Senate body junks hit men’s testimonies
Confessed assassin Arturo Lascañas, a retired Davao City police officer, is not the person who can prove the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) because his testimony is inconsistent and lacks evidence.
So declared the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in a report that summed up its findings and recommendations on Lascañas’ confession that he and other Davao policemen were hired to kill on orders of former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
The committee came up with the report after holding just one hearing on March 6.
It invited Lascañas to testify on his allegation that Mayor Duterte was behind the DDS and that the latter had paid policemen and rebel returnees to kill not only criminals and drug suspects but also his political enemies.
Lascañas previously testified in a Senate inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings under the Duterte administration in which he dismissed as lies the testimony of Edgar Matobato, who claimed to be a hit man for Mr. Duterte who he said had formed the DDS.
Lack of credibility
“The lack of credibility of both witnesses results in the lack of evidentiary value of their testimonies. Aside from the extrajudicial confession, no other piece of evidence was presented to prove the conspiracy. Therefore, their confession has no probative value,” the committee report said.
“One thing is for sure, Arturo Lascañas is not the person to prove [the DDS’s] actual existence and finally bring to justice the perpetrators of numerous unresolved crimes in Davao City or elsewhere if proven so,” it said.
Signed by eight members
Lacson said on Monday that he would report out on the floor on Tuesday Committee Report No. 97, which was signed by eight members.
Asked why he did not recommend perjury charges against Lascañas, the senator said he was leaving it up to the Department of Justice “to pick it up once the Senate adopts the report.”
Of the eight who signed the report, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said he did not concur with the report and would interpellate Lacson on the floor.
Testimony abruptly ended
In a statement, Trillanes said Lacson had “no basis to say that Lascañas’ testimony was not credible because he abruptly terminated the investigation after only one hearing.”
“In fact, during the solitary hearing Lacson conducted, the Philippine National Police representative even corroborated some of Lascañas’ statements,” said Trillanes, who had helped in bringing out the alleged DDS hit man to the public.
Sen. Grace Poe said she agreed with the report’s recommendations, but had reservations about the committee findings.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said he agreed with the report “in so far as the recommendations are concerned.”
In the 20-page report, the committee said Lascañas’ testimony was that of “a grand conspiracy involving the DDS” and that he had implicated fellow police officers, who included Sonny Buenaventura, a trusted Duterte aide, as well as Fulgencio Pavo, Jim Tan and Dick Cloribel.
But the report noted that under the rules of evidence, the “evidence other than the declaration of the coconspirator must be out forward.”
“Following said rules, Lascañas’ testimony could not be possibly considered evidence against the persons he was implicating, without first putting forward other evidence that could establish grand conspiracy he was claiming,” the report said.
It said Lascañas’ testimony could not be considered evidence against the President and other police officers without him offering evidence other than his testimony. Thus, he has the burden to prove his allegations before the committee.
The committee also said it found Lascañas’ affidavit and testimony to be self-serving, not worthy of belief and bereft of credibility.
For instance, it said Lascañas did not offer any corroborating evidence that for the price of P3 million, radio broadcaster Jun Pala was ordered killed by Mayor Duterte for criticizing him on his program.
“To impute a crime on another individual on the basis of motive alone will be a dangerous precedent,” the report said.
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