Checking real disturbances
We are sorry to see the Senate shirking its responsibility of holding even President Duterte himself to account. The one and only hearing of the committee on public order on the dramatic allegations of retired police officer Arturo Lascañas raised many questions that require an answer. Yes, the answers carry political implications, because they relate to the way the President allegedly conducted himself as mayor of Davao City for over two decades. But the answers can help insulate the Philippine National Police in the future, from systemic or wholesale abuse of its officers by local government officials. Wouldn’t Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chair of the committee and once PNP chief himself, like to see legislation passed to meet exactly that need?
But Lacson and his committee members have agreed to dismiss Lascañas’ testimony as fatally compromised or politically motivated. In other words, they see only the political implications, not the legislative possibilities.
Lacson has taken issue with our characterization of his revelatory remarks (see Letters), which he made about a third of the way through the hearing on Monday. His “reality check,” he says, referred only to the natural difficulty the PNP will face in investigating allegations that may lead back to the President. His argument from practicality did not apply to the senators. But what made his remarks revealing was precisely their accurate reflection of the reasoning and conduct of many senators at the hearing. Besides, the proof is in the committee decision itself, not to conduct more hearings.
Didn’t the senators hear Lascañas say the President gave him an allowance of P100,000 a month for years on end, with the last payment given only last January? Here is an opportunity to trace a paper trail, or to establish a pattern of collaboration or complicity. What possible reason could a mayor have for giving a Special Police Officer 3 such a substantial sum, month in and month out? More to the point, why would the President of the Philippines continue to give a Davao-based policeman a considerable allowance for at least seven months? We do not need to take Lascañas at his word—but we can certainly follow the lead that his own admission suggests. And yet the senators say there’s nothing worth pursuing.
Didn’t the committee establish, with the willing and immediate responses of Lascañas, that he was close enough to the President to have been approached or involved in prospective business deals with government agencies? On this matter, senators like JV Ejercito and Vicente Sotto happily accept the witness’ testimony. But if a mere SPO3 is in fact so closely associated with the President that he can secure appointments even with Cabinet secretaries, shouldn’t we listen to what he has learned about the President from decades of close association? Really, the committee cannot have it both ways: to take as a given that Lascañas enjoyed a reputation as part of Mr. Duterte’s inner circle in Davao, and then not to believe everything he says about being in that circle. Besides, what business does an SPO3 have brokering business deals while still in active service? Shouldn’t the committee on public order investigate how self-evident abuses like these can be prevented in the future? And yet the senators say there’s nothing worth pursuing.
And didn’t the committee hear Lascañas offer specific details about the killings of which he admitted being a part? This portion of his testimony was not only against his self-interest. It also corroborated some of President Duterte’s own self-incriminating remarks. But many senators continued to press Lascañas on one point: Who can back his claims? Aside from Edgar Matobato, another confessed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad, we have the President himself admitting in interviews that he had taken part in some killings. Lascañas could have been asked to shed any light on those incidents. And yet the senators say there’s nothing worth pursuing. Reality check, indeed.
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