Lascanas changes tune, claims death squad existed; Andanar says it’s part of demolition job against Duterte
A retired police officer claimed Monday that death squads existed when President Rodrigo Duterte was mayor of Davao City.
Arthur Lascanas resurfaced on Monday when he appeared before the Senate, claiming that Duterte paid P20,000 to P100,000 per suspect. He said he was involved in the killing of his brothers, Cecilio and Fernando, who were involved in illegal drugs.
“The Davao Death Squad exists. We implement the orders of then Mayor Duterte,” said Lascanas, who addressed a televised press conference with members of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG).
Lascanas implicated Duterte in the killing of broadcaster Jun Pala, with “500,000 (peso) operational fund”.
In last year’s Senate hearing, Lascanas denied the Davao Death Squads existed.
Malacanang branded as "part of demolition job" against Duterte the allegations of a retired policeman, a confessed Davao Death Squad leader.
"The demolition job against President Duterte continues. The press conference of self-confessed hitman SPO3 Arthur Lascanas is part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration," said Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar in a statement.
Lascanas corroborated the claims made by Edgar Matobato, also a confessed Davao Death Squad member, Duterte ordered the murder of some individuals when he was still the mayor of Davao City.
Duterte has been denying of forming such a death squad..
"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," Andanar said.
He noted that the Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Senate Committee on Justice cleared Duterte of any involvement in extrajudicial killings and in the Davao Death Squad.
"Bringing change is not an easy task. The Duterte administration has disturbed/disrupted the establishment. However, we remain undistracted in delivering goods and services to serve the people, not just the interest of the few," he said.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo called Lascanas' accusation as "hearsay."
"And even assuming that to be true, still, the same conclusion: he has no direct communication with the president. In other words, it's false allegation," he said.
He said Lascanas’ accusation could have more weight if there is a witness who will testify that he was present when Duterte made the supposed orders.
Andanar also earned the ire of the reporters covering the Senate after he insinuated in a television interview that there were offers of $1,000 for reporters who attended the press conference of Lascanas.
"We have received reports that as much as $1,000 have been given in this presscon. I won't name my source anymore. But there were those given with this huge amount of money just to cover this (press conference)," he said.
But he added, he was not sure if those reporters accepted.
In a statement, Senate reporters said they strongly protest the "unsubstantiated and irresponsible claims" made by Andanar that reporters were given as much as $1,000 each to cover the press conference of Lascanas.
"To our knowledge, no such incident occurred. Such practice is not tolerated among Senate reporters. We would like to ask the Secretary to prove his allegations as such statements placed our credibility and our respective media entities under a cloud of doubt," they said.
"Otherwise, we demand a public apology from Secretary Andanar for spreading 'fake news', truly unbecoming of someone who, just a few months ago, came from the media industry," they stressed.
Andanar, in a later statement, said he did not allude to any member of the working press as a recipient.
"As a long-time broadcast journalist myself, I hold our former colleagues in the media in the highest esteem as we forge forward in our commitment to serve the public through the dissemination of factual information," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS