CHR to investigate Lascañas testimony
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Monday formally reopened its investigation on the Davao Death Squad, focusing on the testimony of Arturo Lascañas, a confessed Davao Death Squad leader.
“Even if Lascañas’ motive for implicating the former mayor in the Davao Death Squad has been put to question, especially by Senator Pacquiao during the 6 March 2017 Senate hearing, the testimony itself is too compelling and detailed to ignore,” Commissioner Roberto Eugenio T. Cadiz said in a statement.
The Davao Death Squad is a group of hitmen who supposedly target criminals. It has been linked to President Rodrigo Duterte, who was the former mayor of Davao City.
The CHR investigated such claims when Senator Leila de Lima was still its chair. De Lima, who has become a vocal critic of Duterte, is currently detained on drug-related charges. Her supporters claim she is a victim of political persecution.
Lascañas, who initially denied his links with the Davao Death Squad, resurfaced this month to recant his testimony. He said Duterte was behind the death squad and that he was among those who led a group of hitmen.
The CHR pointed out that even before Lascañas and Edgar Matobato testified against the Davao Death Squad, it already announced that it will continue the investigation.
In addition to the testimonies of Lascañas and Matobato, CHR “will take into evidence the human bones gathered from the Laud quarry in Davao in 2009, when it first began conducting its investigation.”
The Laud quarry in Ma-a, Davao City is the alleged dumping ground of the Davao Death Squad.
The CHR explained that the bones found in the quarry were not included in a resolution it filed in 2012 ”asking the Office of the Ombudsman to look into the possible administrative and criminal liability of the highest city official at the time” because of a case filed by the quarry owner.
The owner questioned the validity of the warrant used to collect the evidence.
“Two years after the CHR issued this Resolution, in 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the questioned warrant, thereby also paving the presentation in evidence of the human bones recovered from the quarry,” the Commission said.
“The testimonies of Matobato and Lascañas, with the latter positively identifying the recovery site as their dumping ground, are sufficient basis to continue the investigation on the DDS,” it said./rga