability company. This was filed in Sacramento on Apr. 10, 2001. Are Orient Light LLC and Orient Light Freight Intl. Inc. the same or are they two separate entities? Do Lacson and wife still have an interest in these two businesses? "On Mar. 14, 2001, Lacson’s wife withdrew $100,000 from her Bank of America account No. 24301-01390. Where was this money transferred?
"Earlier on Mar. 8, 2001, a Wells Fargo Bank account (201-8575365) was opened in the name of Orient Light LLC, with the account signatories listed as Robert Co, president, and Alice, vice president. On Apr. 17, 2001, the monthly statement of this bank account showed an ending balance of $200,098. What happened to the assets of this LLC? Is this LLC still operating?