MANILA - Senator Antonio Trillanes IV revealed on Tuesday that a Catholic priest approached him to facilitate the presentation of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas to the public.
"There was a priest, a Catholic priest who approached me about this, but you’ll have to understand that I won’t compromise his safety by divulging his name," Trillanes said in an interview with ANC's "Dateline Philippines."
The meeting, he said, happened sometime in January.
Trillanes said he initially wanted to meet Lascañas "to check whether he would be really confessing publicly" because they had an altercation during the September hearing at the Senate.
"We had a heated exchange, so I was quite surprised and I wanted to hear for myself whether he would really be confessing," he said.
Lascañas claimed on Monday that the Davao Death Squad (DDS) killed people on orders of then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, a turn-around from his statement in an earlier Senate hearing that the group was only a product of media hype.
Trillanes said Lascañas was "guilt-stricken" after his first appearance, and he will reveal his reasons "at the proper time when he appears at the Senate."
LASCAÑAS WAS UNPREPARED
From what he gathered, Trillanes said, Lascañas had a "spiritual reawakening" after a successful kidney transplant and wanted to rid himself of his old ways when he was part of the DDS.
"He viewed that second lease on life as [something that] has a meaning and he wants to pursue a new path and from that time on, he steered clear of the work of Davao Death Squad. He was using his medical condition as an alibi not to continue working for them, but he continued to be part of the DDS technically," he said.
"He has been receiving allowances monthly from them, but wasn’t killing anybody anymore," he added.
From then, Lascañas supposedly "got close to some members of the Church," and wanted to make up for all of the sins he committed while he was part of the vigilante group.
However, when the invitation to attend the Senate probe into the spate of deaths in Duterte's war on drugs came, he was caught unprepared, according to Trillanes.
"When the time came that he was asked to appear before the Senate, he wasn’t prepared psychologically, emotionally, and his family had yet to be secured, so it was a dilemma for him, so he succumbed, according to him, to that weakness," he said.
"But after that, he was guilt-stricken and that’s why he eventually had to publicly confess," he added.
Trillanes insisted that although they had known about Lascañas' confession as early as January, "the timing [for Lascanas' disclosure] is whenever we were ready." He insisted that the confession is not a diversionary tactic from the drug cases filed against Senator Leila de Lima.
"There was a process. We had to check his sincerity in coming out because we didn’t want to get burned by presenting him again and turning his guns on us at one point. We needed to be careful and there was a process of securing his family, preparing the affidavit, and so on and so forth," he said.
Trillanes said Lascañas asked of them nothing else but security for his family, and they offered that "on a very, very limited scale."
"Before anybody would insinuate that he was motivated by money, just remember that this man is risking his life. What is the price of a man’s life? I don’t think you can put a price tag on that," he said.
Trillanes said the Senate should provide "some semblance of security if not protective custody" to Lascañas when he appears at a Senate inquiry.
The senator had asked the Committee on Public Order, chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson, to investigate Lascañas' confession. Lacson confirmed receiving the referral.