MANILA –A Senator on Monday urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file perjury charges against retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas for recanting his earlier testimony in a Senate hearing denying the existence of the so-called vigilante group Davao Death Squad (DDS).
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said Lascañas has “made a mockery of the solemn proceedings of the Senate” by admitting to lying under oath before the Senate Justice Committee during the October 2016 hearings.
“He should be made to pay for the grave disrespect he has shown to this institution,” Gatchalian said.
Lascañas, in a press conference Monday, said his conscience led him to back the claim of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato that the death squad was real.
In a Senate inquiry into extrajudicial killings held on September 2016, it was Matobato who claimed that DDS was formed when Pres. Rodrigo Duterte was then Davao City Mayor.
Matobato said the group was allegedly responsible for killings of both criminals and non-criminals in Davao City from 1988 to 2013.
In another hearing, on October 2016, over 10 policemen from Davao City including Lascañas, however, debunked Matobato’s claim on the existence of DDS.
This time, Lascañas claimed that cops were paid PHP20,000 to PHP100,000 to carry out the killings.
He also named several other cops who were members of the DDS and cited a series of killings they did, including the killing of radio commentator Jun Pala and his own two brothers involved in the illegal drug trade, Cecilio and Fernando Lascañas.
Gatchalian said that he found Lascañas’ claims “hard to believe” considering his earlier testimony was completely different.
“Personally, I find it hard to believe the incredible alternative facts that Lascañas is now asserting. After all, he was singing a completely different tune just a few months ago,” Gatchalian said.
The neophyte senator said that unless Lascañas can provide actual concrete evidence, he would “not rely too much on this retired cop’s tall tales.”
“…It is clear that there are serious doubts about his integrity and the credibility for his new testimony,” he added.
The Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG), which served as Lascañas’ legal counsel, meanwhile said that their client will speak again at the proper forum such as a Senate inquiry where he can take his oath.
FLAG lawyer Jose Manuel ‘Chel’ Diokno, who is also primary legal counsel of Sen. Leila De Lima and dean of the De LaSalle University College of Law, said that Lascañas’ admission was “voluntary.”
He said that Lascañas and De Lima had “nothing to do with each other” despite being legal counsel of both of them. It was De Lima who invited Matobato as “surprise witness” during an inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings last Sept 2016.
Meanwhile, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Lascanas’ complete turnaround could be “part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration.”
“Our people are aware that this character assassination is nothing but vicious politics orchestrated by sectors affected by the reforms initiated by the Duterte administration. The Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate Committee on Justice already cleared the President of extrajudicial killing and his involvement in the Davao Death Squad,” Andanar said.