Thusday| June 15, 2017
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday to cancel the passport of retired policeman Arturo Lascañas who is about to stand trial for the killing of a Davao City-based radio broadcaster in 2003.
Aguirre wrote a letter to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano for the "immediate cancellation" of Lascañas' passport.
"Apparently, after he left the country and went to Singapore last April 2017, Mr. Lascañas has not shown any interest of returning to the country," the Justice secretary said.
He said Lascañas' actions showed "lack of desire" to face the cases in relation to the attacks that led to the killing of radio broadcaster Juan "Jun" Pala in 2003.
"Given the gravity of the charges against Mr. Lascañas, coupled with the pervasive national interest in his prosecution therefor, we are of the belief that there is sufficient reason for the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs to exercise his statutory authority under the Philippine Passport Act of 1996," the letter read.
Section 4 of Republic Act 8239 or the Passport Act of 1996 empowers the DFA Secretary or any authorized consular officer to cancel a passport "in the interest of national security, public safety and public health."
The DFA will give the concerned person the opportunity to be heard before it decides on the matter.
Judge Retrina Fuentes of the Davao City Regional Trial Court Branch 10 had issued a warrant of arrest for Lascañas on June 5 for attempted murder and murder cases stemming from the two attempts on Pala's life in June 2002 and April 2003, respectively, and his assassination on September 6, 2003.
Aguirre has already ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to coordinate with the International Police Organization (Interpol) to locate Lascañas and find out the people who harbored and financed the flight of the retired cop.
"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," the Cabinet official said.
A self-confessed team leader of the vigilante group Davao Death Squad, Lascañas disclosed in a Senate inquiry last March that he and his accomplices were paid P3 million to murder Pala.
The former policeman said then Davao City mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte gave him an additional P1 million as reward money for the successful hit of Pala, a known critic of the longtime local chief executive.
Lascañas left the country for Singapore on April 8 as he expressed fears of being locked up in jail or killed if he returns.