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Senators explain contradicting votes on Lascañas testimony

/ 12:22 PM February 27, 2017
Seatmates senators MIM forum 2

Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri in a Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum. YUJI GONZALES/INQUIRER.net

At least five senators belonging to an informal bloc have explained their vote on whether to proceed with the Senate probe on President Rodrigo Duterte’s alleged involvement in the infamous vigilante group Davao Death Squad (DDS), following the claims of confessed hit man retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas.

In a Meet Inquirer Multimedia forum on Monday, so-called “seatmates” Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Sherwin Gatchalian, Joel Villanueva and Juan Miguel Zubiri said they respect each other’s opinion despite different votes on whether to look into Lascañas’ claims.

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“We were in the minority in the House of Representatives, so parang may tradition kami of extracting responsibility. If you are unsure, you go with the side of accountability. He has to explain why he made conflicting statements,” Angara said.

“There will be issues that we won’t agree on, but what enriches is the dialogue between us. We learn from each other. The worst thing that could happen is to agree on all issues,” he added.

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Retracting his earlier testimony in the Senate, Lascañas resurfaced last week and backed the statements of another confessed DDS member Edgar Matobato on then Mayor Duterte’s alleged involvement in summary executions in the city. Lascañas said Duterte paid them to kill criminals and opponents, including the murder of radio broadcaster Jun Pala and the bombing of a Muslim mosque.

In last week’s emotional caucus which Sen. Emmanuel “Manny” Pacquiao described as “emotional,” Angara and Villanueva voted to proceed with the investigation along with eight other senators. Zubiri and Gatchalian voted against the probe with five other colleagues, while Ejercito abstained.

READ: Senate adjourns session after ’emotional caucus’

Zubiri denounced the leakage of the senators’ vote, saying that they all agreed to respect whatever the majority decision would be.

“It’s unfair, whoever leaked that out. In the end we all agreed. I go with my chairman, Sen. (Richard) Gordon. I agree with him that once you’ve lied under oath in a committee, binobola n’yo lang kami. ‘Pag nabuksan ulit ‘yung ganitong topic (You’re just fooling us. If the same topic is discussed), it’s so polarizing we can’t move forward anymore,” Zubiri said.

Gordon is the chairman of the powerful blue ribbon and justice committees, who also voted against the investigation.

Echoing Zubiri, Gatchalian said Lascañas should not be given another chance to be heard after supposedly lying under oath during his first Senate appearance, when he denied the existence of the DDS.

“There will also come a time that conviction will come into play,” Gatchalian said. “He’s lying and I don’t think that a person who is lying should be accorded time in the Senate. He was given the opportunity to tell the truth.”

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As for Ejercito, the senator said he would rather spend his time solving other problems being faced by the country, like infrastructure, instead of what he called a politically charged issue.

“We have so many problems and I want to focus on two things, infrastructure and high cost of energy. I would rather devote my time on studying how to solve these problems. That’s just me,” he said.

“I don’t want the Senate to be accused of concealing the truth, but may point din naman na (there is a point in saying) witnesses can’t just turn around. I would rather concentrate on the things that are more productive,” Ejercito said.

Villanueva added: “We may have different opinions but in the end, magkakapareho kami ng pinanggagalingan (we came from the place).” RAM/rga

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TAGS: Joel Villanueva, Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senators Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara, Sherwin Gatchalian
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