Lascañas ready to face perjury, murder charges – lawyer
MANILA, Philippines – Retired Davao cop Arturo Lascañas is ready to face charges perjury and murder charges following his confession that he was a member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), his lawyer said on Tuesday, February 21.
Alexander Padilla of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) told Rappler that Lascañas knew that this could happen when he executed his sworn statement detailing his involvement in the vigilante group that reportedly got orders from President Rodrigo Duterte when he was Davao City mayor.
"Noong nagbigay siya ng statement, handa siyang kasuhan siya ng perjury. Hindi lamang perjury, handa rin siyang kasuhan siya ng murder, dahil umaamin naman siya na siya mismo ang pumatay. Umabot na yata siya sa yugto ng kanyang buhay na may peace na siya na talagang gusto niyang gumawa ng public confession at handa na siya sa anuman ang mangyari," Padilla said.
(When he gave his statement, he was ready to be charged with perjury. Not only perjury but he was also ready to be charged for murder because he admitted to killing a person. He has reached that point in his life when he is at peace, and he wants to make a public confession. He is ready for whatever may happen to him.)
Padilla made the statement after Senator Sherwin Gatchalian urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to immediately file perjury charges against Lascañas, who gave a different testimony when he faced the Senate committee on justice and human rights in October last year.
"Lascañas has made a mockery of the solemn proceedings of the Senate. He should be made to pay for the grave disrespect he has shown to this institution," Gatchalian said in a statement.
Lascañas' confession on Monday was a complete turnaround from his testimony before the Senate panel in October 2016, when he categorically denied the existence of the death squad. (READ: Which information from Matobato does Lascañas corroborate?)
Padilla also contested the legal principle of falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus or "false in one thing, false in everything" and urged skeptics to look at the entire picture, particularly Lascañas' situation when he testified at the Senate hearing, and now.
"Tingnan natin 'yung konteksto. Unang-una, 'yung una niyang pagtestigo was a blanket denial; simple blanket denial. At that time, he was still under the payroll at may takot para sa pamilya," Padilla said.
(Let's look at the context. First of all, the first time he testified, he made a blanket denial; just a blanket denial. At that time, he was still under the government's payroll and he feared for the safety of his family.)
"Ngayon ang pagtestigo niya ay wala namang gantimpala sa kanya; in fact, puro risk nga sa kanya. He could have remained quiet, tinigil niya 'yung pagkuha ng kanyang allowance tapos ngayon handa na rin syang kasuhan siya o 'yung mismong buhay niya maapektuhan," Padilla added.
(Now, he won't get anything in return for his testimony; in fact, it puts him at greater risk. He could have remained quiet, he stopped getting his allowance and now he is ready to face charges, or have his life change completely.)
Ombudsman an option
Padilla also said that going to the Office of the Ombudsman may be an option if the Senate refuses to reopen its investigation into the DDS, after Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, expressed reluctance to the idea.
"Kung hindi papakinggan ng Senado, ide-depose namin ang kanyang statement sa isang sworn affidavit, at siguro ifa-file namin sa Ombudsman, kasi may power naman ang Ombudsman to investigate on their own," Padilla said.
(If the Senate will not listen, we will depose his statements into a sworn affidavit and maybe we will file it before the Ombudsman, because the Ombudsman has the power to investigate on its own.)
Asked whether Duterte will be named a respondent in the possible case before the Ombudsman, Padilla clarified Lascañas will not file an official complaint, but will only give the Ombudsman his sworn statement.
"It’s up to the proper authorities to take the cudgels kung may kaso, kung kakasuhan ba nila si Presidente ngayon or after his term, hindi na kami nakikialam," Padilla said.
(It's up to the proper authorities to take the cudgels and say if there's a case, if they will file a case against the President either now or after his term, we will no longer meddle in that.)
Gordon had said he was not keen to reopen the Senate probe into the DDS based only on Lascañas' testimony.
“We are not gonna go back to the Senate and say ‘we are gonna investigate again’ just because he has said something and now he is saying another something," Gordon told ANC.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, who organized Lascañas' news conference on Monday, has called on Senator Panfilo Lacson, as chair of the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, to take over the investigation. Lacson said this request must go through a process first before a hearing can be called.
'Grounds for impeachment'
Senator Leila de Lima was more direct in implicating Duterte, even saying that Lascañas' confessions are supplementary grounds for impeachment.
De Lima told the media on Tuesday that accusations against Duterte in connection with the Davao Death Squad, and the more than 7,000 deaths in his war on drugs constitute "high crimes" that are bases for impeachment.
"These are murders, extrajudicial killings, mass murders, crimes against humanity, in other words high crimes. One of the grounds for impeachment aside from culpable violation of the Constitution is “other high crimes,’" De Lima said. (READ: De Lima to Cabinet: Save PH from 'criminal' Duterte)
De Lima also challenged the principle of presidential immunity, saying that it does not apply to the current context.
"That’s not in the Constitution; we just followed it from the American legal system. The underlying rationale for the doctrine is not to distract the President in his work if you just allow any case to be filed against him. It’s just contemplating minor cases, purely harassment cases, vexatious suits or cases. But I don't think they comprehended our present situation," De Lima said.
In November 2016, De Lima filed a petition against Duterte before the Supreme Court, a case to "test" the doctrine of presidential immunity. At the time, she said the framers of the doctrine did not intend for the rule to be "abused" by any President, which she had accused Duterte of committing, in her case. – Rappler.com