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Senate panel finds Lascañas’ testimony credible… the first time around

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Retired SPO3 Arturo Lascañas was more credible as a witness when he first appeared in the Senate last year to deny the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs has concluded.

In its 20-page report, the panel chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson noted several loopholes in Lascañas’ second testimony, which he gave when another congressional investigation was called regarding the DDS controversy in March.

“Comparing Lascañas’ testimony then and now, it appears that he was a credible witness back then when he refuted the allegations of Edgar Matobato,” the report read.

Matobato, a self-confessed former DDS member, first testified about the group’s existence and claimed that it had then-Davao mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s blessing to kill petty criminals and his political enemies.

In his testimony before the Senate committee on justice and human rights made under oath last Oct. 3, Lascañas denied Matobato’s claims, including his being the supposed leader of the DDS.

“Wala pong DDS your honor, media hype lang iyan,” he said to Sen. Leila de Lima who interrogated him in the said hearing and reiterated the same to Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano.

But when he appeared before senators again earlier this year, Lascañas claimed the group had been operating since 1991.

Another discrepancy noted by the committee in Lascañas’ testimony was regarding his claim that members of a certain Patajasa family were killed because they were supposedly involved in the of a kidnapping of a certain Mrs. Abaca, a prominent person from Davao City.

Verification by the committee with the Philippine National Police (PNP) Anti-Kidnapping Group, however, disclosed that there was no available record pertaining to the kidnapping of such person.

Furthermore, the panel was also told by the PNP national headquarters that an inquiry on the residents where the Patajasa family supposed lived in General Santos City, which is a close knitted community, claimed there has been no individual or resident in their locality by such name.

The abduction and killing of Patajasa family were all baseless and not founded on any substantial evidence.

In his press conference at the Senate in Feb. 20, Lascanas he claimed that he personally witnessed the massacre of the family but in his sworn affidavit, he said that he heard several muffled gunshots of a firearm.

“Indeed, sight and auditory perception are two different senses capable of being easily distinguished and described in any language or dialect. Truly, it is unacceptable to say that one has seen an even that was not witnessed by the human eye,” the report said.

“In the same manner, a witness is not expected to give error-free testimony considering the lapse of time and the treachery of human memory but let us not forget that this statement is qualified and limited only to minor and trivial matters innocent lapses,” it said.

The pronouncement of Supreme Court on inconsistencies on minor lapses should not be twisted in order to be applicable to contradictions on relevant matters as to how a person witnessed the commission of a crime, the report also emphasized.

His recantation was evaluated based on public records ad evidence that he and other witnesses presented and submitted in the previous inquiry conducted by the Senate committee on justice and human rights.