MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2 – 2:44 p.m.) Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II asked Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano Thursday to cancel the passport of retired policeman Arturo Lascañas, the self-confessed member of the so-called Davao Death Squad.
Aguirre said in the letter that Lascanas, who left the country for Singapore in April, “has since shown no intention of returning to the Philippines in order to face charges against him for the murder of Mr. Juan ‘Jun’ Pala on 6 September 2003.”
The request follows Aguirre’s orders to the National Bureau of Investigation to coordinate with the International Criminal Police Organization, or Interpol, to track down and apprehend Lascañas.
Lascañas, said Aguirre, is the subject of three warrants of arrest — one for murder and two for attempted murder — issued by a regional trial court in Davao City on charges for the 2003 killing of broadcaster Juan “Jun” Pala.
Ironically, the charges were based on Lascañas’ testimony before the Senate in February in which he claimed he had helped plan Pala’s murder on the orders of then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
“Mr. Lascañas has to be brought before the court to face the charges against him,” Aguirre said in an earlier statement. “If he believes in his innocence then he should welcome his arrest as a chance for him to clear his name and get on with his life.”
“However, if he is guilty, we cannot tolerate his continuing flight,” he added.
READ AGUIRRE’S LETTER TO CAYETANO:
In a related development, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV scoffed at reports he may be investigated by the NBI for harboring a criminal and obstruction of justice over Lascañas.
“If there is someone harboring a criminal, then it is Aguirre himself because the mastermind and mass murderer here is his boss, Duterte,” Trillanes said in a statement. “And if there are people obstructing justice in this case, then they would be the Duterte allies in Congress for railroading the impeachment and terminating the Senate investigations.”
The overwhelmingly pro-administration House of Representatives earlier killed an impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano that, among others, accused Duterte of mass murder for the alleged Davao Death Squad killings and the thousands of deaths associated with the administration’s aggressive “war on drugs.”
On the other hand, the Senate, which conducted concluded in its investigation, before which Lascañas and another supposed death squad member, Edgar Matobato testified, cleared Duterte.
Trillanes also belittled Aguirre’s order to track down and arrest Lascañas abroad.
“Secretary Aguirre conveniently forgets that Lascanas exited legally through the immigration counter of the Bureau of Immigration, which is under Aguirre’s DoJ,” he said. “As to the Interpol, how sure is Aguirre that Lascanas is not yet on refugee status in another country?”