I was invited twice by Sen. Panfilo Lacson to the Senate hearing on “tokhang ransom” cases involving Chinese victims, but I was in Vancouver, Canada at the time due to a family emergency. Despite the difficult situation there, it was a welcome respite from bad news from home. Local Vancouver news reported vehicular accidents due to heavy snowfall, cases of Fentanyl overdose, a dog running in the streets. Even minor scuffles in the parking lot make news. My niece and nephews agreed that their news are all tame. Seldom do they have exciting news unlike in the Philippines. For a change, missing was the daily fare of extrajudicial killings, kidnapping and hostage taking incidents, massacres, robberies, drugs busts and the like.
Coming home, I ran smack into news reports that try one’s patience, sanity and equanimity. The government opted for a low-key EDSA People Power commemoration on Feb. 25. Because they are sadly uninformed and impressionable, pro-Duterte youth refuse to open their eyes to the reality around them. The premature arrest warrant for Sen. Leila de Lima diverted attention away from the killing of Korean Jee Ick Ju by law enforcers. SPO3 Arthur Lascañas finally disclosed the truth about Duterte’s Davao Death Squad, but government apologists quickly dismissed the first-hand account of gruesome murders as a destabilization plot.
What rankles deeply was how Sen. Vicente Sotto III tried to justify the decision to Liberal Party senators being stripped off their committee chairmanships. He said there should be no pro-Duterte or anti-Duterte legislators, there should only be pro-country lawmakers. His non sequitur implies that the Liberal senators are not pro-country. Just because they opposed the burial of the late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, condemned the extrajudicial killings and are anti-death penalty, that makes them not pro-country? Aren’t these principles the true hallmark of people who love their country and their fellowmen?
For entertainment only
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II tried to defend the inappropriate remark he made during the pro-Duterte rally at the Quirino Grandstand, saying it was just for entertainment. He had asked the crowd who they wanted to prosecute next after Sen. Leila de Lima. The crowd shouted “Trillanes,” referring to Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte. Aguirre then responded by saying, “Tulungan niyo ako (Help me).”
Sen. Grace Poe reminded Aguirre that he is expected to administer justice, not to moonlight as a “perya barker” and agitate the crowd. How about Aguirre’s defense of convicted criminals? Was that also entertainment? De Lima revealed the confidential memorandum dated Dec. 9, 2016 and signed by Bureau of Corrections Legal Office chief Alvin Herrera Lim that inmates detained at the Armed Forces Custodial and Detention Center “continue to enjoy lavish lifestyles e.g. use of electronic gadgets, smart television sets, air conditioning units, internet, cellular phones.” These inmates had testified in a congressional hearing that they delivered money to De Lima purportedly to fund her election campaign.
Lim said BuCor was just following Aguirre’s directives. To which De Lima asked: “Who is the drug lord coddler now?” Aguirre retaliated by accusing De Lima of offering a P100 million bribe to the eight inmates to recant their testimonies before Feb. 25. Worse, he even lauded the inmates for rejecting the purported bribe! There is nothing laudable in what the inmates did – if the bribery attempt ever happened at all. They are convicted criminals whose primary interest is self-preservation. The attempted bribery appears to be, again, a figment of Aguirre’s imagination and the latest of his conspiracy theories. He claimed that the P100 million offer was part of an alleged “People Power” plan against the administration. He said the same about the killing of the Korean businessman by rogue police officers. He claimed it was part of a plot to discredit the Duterte administration. What fertile imagination!
Lascañas’ explosive revelations about the Davao Death Squad and the murders its members committed allegedly upon orders of Duterte deserve more attention than it has been given so far. Press Secretary Martin Andanar tried to divert attention from the testimony with his preposterous accusation that Senate reporters were offered $1,000 each to attend Lascañas’ press conference. The Senate press corps and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines slammed Andanar for the irresponsible allegation. Like Aguirre, Andanar tried to justify his accusation by invoking the destabilization angle.
Lascañas revealed the gruesome tale of a mother, her four-year-old son and an unborn child who were sacrificed in Duterte’s “killing fields” as collateral damage. After the dastardly massacre of the whole family, Duterte allegedly ordered the squad to erase all evidence.
Lascañas’ complete about-face came as a surprise to many. Apparently, he was not emotionally and physically prepared to reveal what he knew when he first appeared at the Senate hearing in October. Much as he was tempted to tell the truth then, he had not taken steps to keep his family safe. But his serious kidney ailment prompted him to do the right thing this time. We certainly hope that Trillanes can give him and his family adequate security.
His concluding statement at the presscon showed he was prepared to suffer the consequences of his action. He knows that his public confession could get him killed. But he expressed the hope that the Philippine National Police can indeed one day become an institution that is honorable, God-fearing, patriotic and humanistic (may dangal, maka-Diyos, makabayan at makatao). “Hindi po solusyon ang pagpatay. Managot po tayo sa batas ng tao at batas ng Diyos. Uusigin tayo ng konsensiya natin, hanggang sa katapusan ng angkan natin kung dalahin natin ito sa libingan natin (Killing is not a solution. We will have to face the laws of man and God. Our conscience will bother us till the end of our entire clan if we carry this burden to our grave).”
One lesson can be learned from Lascañas’ revelation: There is no such thing as “limpio” or cleaning up a dirty job nor can a dirty deed be completely erased. As the Chinese saying goes, even if no one else knows, four entities will know: “I know, you know, heaven knows and earth knows.”