After debating on the floor on Wednesday, senators agreed that panel headed by Sen. Panfilo Lacson should continue with the investigation of the alleged involvement of President Rodrigo Duterte in the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).
Earlier, Sen. Grace Poe manifested that the Senate could create a special committee to investigate the allegation of confessed DDS leader Arthur Lacscañas that Duterte paid the group to kill criminals in Davao City when he was still its mayor.
The issue had already been referred to the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Lacson. But Poe noted that her colleague was “uncomfortable” handling the referral out of respect for Sen. Richard Gordon, who led the probe on alleged extrajudicial killings (EJKs).
As chair of the committee on justice and human rights, Gordon took part in investigating the extrajudicial killings along with Lacson’s panel.
During the hearing of the two panels last year, Lascañas denied the existence of DDS. But he recanted his testimony at news conference he held at the Senate on Monday.
Gordon did not want to call back Lascañas to his committee. So Poe manifested that the special committee could be created to hear the witness’ testimony.
“Making him come here to speak is not for the benefit of this person,” Poe said. “I believe that making him come here to speak is also for the benefit of those of us who would like to know what made him change his mind and why he is doing so.”
“Mr. President, I think if we were to judge based on the statements of the other resource persons that came here and we would reject them for having lied in the past, I think we will not have any resource persons left,” Poe added. “There are certain reservations that obviously these individuals might have had when they first came over here to speak.”
Poe considered Lascañas’ allegation against the President as “serious” and appeared to corroborate the testimony of confessed assassin Edgar Matobato, who also accused Duterte of being behind the DDS.
The probe, she said, would give the Senate an opportunity to test Lascañas’ credibility.
“This opportunity that we will give ourselves to hear and scrutinize these allegations before a special committee (that may be organized) would definitely not absolve Mr. Lascañas from any criminal act that he may have already committed,” Poe said.
But Lacson also stood up and clarified that he was not shirking from the responsibility of hearing the issue that had already been referred to his panel.
“Lest it be misunderstood that I’m shirking from the responsibility of hearing the privilege speech or this issue, that’s far from the truth,” Lacson said.
“It is a mandate, having been referred to the committee on public order and dangerous drugs, which I chair… it’s a mandate and it’s my obligation to hear it.”
Lacson made it clear though that he was not objecting to Poe’s manifestation and that he would just leave the decision to the chamber.
With Lacson’s manifestation, Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III then said there was no need for the chamber to form a special committee as proposed by Poe.