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Trillanes hits colleagues: You believe in drug lords' testimonies but downplay Lascanas' statements

InterAksyon file photo of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV has criticized his colleagues for having the time and energy to listen to the testimonies of convicted drug criminals, but lacking the same eagerness to pay attention to the testimony of retired senior police officer Arturo Lascañas.

"Ang pinaniniwalaan ng mga senador, iyong testimonya ng drug lord, ‘yong si Kerwin Espinosa, sina Dayan," Trillanes said during an interview with dzMM radio on Tuesday.

The Senate and the House of Representatives earlier conducted a series of hearings on drug-related issues wherein Bilibid inmates, suspected drug lord Kerwin Espinosa, and Ronnie Dayan, former driver of Sen. Leila de Lima became among the resource persons. Their testimonies became the basis for the Department of Justice to file drug-related charges against De Lima, who is now detained in Camp Crame.

Fear of the President

Trillanes claimed that the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs’ decision to nip in the bud its hearing on Lascañas’ claims about the Davao Death Squad (DDS) was because of his colleagues’ alleged fear that President Rodrigo Duterte would get back at them if the inquiry continues.

"Ang implication kasi, mamamatay-tao si Presidente. Ayaw nilang harapin ‘yon kasi hindi nila alam ang gagawin. Hindi nila kayang sabihin ‘yon dahil nga baka balingan sila ng galit ni President Duterte," Trillanes said.

[The implication is that the President is a murderer. They don’t want to face that because they don’t know what to do. They can’t say that because they may catch the ire of President Duterte.]

During the Senate hearing on Monday, Lascañas reiterated his public confession, testifying that Duterte, while he was still mayor, allegedly ordered the killing of his enemies and suspected criminals carried out by the Davao Death Squad, which the chief executive purportedly formed when he ruled the city. The DDS operations also allegesly resulted in the murder of numerous innocent civilians.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs on Monday adjourned the inquiry on the alleged existence of DDS, saying Lascañas’ testimony lacked probative value referring to evidence that could serve the purpose of proving something during a trial.

“We adjourned it, kasi wala kaming makitang punto na to pursue it. May nag-move to adjourn kasi wala na, ano pa ang pipigain mo, eh nasabi na ang lahat [Somebody moved for adjournment because there's nothing more, everything has been said],” Lacson said.

Lacson said even Lascañas testified under oath that he himself would cast doubt on his recanted testimonies.

“For me that is the most revealing coming from him na kung siya mismo ang nasa posisyon ng nagtatanong, siya mismo ay magdududa sa kanyang testimonya [that if he's in the position of the one questioning him, he himself would doubt his own testimony]” Lacson said.

'Just for media mileage'

Last October, during a Senate hearing, Lascañas denied the existence of the DDS but made a turnaround last month. The retired police officer said he earlier denied having knowledge about the vigilante group because he was worried about his and his family’s safety and security.

At the beginning of Monday's hearing, Lacson advised Lascañas to reinforce his testimony by producing other pieces of evidence and collaborative witnesses. Otherwise, Lacson said the retired police offcers' testimony would be futile. 

After the hearing, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III said the Senate inquiry into Lascañas’ testimony would only be for media mileage.

"Talagang pang media mileage na ito. Sa tingin ko walang probative value kaming makukuha dito [This is really only for media mileage. I think we won’t get any probative value from this)," Sotto told reporters in an interview.

Sotto said that it could also somewhat be of “entertainment value” for critics of the Duterte administration.

'Lascañas better than senators'

But Trillanes on Tuesday said his colleagues could look for evidence themselves by continuing the inquiry and inviting more witnesses to help shed light on Lascañas’ testimony.

Moreover, Trillanes said that it was too shallow for his Senate colleagues to claim that Lascañas had decided to resurface and speak against the President because he failed to secure government deals.

"Napakababaw ng gusto nilang mangyari. Kaya raw lumalabas ngayon kasi ni-reject daw ang kanyang mga kabuhayan [What they were trying to paint was very shallow. That the reason why he surfaced was because his requests for his livelihood were rejected],” said Trillanes.

Tingnan n’yo naman ‘yan, Presidente ang itinuturo niya... Aakusahan niya ngayon na involved sa murder. Subukan nga nilang gawin ‘yon [Look, he’s pointing to the President, accusing him of murder. They should try doing that]," he said.

According to Trillanes, Lascañas is much better than some of his colleagues because while the retired police officer doesn't have much power like senators do, he is ready to risk his and his family’s life.

"Sila nga, hindi nila kayang magsabi ng negatibo sa Presidente -- mga senador sila ha. Ang ginagawa nila ay sumipsip kay Presidente kasi ayaw nila mapagbalingan ng galit. Senador na sila noon ha, ito retiradong pulis, tinataya ang buhay pati pamilya." – with PNA