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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Senate dismisses testimony of self-confessed death squad leader Lascañas

By Chad de Guzman, and Regine Cabato, CNN Philippines
Updated 23:01 PM PHT Mon, May 22, 2017

(File photo) Arturo Lascañas

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 22) — The Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs dismissed the claims of retired police officer Arturo Lascañas that he was a member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) which killed some people on orders of then Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
In a 20-page report released on May 22, it concluded that there was not enough evidence to prove that the DDS existed and Lascañas' allegations against President Duterte, and police officers Sonny Buenaventura, Fulgencio Pavo, Jim Tan, and Dick Cloribe. 
"Lascañas' testimony could not be possibly considered as evidence against the persons he was implicating without first putting forward other evidence that could establish the grand conspiracy he was claiming," the committee  said.
The report described as "weak" both the testimony of Lascañas and self-confessed DDS hitman Edgar Matobato. 
"Therefore, their confession has no probative value," it concluded. 
In his first testimony before the committee in October 2016, Lascañas denied any involvement with the death squad and Matobato, who had told the committee that Lascañas gave him kill orders from Duterte.
In a press conference in February this year, Lascañas recanted his testimony and then submitted to the senate an affidavit which implicated the President. It also gave details of several operations Lascañas said he was involved in, including the murder of local broadcaster Jun Pala.  
"I was forced to deny what Matobato said, even if most of it was true, because I was afraid for the safety and security of my loved ones in Davao City," Lascañas said.
On April 8, Lascañas went to Singapore with his family and has not returned. according to the Bureau of Immigration.

No independent evidence to prove involvement

The committee report noted that admission by a crime's co-conspirator  is not enough under the rules of court.  It said Lascañas affidavit was self-serving and "not worthy of belief and bereft of credibility". 
The document concluded that Lascañas "was a credible witness… when he refuted the allegations of Edgar Matobato."
"His current testimony is flooded with loopholes and uncertainty on material facts. Apart from the lack of corroborating evidence, his testimony was easily negated and destroyed by established facts, legal presumptions and resolutions of government agencies concerned," the committee wrote.
The report recommended amendments to the Revised Penal Code "to increase the penalty for the crime of perjury" and to the Rules of the Senate "to punish witnesses who give inconsistent testimonies in Senate inquiry."

Senators agree on recommendations, but not on findings

The report was signed by Committee Chairman Sen. Panfilo "Ping" Lacson, Vice Chairperson Sen. Gregorio B. Honasan II., Sen. Joseph Victor "JV" Ejercito, Sen. Emmanuel "Manny" Pacquiao, Sen. Nancy Binay, and Sen. Vicente "Tito" Sotto.
Committee Vice Chairperson Sen. Grace Poe agreed with the recommendation, but "with reservations as to the findings."
Similarly, Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto signed with the note, "in as far as recommendations are concerned."
Sen. Antonio Trillanes, who brought Lascanas to the Senate,  disagreed with the report.
"He has no basis to say that Lascañas' testimony was not credible because he abruptly terminated the investigation after only one hearing," Trillanes said, referring to Lacson. "In fact, during the solitary hearing Lacson conducted, the PNP representative even corroborated some of Lascañas' statements."
Three committee members —  Franklin Drilon, Loren Legarda, and Leila De Lima — did not sign the report. 
De Lima, who is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on drug charges, was one of the senators who grilled Lascañas during the Senate probe on extrajudicial killings.


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