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Aguirre, ex-lawyer for owner of quarry where DDS victims were buried: bones not proven to be human

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre: he was once counsel for the owner of Laud quarry, the notorious site for executions and burials of alleged Davao Death Squad victims.
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA - Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, once the private lawyer for the owner of the Laud quarry where - according to two confessed Davao Death Squad members -  bodies of DDS victims had been killed and buried, sought Monday to discredit former Senior Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascañas for having lied to Senate probers earlier.

As Lascañas was being grilled by senators at the hearing called by the Public Order committee chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Aguirre told DOJ reporters, "Di na dapat paniwalaan 'yung ganun. Kung ako lang mag-cross examine doon, eh [People like those should no longer be believed. If I were cross-examining him..."

Aguirre admitted that during his pre-DOJ private practice, he once became counsel for Bienvenido Laud, owner of the notorious "Laud quarry" repeatedly cited in his Senate testimony by confessed DDS hitman Edgar Matobato in September and October 2016.

"Totoo po yan. Actually, palagi ko sinasabi 'yun sa interview ko. Totoong abugado ako ni Bienvenido Laud. Pero walang napruwebahan ang CHR, walang napruwebahan ang DOJ na ang nakalibing doon ay talagang biktima ng DDS. As a matter of fact, lumalabas nga doon na parang buto ng mga animals ang mga nahukay doon, hindi naman tao ang mga nahukay doon [It's true; I always state in interviews that I was counsel for Laud. But CHR proved nothing; DOJ could not prove that humans were buried there. In fact, the probe showed animal bones were buried there]." 

The Laud quarry was also belatedly cited by Lascañas after he made a 180-degree turnaround from his Oct. 3, 2016 Senate testimony, when he flatly denied Matobato's claims of a DDS and said it was just media hype.

However, in his Feb. 20, 2017 presser and his Feb. 19, 2017 affidavit, Lascañas said there was indeed a DDS; that he played a part in it, and that then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte sanctioned some of the hits and gave cash rewards. The retired officer on Monday affirmed before the Lacson panel most of such claims he made last month.

Also on Monday, FLAG lawyer Arno Sanidad, counsel for Lascañas, provided the senators details of the tortuous route taken by the Commission on Human Rights to get more evidence from the quarry, after Bienvenido Laud, assisted by Aguirre, filed motions to quash the search.

A search was indeed subsequently done, but, Aguirre insisted, it yielded only bones of animals. The human remains found there belonged to guerrillas from the last world war, he added.

Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, in the course of grilling Lascañas, also emphasized that the bones belonged to animals. Cayetano is a close ally of President Duterte.

Speaking to DOJ reporters, Aguirre noted that his nemesis Sen. Leila de Lima, as then CHR chair, had led the probe into the Laud quarry as part of the investigation into DDS.

According to Aguirre, if de Lima's investigation as CHR chair had turned up something solid against the DDS, then they should have filed charges against Mayor Duterte. However, he added, there was obviously no evidence to go by.

"That was the time of De Lima as CHR chair. If she had evidence then, they should have filed charges. But no one was sued; not the smallest lawsuit was filed," Aguirre said, mostly in Filipino.

Besides, Aguirre claimed, the quarry site was known as the burial ground for people killed by Japanese soldiers in World War II. 

'Eh ,kasi napruwebahan yun na ang area na yon ay doon tinapon ang mga pinatay ng mga Hapon kaya maraming buto ng mga patay doon [It was proven that bodies of those killed by the Japanese were dumped there. This must account for the presence of bones there]. he DOJ chief said.

Still, he said it was never proven that whatever bones dug up there belonged to humans.