A top ally of President Rodrigo Duterte has called for the arrest of retired policeman Arthur Lascañas who has confessed to leading a team of hired killers known as the “Davao Death Squad.”
Rep. Karlo Nograles of Davao City accused Lascañas of spreading lies against President Duterte.
“If the alleged killings truly happened, the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) should arrest Lascañas for multiple murder. He admitted to killing people in his attempt to implicate President Duterte in the alleged existence of extra-judicial killings. Therefore, he must be captured and immediately brought to court for multiple murder charges,” Nograles said in a statement.
“He cannot be considered as a state witness and claim immunity because he is the most guilty person in these killings,” he added.
Lascañas made the confession before a news conference last week in the Senate, accompanied by Sen. Antonio Trillanes 4th and lawyers from the Free Legal Assistance Group led by Jose Manuel Diokno.
Nograles, son of former House speaker and one-time Duterte rival Prospero Nograles, said Lascañas’ emergence could be part of a plot to destabilize the Duterte government.
“The agenda of the handlers of Lascañas is very clear. They are using him to destabilize the Duterte administration. To my mind, this is equivalent to treason,” Nograles said.
Last week, the Senate agreed to invite Lascañas to a Senate inquiry.
But the head of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs said he would not schedule a hearing on Lascañas’ testimony regarding the Davao Death Squad until he submits an affidavit to the panel.
Senator Panfilo Lacson in a radio interview over the weekend said he had reminded Sen. Leila de Lima to follow up on Lascañas’ affidavit in order for him to schedule the hearing in compliance with the three-day notice rule of the Senate. De Lima however was arrested on drug-related charges last Friday.
Lacson said he had also directed his staff to coordinate with Trillanes’ staff on how to proceed with the probe and who they think should be invited to the hearing.
“I have not heard from Senator Trillanes and there was also no categorical answer from Senator de Lima when I mentioned about the sworn statement to her last Thursday,” Lacson said.
Trillanes, in a separate interview, said he would submit the sworn affidavit of Lascañas’ to Lacson today in order for his committee to review it and scheduled the hearing.
Trillanes said that unless somebody would block the probe, Lacson could set the hearing by Thursday in accordance with the Senate’s three-day notice rule.
The senator said Lascañas still held crucial information that was not included in his affidavit.
The retired police officer, who claimed to have headed the death squad, alleged that Duterte, when he was still mayor of Davao City, directly gave the group orders to kill suspected criminals and political rivals.
He also claimed that he received a monthly allowance from Duterte aside from a bonus after every kill.
Lascañas’ claims, however, were a complete turnaround from his testimony during the probe of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights last year, which heard the testimony of self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato.
During that probe, Lascañas belied Matobato’s allegations and denied the existence of the death squad.
His testimony, along with the testimonies of other resource persons, convinced the justice panel headed by Sen. Richard Gordon to conclude that the Davao Death Squad did not exist and that Duterte was not involved in the recent spate of alleged extra-judicial killings of drug suspects.
In a privilege speech last week, Gordon opposed the move to have Lascañas heard by the Senate anew, insisting that allowing it would be an insult to the institution as the ex-policeman had lied to it.
He said that if Lascañas wanted to be heard, he should go to the court and not the Senate because it had released a committee report based on his testimony made under oath.
Gordon’s position was concurred in by Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Manny Pacquiao, known allies of Duterte.
His motion as contained in his privilege speech was referred to the rules committee headed by Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto 3rd.