PCIJ stands by its story, “Lascañas pens tell-all journal: Duterte rule ‘a Divine Trap’,” which ran on Feb. 28, 2017.

We take strong exception to unfounded claims of columnist Rigoberto Tiglao of The Manila Times that the story was “fake news” about a “fake journal,” and its release, one “managed” by Sen. Antonio Trillanes II.

Dean Jose Manuel Diokno is the national chairman of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG); he has also been a trustee of PCIJ since 2015. Contrary to Tiglao’s claim, however, neither Atty. Diokno nor any of the FLAG lawyers had anything to do with the writing of the journal of SPO3 Arturo Lascañas or the publication of the PCIJ story.

Senator Trillanes had nothing to do as well with the production and distribution of the PCIJ story.

PCIJ obtained a copy of the journal from Lascañas through sources close to him a fortnight ago. But before running the story on Feb. 27, PCIJ verified the accuracy of its contents from various agencies and in interviews with officers of the Philippine National Police, persons privy to the medical condition of Lascañas since he fell ill in 2015, and, through conduit sources, Lascañas himself.

To validate details mentioned in the journal, the PCIJ obtained information about the retirement benefits that Lascañas received in December 2016, the identities of those had named in his journal, the circumstances surrounding his testimony before the Senate on Oct. 3, 2016, the testimony of DDS whistleblower Edgar Matobato before the Senate on Sept. 15, 2016, and official investigation reports and court records related to the existence of the “Davao Death Squad.”

PCIJ also reviewed the full transcripts of the Senate hearings on Sept. 15 and Oct. 3, 2016, as well as that of his “public confession” at a press conference on Feb. 20, 2017.

For instance:

* PCIJ verified that Lascañas, on “non-duty status” or inactive service since 2015, officially retired from the PNP on Dec. 16, 2016 and confirmed that he was granted retirement benefits of about P3.1 million. He received a third of the amount in cash Christmas time last year.

* Lascañas mentioned the names of seven PNP officers who were allegedly involved in the Davao Death Squad operations. PCIJ verified with the relevant agencies their whereabouts, and checked against the PNP’s official directory of officers in command of PNP units, as of Jan. 17, 2017, that PCIJ had obtained earlier.

* Lascañas wrote that in 1986, he worked as a “personal bodyguard of Mr. Raymund Moreno, a businessman and resident of Forbes Park, Makati. Metro Manila, “who was the owner of Liberty Telecommunications… the business partner of Gen. Fabian Ver, the chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.” Lascañas wrote that later that year, “I became part-time bodyguard of U.S. Army Gen. (John K.) Singlaub with PFC Manuel Salvador and U.S. Air Force Capt. Mike Timpani.”

From mid-1986 to March 1987, Singlaub was in the Philippines “as a private citizen” on a supposed “treasure-hunting” project, together with Timpani, an officer of the US Air Force. A retired U.S. Army major general and head of the former U.S. Council for World Freedom — a lead group in the World Anti-Communist League — Singlaub had set up a private corporation in the Philippines in November 1986. Singalub and Timpani had worked together in various operations overseas, notably in Grenada, Nicaragua, and the Honduras, according to official reports and responses to Freedom of Information Act requests in the United States.

* Lascañas, in his press conference on Feb. 20, had expressed regret over his failure to save his brothers Cecilio and Fernando from being killed for illegal drugs. According to the EdgeDavao business newspaper’s issue of Sept. 2013, Fernando, “an ex-convict,” was killed on September 26, 2013 in an alleged shootout with policemen.

The report filed by Emilord P. Castromayor said that “Fernando B. Lascañas, 42, of No. 36 Jacinto Street, Barangay 21, (was) killed in a shootout with team of led by P Supt. Antonio Rivera, chief of the Investigation Management Branch of the Davao City Police, and SPO3 Jeffrey Bangcas.”

The policemen were responding to reports that Fernando “had been harassing his neighbors” and confronted him but that he “resisted arrest and drew his gun.” A shootout ensued; Fernando sustained gunshot wounds in his body and died. A .45 caliber gun and a magazine were supposedly recovered from the crime scene.

Fernando, according to the police, was involved in illegal drugs together with a certain Zaldy Verano, “who is also an ex-convict.” EdgeDavao did not explain, however, why it tagged Fernando as “an ex-convict.”

There are no published reports on the death of Cecilio Lascañas, though.

The comments of Tiglao regarding what he describes as the journal’s “flawless prose” and the supposed inability of someone like Lascañas to write such are purely speculative on his part.

A police officer of 34 years, Lascañas attended the University of Mindanao College of Law in Davao City from 1990 to 1995 but did not finish a degree in law.

Tiglao was one of nine journalists who co-founded the PCIJ in 1989. He has never worked, however, as a full-time staff in the PCIJ’s 28-year existence.

Instead, Tiglao has served in many capacities as business editor of The Manila Chronicle, Manila correspondent and bureau chief of the Far Eastern Economic Review, columnist of the < strong>Philippine Daily Inquirer, chief of staff and press secretary of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Philippine Ambassador to Greece and Cyprus as an appointee of Mrs. Arroyo, and now columnist of The Manila Times under its new owner, public-relations executive Dante Ang. — PCIJ March 2017

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