Senate’s Lascañas inquiry output: no probative value, no facts, no journal



First read
HARVARD management professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter, writing on the challenge of restoring “respect for government,” laments: “We have plenty of law but not enough inquiry.” She warned of a system where “no one asks and no one tells.”

In the Philippines, I want to tell professor Kanter, our despair is the opposite. We have plenty of inquiry, but we have not produced enough law to enforce accountability and professionalism in government.

At any given time, a committee of the Senate or the House is conducting here an inquiry on a matter of public interest; sometimes the investigation is on something trivial; sometimes it receives live TV coverage. All that is needed for a local inquiry to take place is for a senator or congressman to be agitated enough to press for it. The catch is that our hearings, more often than not, produce nothing. Not even the required committee report.

Take the Senate hearing last Monday on the hair-raising allegations of former Davao City police officer Arthur Lascañas.

At the end of a proceeding that tried its damndest to be sensational, the senator-probers were as befuddled and lost, as I (a mere observer) was. They did not know what they had reaped, or had an idea of what to do next.

Testimony with no probative value
The most conclusive finding of the hearing was the discovery of its own worthlessness.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs who steered the hearing, declared at the end that the inquiry was over for good. Lascañas would not be returning for another chance to stretch his tale. Lacson said the Lascañas testimony had “no probative value.”

In the legal dictionary, “probative value” means: “evidence which is sufficiently useful to prove something important in a trial.”

Lacson cited the lack of independent evidence to back Lascañas’ claims and recantation in which he repeatedly implicated President Duterte in alleged summary executions of criminals and even non-criminals in Davao City.

Oddly, before the hearing began, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III declared in a TV interview that Lascañas’s already publicized claims may not have “probative value.” Sotto would say afterwards that the testimony had publicity and entertainment value.

Knowing therefore what was to come, why did the Senate press on with the hearing? Why did the chamber not array other witnesses who would substantiate the Lascañas claims, or prove that the Davao Death Squad (DDS) did exist? At the mention of the name of Edgar Matobato, the chamber ran away.

Like an inning in a baseball game
In reviewing the results of the inquiry, it startled me that the proceeding looked like an inning in a baseball game (“no runs, no hits, no errors, no nothing”). All the talking produced no facts. This is why I shifted my attention toward a different direction, and started asking the following questions:

1. Were there summary killings in Davao City? What facts has the government or the Philippine National Police (PNP)

established on this matter? Can anyone or any agency attest to a single case?

2. Since the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has been investigating alleged human rights abuses in Davao since 1989, has the commission confirmed cases or any facts? What does it know? Will the CHR state for the record or under oath that the DDS existed?

3. Who are the human rights victims?

What is the status of their cases?

4. Who are the drug lords and traffickers who were killed or apprehended in Davao? Are they in detention today?

5. What does the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) know about the drug situation and history in Davao City? Shouldn’t the Senate secure its records and findings?

I was also curious about the Laud quarry where many of the DDS victims are supposed to have been buried. If there is any place where people should scream “hukayin”(exhume), this may be the place.

But Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre says the quarry was used as a gravesite for guerrillas killed by the Japanese during World War II, so any human bones discovered there may point to other victims.

Lascañas journal
Prior to the hearing, there was big talk about a journal that Lascañas claimed to have written about his activities in the Davao squad.

Why didn’t the Senate demand a copy of the journal as a condition for letting him testify at the hearing?

When Lascañas was asked about the journal and requested to furnish a copy to the Senate, he claimed that he had given the journal to certain priests and he has no copy of his supposed masterpiece. The Senate did not press him on the identity of the priests in league with him? Why no questioning about the priestly interest in this affair?

The reality of the journal is important, because its authorship would tend either to support or belie Lascañas’s confession.

For all their eagerness to give their two cents at the inquiry, the neophyte senators did nothing to advance the probe.

The new senators were incurious about the possibility that they were playing parts in an elaborate hoax. They just wanted to look good. When the hearing was over, some senators attested to Lascañas’s reliability as a witness; others challenged his credibility.

Democracy needs facts
My disappointment with the inquiry is that it did not produce facts regarding Lascañas’ story. It was lazy in its inquisition, and appeared to find satisfaction in every embellishment that the witness added to his tale.

I harp on this point because an inquiry by its very name is designed to establish or elicit facts.

Monday’s inquiry did not quench the public’s interest in knowing whether there was a Davao death squad or not.

After the expense of so much time and money in inquiry, the DDS remains neither fact nor fiction. Senators may need publicity, but our democracy needs facts more.


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  1. Naghintay talaga ako sa issue about sa jurna, bata wala! So disappointing, the inquiry is just like public advertisment.

  2. I wonder why the Inquirer, ABS-CBN, GMA, . unable to muster as many witnesses to collaborate Lascanas. They can even go to “Bone Collectors Museum” baka naandoon ang mga pinagpapatay ni Lascanas instead to dig the quarry.

  3. We have a lot of inquiries but 90% does not really add value. I believe that outside body such as ICHR should conduct the investigation. The country is so polarized and run by padrino system that having a senate inquiry involving the President is ridiculous and run the risk of chaos whether it is for or against..

  4. I am so sad the MDS is dead. She would have told off the senators and lecture to them how to conduct investigations and how examine the evidence and its merits. I remember how she lambasted the UP lawyers for prosecuting Corona but not knowing how to build a case.

  5. All this circus exposes the defects our criminal justice system, the root cause is incompetency rooted in police investigative deficiencies. Bad police work, results to bad lawyering and impossible court rulings .

    What kind of senior police is this that makes accusations without first securing proof of at least a dozen of the 200+ alleged murders he committed. Where is the solid evidence, not even actual names of Taiwanese-DI’s said to be murdered. Where’s the coroners report, police blotters, cadavers excavated, blood stains, bullet fragments, corroborating witnesses and shreds of evidences. Without any of these even the most sincerest sounding testimony amounts to hearsay.

    See how our court proceeding are primitive and unscientific, watch our senators or prosecutors conduct themselves like medieval inquisitors at a which hunt, “swear by God you are telling the truth” threatening them with all but the rack. As in the CSI TV episodes, “witnesses can lie, the evidence does not”

    In aid of legislation our lawmakers should henceforth pass a bill establishing a science based National Crime Evidence Gathering Bureau (NCEGB). Also passage of requisite laws with heavier penalties on evidence and witness tampering.

  6. The problem with these senators is that they like what is happening in the Philippines in relation to WAR ON DRUGS by DU30 wherein he bacame so famous that most of the SENATORS that was voted by the people were COMEDIANS, GREAT BOXERS, ARTIST ETC,..They nothing about laws, prosecution, guilty ect.etc….They fully support the EJK. If this was in the US impeachment is on line right away with two corraborative witnesses..

  7. Mark Villones on

    Lascanas did not want to present his so called journal simply because it would have proven to be his early undoing. He would have been questioned as to why there were no dates in the journal. He would have been asked to write something to compare his handwriting with that of the journal. He would have been asked why there were no erasures or corrections in the journal. For all we know the handwriting on the journal could be traced to Trillanes or de Lima or Alex Padilla or Lacierda.

    • Jerry Valdez on

      In the contrary, it was obvious that they just heard but never listened. If they were really interested, then they should have done what you said and proven that Lascanas claims were bogus. They were so afraid to summon people, documents, knowing that the President will be further implicated. Never did Lascanas look at his notes nor consulted his lawyers all through out the 6 hour hearing. He was grilled but he was talking impromptu narrating his story. Those are not signs of someone who’s lying. Lacson the chair is simply clever, for his publicity. I will not be surprised if he’ll run for President again.

    • To jerry valdez if lascanas and co. were hellbent on proving this dds then they should have pushed to show and reveal what was on the journal. no copies daw? ha?

  8. The inquiry just ended parallels a TV sitcom that merely entertains, goes nowhere, thus made us feel like it’s plain waste of time. And of people’s money. The tragic result is, we ended poorer for the waste and more ignorant of the truth about DDS than when the inquiry started. Kawawang Pinas!

  9. DDS and EJK are for real. The biggest question is , is this for the good of our country ? Duterte thinks it is for the good of uur country. I think so to but is it the right thing to do ? No, it is wrong.

  10. The Senate must stop Trillanes from playing games with them. There must be an end to this moro-moro invented by Trillanes and Leila to muddle the issue of the so called DDS. The Senators are too accommodating to all the games of Antonio and Leila so that they look like fools being used by this useless Senato and person. Stop it already and do your jobs, Senators.

  11. This is all about the Senate becoming lost. It started with Delima getting approval to have her committee investigate killings during the current drug war. Then she just brought in a man who confessed to killings under DU30 in the DDS years ago. The Senate shut her down and the inquiry because the inquiry had strayed so far from its intent. Then Trilanes holds a press conference and presents a man who says he lied at his first Senate appearance and now is telling the truth. The Senate responds by inviting him to testify. At the hearing they find out he is lying for certain. They conclude that they do not know if what he said is true or merely more lies. All they know is that he lied and they do not know if anything he said was the truth. This is just our Senate wasting time and money on publicity. They have to get back to real oversight functions and creating laws that benefit the country.

  12. Nilo del Mundo on

    the inquiry was merely to release pressure from groups out to oust Duterte. It did the job. Now no man can say we are suppressing truth

  13. Back to your drawing board mr. Trilyanes. At list may ilang naniwala kay Lascanas, sina bum aquino, hontiveros, pangilinan and drillon. Mahirap talaga gumawa ng script pero kunti na lang mr trilyanes pwede ka na sa regal mag apply.

    • Al Moranas Jr. on

      malapit na kasi matapos ang term ni trillianes at pag hindi na siya senador nakow! alam na nyang tagilid siya ke degunggong (ang hari ng kadiliman) kaya’t hanggang may panahon pa banat at baka mapuruhan si lord digung!

  14. Leland Sacro on

    In aid of re-election and not legislation. We need another 100 years maybe to mature politically.

  15. The only thing I can say about the columnist observations is correct and to the point! Furthermoe,pro-Duterte’s senators are inutile favoring one man than the welfare and general good of the country.

    • the question is – whose welfare and general good you’re referring too. certainly not for the country idiot but for you kind…YELLOWISH!!!!

    • Cris’ reply below to your post is a classic Dutertard outburst. Sees everything tinged with yellow. Worth nothing, just a blast of smelly air really. We want due process, civility, propriety and respect for everyone be restored. Impeach Duterte now.

    • isko same goes for you lol. sige kung due process, civility, propriety, ano mga impeachable offenses ng pres? pareho lang mga anti sa dutertards actually

  16. Like you, I also waited for the Journal issue to be taken up. And right there on his seat, Lascanas should had been tested to write something like an entry to his journal in English. Let’s say, half an hour’s time to pen. What can be gleaned from it? Sentence syntax. Writing style. Penmanship. To be compared with the submitted Journal to the priest. Monday’s hearing separates Sen. Lacson from Sen. Gordon?

    • renato s irlanda on

      Senator Dick Gordon is the only one worthy of being called a Senator.
      if we take out the live coverage on television of the Senate hearings i truly doubt if the Senate can muster a quorum, walang audience for them to show off to, huwag na kayo nalang dyan