by Elena L. Aben and Mario B. Casayuran
For lying under oath before the Senate Justice Committee investigating the alleged extra judicial killings in Davao City, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian wants the Department of Justice to file perjury charges against SP03 Arthur Lascañas, a retired Davao City policeman.
In his October 3, 2016 testimony, Lascañas wearing a police uniform denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), which is accused of being behind the extrajudicial killings in Davao City. Lascañas also belied the testimony of another confessed DDS member Edgar Matobato with regards to the summary killings perpetrated by the DDS.
Yesterday, Lascañas was again at the Senate and this time confessed to being part of the DDS which he now says exists and owned up to the killing of persons, including his two brothers – Cecilio and Fernando – allegedly because of his “blind loyalty” to then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who he claimed ordered the killings.
For each hit job, Lascañas said, he was paid from P20,000 to P100,000.
“By admitting to lying under oath before the Senate Justice Committee during the October, 2016 hearings on alleged extrajudicial killings, Lascañas has made a mockery of the solemn proceedings of the Senate,” said Gatchalian.
“He should be made to pay for the grave disrespect he has shown to this institution,” the senator added.
According to Gatchalian, he finds it hard to believe the incredible alternative facts that Lascañas is now asserting.
“After all, he was singing a completely different tune just a few months ago. Taken all together, it is clear that there are serious doubts about his integrity and the credibility of his new testimony,” he said.
“Unless Lascañas can provide actual concrete evidence to link the President to extrajudicial killings, I would not rely too much on this retired cop’s tall tales,” Gatchalian added.
Matobato pointed to Lascañas in his testimony before the Senate as one of the leaders of the DDS. While he denied Matobato’s claims four months ago, Lascañas yesterday said one of his victims was the financier of a kidnap group, his wife who was seven months pregnant, their five year-old son, his 70-year-old father-in-law, a male helper and female helper who were picked up in Cotabato City. Lascañas said they were killed with a 22 caliber gun with a silencer.
He said Duterte paid his group P3 million to “liquidate” Jun Pala who was a vocal critic of his administration.
Rebel returnees were also involved in the killings, according to Lascañas.
“They might kill me. I am contended because what I promised to God is to make a public confession. I hope that someday the country would have a police organization that has true honor, god-fearing and pro-people…that will serve and protect, not serve and collect. God bless our country and our police organization,” Lascañas said.
Lascañas was flanked by Duterte critic, Sen. Antonio F. Trillanes IV and lawyers Jose Manuel Diokno, Arno Sanidad, and Alexander Padilla, members of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) when he faced the media to reverse himself yesterday.
Lascañas’ latest confession immediately raised possibilities that a member or members of the House of Representatives might initiate impeachment proceedings against President Duterte.
Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III downplayed Lascañas revelations about the President’s alleged links to the Davao Death Squad (DDS).
The claims, he said, were still far from the truth.
“Hindi po pruweba yun just because may nagsasalita,” the Senate head told reporters.
According to Pimentel, anybody can just state something very explosive publicly but then the said testimony should be tested through cross examination, background check, research of the background facts, and the years mentioned by the accuser.
Pimentel said it is also up to a member of the Senate if he believes that Lascañas’ exposé is important enough to be embodied in a resolution.
“He or she is free to file a resolution but then subject to that plenary’s disposition of the resolution plus the committee chairperson’s action on the resolution,” said Pimentel.
Senator Trillanes said he will make a manifestation for the Senate to investigate Lascañas claims.
Chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said what Lascañas revealed were nothing but “hearsay.”
“It’s hearsay. Even assuming that to be true, still the same conclusion he has no direct communications with the President. In other words, false lahat ng allegation niya,” Panelo told reporters in the Palace.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar maintained the President has already been cleared from alleged involvement in the DDS, adding the latest character assassination was part of “vicious politics.”
Citing sources Andanar said he received reports that as much as $1,000 were being circulated at the Senate press conference which incurred the ire of the Senate media.
Trillanes, in a statement, denied Andanar’s allegations that the $1,000-offer to reporters came from him.
Members of the Senate Media, in a statement demanded an apology from Andanar if he can’t prove his allegations.
Andanar clarified that no member of the working press was alluded to as a recipient of the said offer.
“While a monetary offer may have been made to attract coverage of the concerned press conference at the Senate, no member of our working press was alluded to as a recipient,” he said. (With reports from Jeffrey G. Damicog, Genalyn D. Kabiling and Argyll Cyrus B. Geducos)