Senate Probe
Cartoon by Roni Santiago

Will the Philippine Senate continue its probe into the reported extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in Davao City?

This question is being asked by some groups who noted that the Senate committee on justice, chaired by Senator Richard Gordon, seems to be reluctant in pushing the investigation.

The groups believed that the Senate justice committee is the only independent body that could ferret out the truth about the alleged EJKs.

The law-enforcement agencies such as the Philippine National Police (PNP), the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Department of Justice (DoJ) could not be expected to undertake a thorough investigation on the issue because these are all offices under the office of President Rodrigo Duterte who is being implicated in the killings.

The Senate is part of the legislative branch, which is equal to the executive branch, and so it is an independent body. Also, several of the senators are known to stick to their principles when the going gets rough.         

The Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported that according Senator Panfilo Lacson, it is up to the chairman of the Senate justice committee, Gordon, to call for a resumption of the Senate inquiry into the alleged EJKs.

Earlier, some senators had urged the committee to hold a hearing on the testimony of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, who recanted his testimony denying the existence of a so-called vigilante group, the Davao Death Squad (DDS).

With the recantation, Lascañas is now saying that there was indeed a group hired to kill criminals and non-criminals in Davao City.

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His new testimony supports the testimony of self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato who had first claimed the existence of the vigilante group.

Senate should continue its probe on EJKs

Senator Lacson said, however, that he did not know if another hearing was likely because it seemed like a continuation of the previous hearings with Matobato.

Lacson agreed with Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who had urged the DoJ to file perjury charges against Lascañas for admitting to lying while under oath in a Senate hearing held last year.

“Ang problem kasi under oath siya noong nag-testify siya dito. If he will again testify under oath, open siya sa perjury. Hindi pwedeng magkaiba statements mo parehong under oath,” he added.

Despite the perjury issue, we believe there is a need to continue the inquiry. There may be a valid reason Lascanas has changed his testimony. This matter could be resolved only if the Senate continues its investigation.

Comments by some people that the senators are not enthusiastic to push the probe because there is a sacred cow involved in the EJKs are off tangent. Senator Gordon is man who is known for his courage, and we expect him to do everything within his power to uncover the truth no matter who gets hurt.