MANILA, March 7, 2017 (PNA) — It will now be up to the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to follow through on the testimony of retired Senior Police Officer (SP0)3 Arturo Lascañas, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Monday.
This after Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III moved to adjourn the Senate probe into Lascañas’ testimony on its first and last hearing.
Lascañas had admitted to lying in a previous Senate hearing on October 2016 when he denied the existence of a so-called vigilante group, Davao Death Squad (DDS). However last February 20, he claimed that the death squad did exist.
According to Lascañas, the death squad killed criminals and non-criminals alike to maintain peace and order in Davao City.
Lacson, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs which conducted the hearing, said that Lascañas himself said that if he would switch places with the senators, he would also doubt his own testimonies.
“I don’t know what to believe, to be honest. He can’t remember the first person he killed,” Lacson told reporters in an interview after the hearing.
Lacson said he will again recommend increasing the penalty for perjury especially during congressional hearings as it is considered a federal offense in the US.
He said that his committee can recommend the filing of perjury against Lascañas but will not bother initiating the filing of charges.
“One of the recommendations is the filing of perjury but for the committee to initiate charges against him, me, personally, I won’t do it,” he said.
Last July 2016, Lacson filed Senate Bill No. 253 to mete harsher penalties on perjury charges.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito was among those who questioned Lascañas’ motive to retract his first testimony after four of his business proposals were turned down by known allies of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.
Ejercito probed Lascañas of his attempts to put up several businesses such as getting a small time lottery (STL) franchise, establishing a customs brokerage, application to operate a van terminal and operations in Davao City, and in supplying a quarry for the proposed 53 kilometer Coastal Road in Toril-Bunawan.
Lascañas confirmed that these attempts were rejected by allies of Pres. Duterte after the October 2016 Senate hearing.
He retired on Dec. 16, 2016 and retracted his claims on the death squad four months after.
“It appears that our witness here ay naka-‘strike 4’ after his retirement. Wala sa apat na nilakad niyang mga pabor para sa business interests ng Davao Group tulad ng STL franchise, van terminal, quarry, at customs brokerage ay napagbigyan. Kaya siguro nagbago siya ng statement at sinisiraan na niya ngayon si Pres. Duterte,” Ejercito said.
(“It appears that our witness here has achieved ‘strike 4’ after his retirement. None of his attempts to put up businesses such as an STL franchise, van terminal, quarry and customs brokerage were approved. Perhaps now he changed his statement and is now ruining the reputation of Pres. Duterte.”)
Ejercito also thought it questionable how Lascañas turned his back on Pres. Duterte after retirement and not immediately after he underwent “spiritual renewal.”
Neophyte Sen. Joel Villanueva directly asked Lascañas if his motive was to pin down Pres. Duterte to which Lascañas denied and claimed that he only wanted to “clear his conscience.”
Villanueva, like Ejercito, said that he felt it odd for Lascañas to retract his testimony now that Duterte is now president instead of when he was less powerful as a mayor.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan, for his part, said that Lascañas’ testimony were “serious allegations” and said that it was better to wait for more evidence and more witnesses to surface.
He said that it was not fair to dismiss his testimony just because he previously lied.
“We need additional evidence and more testimony. Apart from him and (Edgar) Matobato,” Pangilinan said referring to self-confessed the hitman.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima said that she found Lascañas’ testimony “credible.”
In a statement, De Lima said that the testimonies of both Lascañas and Matobato “are based on their personal first-hand knowledge, hence, admissible and worthy of credence.” (PNA)