MANILA (Updated) -- The Senate voted on Tuesday to give retired Senior Police Officer 3 Arturo Lascañas, the leader of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS), another chance to appear at the investigating body probing the extrajudicial killings.
Risking himself to possible charges of perjury, the former policeman who in the previous hearings denied any knowledge about existence of the death squad has now expressed willingness to tell all, as he explained that he was only forced to lie in order to protect the lives of his family members.
He confirmed in a press conference last Monday that President Rodrigo Duterte, when he was mayor of Davao City, paid him and other members of the death squad to eliminate criminals and political opponents.
Those who voted to hear Lascanas testimony include Senate President Pro Tempore Franklin Drilon, Senators Leila de Lima, Francis Pangilinan, Ralph Recto, Francis Escudero, Juan Edgardo Angara, Antonio Trillanes IV, Joel Villanueva, and Paulo Benign Aquino IV.
According to sources, seven senators denied the reopening of the extrajudicial killings probe. These include Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, Senators Richard Gordon, Cynthia Villar, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manny Pacquiao, Sherwin Gatchalian and Gregorio Honasan.
Other senators who opted to abstain in the voting include Senators Panfilo Lacson, Lourdes Nancy Binay, Loren Legarda, Vicente Sotto III, and Joseph Victor Ejercito Estrada.
While the closest ally of President Duterte, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano was not present as well as Senator Grace Poe.
Lascanas, who retired from the police service early last year, also corroborated Edgar Matobato's statement about the involvement of DDS in the killing of at least 2,000 suspected drug addicts and pushers upon the instruction of Duterte during his two decades as the city mayor.
Lascanas said all the revelation earlier made by Matobato, a self-confessed DDS hitman, were based on truth and he opted to lie because of fear that his family will be the next target.
Lascañas has executed an affidavit and is ready to testify before any government agency, including the Senate, said Free Legal Assistance Group (Flag) lawyer Arno Sanidad.
Flag president Jose Manuel Diokno, dean of De La Salle University College of Law, said his group is providing legal assistance for Lascañas.
But Senator Gordon said the Senate must not be a venue to accommodate the lies of Lascañas.
Gordon, who chairs the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said Lascanas is not credible anymore considering that he lied under oath and it would only be a waste of tax payers money to accommodate him.
Pimentel, for his part, said the recent revelation of Lascanas cannot be taken as the truth.
Pimentel said it is not enough that he was a former police officer allegedly "very close" to Duterte that can be used as a basis to believe his testimony.
But Pimentel said democracy will prevail if majority of the senators would want to hear his own version of the story.
According to sources, the committee on public order and illegal drugs, which is being chaired by Senator Lacson, will be tasked to handle the investigation and testimony of Lascañas.
Senator Pangilinan, for his part, said it is the right of the people to hear the side of Lascanas on this issue of extrajudicial killings that is now being questioned even in the international community.
Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, meanwhile, they were "amused" that Lascañas recanted his earlier testimony that the DDS does not exist.
But instead of being piqued at the latest claim, Panelo said Duterte "pities" Lascañas because is he is being used to opposition's plot to unseat the Chief Executive.
"He (Duterte) pities [Lascañas]. He's pitiful because he might have been used [for such ulterior motive]. The President pities such kind of person who recanted statement for whatever reason," Panelo told reporters at the sideline of the celebration of 50th anniversary of Asian Development Bank in Mandaluyong City.
Panelo said it could be noticed through Duterte's "body language" that he was unfazed by the latest allegation.
"We're just amused by all of these because they have been trying to do that all ever since, even before he assumed office," he said.
"There are sinister forces behind all these destabilization, plots, attempts against the President. But they will not succeed The President is very popular. The military and the police are behind him. Congress is behind him too," Panelo added. (With a report from Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)