MANILA, Philippines – Two Senate panels have released another report belying the existence of a vigilante group allegedly founded by President Rodrigo Duterte that supposedly carried out the killings of suspected criminals and foes of the chief executive when he was still Davao mayor.
In their May 17 joint report presented to the plenary on Monday, May 22, the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights chaired by Sen. Richard “Dick” Gordon and Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs chaired by Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, said “there is no proof that there is state-sponsored policy to commit killings to eradicate illegal drugs in the country” and “there is no sufficient evidence to prove that a Davao Death Squad (DDS) exists.”
Last December, the two panels conducted six legislative inquiries on the DDS and also reported that there was no evidence that the alleged vigilante group had existed.
The latest report said the testimonies of retired police officer Arturo Lascañas and self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato were “weak” and “did not pass the scrutiny of the respective Committees.”
“The lack of credibility of both witnesses results in the lack of evidentiary value of their testimonies. Aside from the extrajudicial confession, no other piece of evidence was presented to prove the alleged conspiracy. Therefore, their confession has no probative value,” the report noted.
The report recommended the amendment of the Revised Penal Code to increase the penalty for the crime of perjury and the Rules of the Senate to punish witnesses who give inconsistent testimonies in a Senate inquiry.
Last February, Lascañas retracted his October 2016 testimony and disclosed the alleged link of Duterte to the DDS.
According to the report, the alleged conspiracy among DDS members was not properly established by independent evidence and Lascañas also failed to prove that his statements were made while alleged DDS members were engaged in carrying out the conspiracy.
“The statements were made after the conspiracy has ended and after the consummation of the crime. They were not acts or declarations made during the conspiracy’s existence.”