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Senators doubt credibility of Lascañas

He saw the light 15 months before he first came to the Senate, not the second time around, making him sin against God, not once, but twice.

“Something does not add up,” an exasperated Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, prompting him to cut short the second appearance in the chamber of retired SPO3 Arturo Lascañas on Monday after six hours of questioning.

Some senators had questioned the motive of Lascañas in linking President Duterte to the dreaded Davao Death Squad (DDS), suggesting that the former police officer became unhappy because the administration had turned down deals he attempted to broker, including lottery franchises and other businesses, for his friends.

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Lascañas insisted this wasn’t the case. According to him, his conscience bothered him, as he had recounted in earlier press conferences the past weeks, particularly the killing of a pregnant woman and a child.

Lacson, chair of the Senate committee on public order, zeroed in on Lascañas’ claim that a spiritual renewal had led him to recant his previous testimony in the Senate in October last year in which he cleared Mr. Duterte of any links to the DDS when he was the Davao City mayor.

“Why did your spiritual renewal happen first … so you again lied and you sinned again against God,” Lacson said. “Please explain because we’re having difficulty understanding the kind of spiritual renewal you underwent.”

Lascañas testified to personally killing nearly 200 people and up to 300 with other assassins as part of Mr. Duterte’s DDS.

Promise to God

He said that when he first made his confession to a priest in July 2015, he thought he was going to be killed.

panfilo ping lacson

Senators Ping Lacson, Grace Poe and Antonio Trillanes during the Extra Judicial confession at the committee on public order and dangerous drugs hearing at the session hall of Senate in Pasay City. EDWIN BACASMAS

“I won’t fight my conscience anymore. My personal promise to God was I won’t take this to my grave after I was given another chance in life,” said Lascañas, the second confessed DDS hit man to implicate Mr. Duterte in hundreds of alleged assassinations in Davao.

Some senators suggested that Lascañas might have felt “bad” after the rejection of his friends’ requested projects.

“This is just me but you might have been the one who requested and you were turned down four times or even more. You felt bad because your request was denied,” Sen. Manny Pacquiao said.

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“What is really your motivation?” Sen. Joel Villanueva asked. “Is it to bring down President Duterte?”

Lacson said it would not have been “normal” if Lascañas did not feel bad, given his claim of being close to the President since 1989. “If you say you did not feel bad, you are not normal,” he said.

But Lascañas stood his ground, saying: “No, I didn’t because I had a P100,000 allowance from Mayor (Duterte).”

Lottery franchises

Under questioning by Sen. JV Ejercito, Lascañas admitted that he had helped friends, called the “Davao group,” to try and get approval for small-time lottery (STL) franchises, the management of a transport terminal for vans, and the supply of landfill for a road project.

He said he had even accompanied his friends, including a Davao barangay captain and a secretary of the President’s son Sebastian to meet with Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Chair Jorge Corpus to operate STLs in profitable areas like Laguna, Cavite and Batangas provinces.

Lascañas said he had also accompanied two barangay captains and transport leaders from Bulacan province to meet with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade for a proposed terminal for vans.

Lascañas served as broker of the proposed business deals just after he first testified in the Senate in October last year, and before he retired the following month, he told Ejercito.

“Because of my exposure in the Senate investigation and my perceived successful lies they believed I had some sort of influence,” Lascañas said.

“It appears that you got a ‘strike 4.’ No (project) proceeded. You got nothing in everything you were aspiring for,” Ejercito said.

Perjured witness

Still, Lascañas said he bore no grudge despite the rejections and insisted on his fear of God for his reversal.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella described the retired police officer as a “polluted source and perjured witness” and said his testimony was “fabricated and unacceptable.”

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said the President would not order the “killing of a woman, pregnant or not, or for that matter, any person.”

“He is outraged by any extrajudicial killing. Neither will he tolerate it. He abhors any violation of the Constitution or any law,” Panelo said.

He said Lascañas “admitted he had no personal knowledge of the killings and that he was only assuming,” based on questioning by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano. —WITH REPORTS FROM MARLON RAMOS AND NIKKO DIZON

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TAGS: Arturo Lascañas, Davao Death Squad, Ernesto Abella, extrajudicial killings, JV Ejercito, Panfilo Lacson, Ping Lacson, Rodrigo Duterte
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