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Senate minority presses for reopening of inquiry

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Sen. Antonio trillanes listens to SPO3 Arturo Lascañas as he face the media and admitted the existence of the davao death squad during a press conference at the senate on monday, february 20, 2017. – Inquirer photo/Grig C. Montegrande

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said on Tuesday he had an “array of options” to consider should the Senate terminate its inquiry into the confession of retired policeman Arturo Lascañas but declined to elaborate.

He said these options were “not necessarily” in the Senate. The media would find out what these are “in the coming weeks,” he said.

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Trillanes said he and fellow members of the minority still wanted the Senate inquiry to continue so that more information could be obtained following Lascañas’ testimony that President Duterte was behind the Davao Death Squad (DDS) and that he ordered the killings not only of criminals but also his political enemies when he was the Davao City mayor.

Inconsistency

He said that he found it ironic that the Senate gave more credibility to the testimony of suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, who made conflicting statements when he accused now detained Sen. Leila de Lima of accepting drug money from him.

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“I’m just looking at the inconsistency of the appreciation of witnesses and testimonies,” Trillanes said, adding that he disagreed with the way Lascañas was pinned down by administration allies for his spiritual renewal statement.

“He stopped killing. That’s a big departure from his previous life. No, it does not mean he has become a saint,” Trillanes said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson insisted that his committee on public order and drugs terminated the Lascañas inquiry after no one objected to a motion to adjourn. But he said the inquiry would resume if senators voted for continuation.

Sen. Bam Aquino said the committee should invite the people that Lascañas, a confessed DDS hit man, had implicated, especially the President’s purported trusted aide Sonny Buenaventura.

Lascañas had said Buenaventura would call him to relay orders of then Mayor Duterte on people he wanted killed.

“They should be heard also,” Aquino told reporters.

Reopening of inquiry

Aquino said the minority still had to discuss the reopening of the hearing.

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Sen. Francis Pangilinan tweeted that the minority would not hesitate to request the reopening of the inquiry should other witnesses surface to corroborate Lascañas’ testimony.

Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, reiterated his opposition to the inquiry, describing as all lies the statements that Lascañas made to the panel on Monday.

“I knew he would just lie again,” said Gordon, who skipped Monday’s proceedings.

“I think he was not able to prove [anything]. He also wasn’t able to connect what he said about the Davao Death Squad with the President,” he added.

In his testimony on Monday, Lascañas put on record claims he made in a press conference last month in which he implicated Mr. Duterte in DDS activities.

Turnaround

Lascañas’ testimony was a turnaround from his denial of involvement in the DDS when he first appeared in the Senate last October.

Edgar Matobato, another confessed DDS assassin, had named Lascañas as one of the group’s leaders.

Gordon said Lascañas took advantage of his “fame” after his first Senate appearance, going around different government agencies looking for openings to do business.

“[His testimony has] no probative value. I’ve said that he is a damaged witness because he lied,” he said.

But Gordon said that while he did not believe the witnesses’ testimonies, it did not mean there was no DDS.

“It is possible that there was really a death squad. I will say that again to be clear … It doesn’t mean that [the killings] did not happen, it’s just that there is no evidence we can use,” he said.

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TAGS: Arturo Lascañas, Davao Death Squad, Philippine news updates, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV
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