Opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV has claimed that President Duterte made plans to have him killed.
Sen. Trillanes quoted self-confessed leader of the Davao Death Squad, Arturo Lascañas, who claims he suggested that the killing should be made to look like an accident.
The senator’s claims come in the light of a statement by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II at a pro-Duterte rally on Saturday. After celebrating the arrest of Sen. Leila de Lima, he asked the crowd who they wanted to prosecute next, and many voices shouted Sen. Trillanes’ name.
The senator says Secretary Aguirre’s words clearly showed that Sen. de Lima’s arrest was political. He added: “He is like Pontus Pilate. The Lenten season is approaching.”
Sen. Trillanes also believes he was supposed to be the first on the president’s hit list. “Actually, I was supposed to be the first [on the list] but they wanted me dead.
“They will not file cases against me but have me killed.
“Lascañas was told about this after Mr. Duterte won the presidency and it was because the latter was very angry at me. So they want to have me killed from the very start,” he said in a radio interview.
According to Sen. Trillanes, Mr Lascañas told him that when Mr Duterte won the election last year, he was approached by the president’s trusted aide and driver, retired policeman Sonny Buenaventura.
“Lascañas was asked by Buenaventura what he thought about killing me because Duterte was very angry at me,” Sen. Trillanes told The Inquirer.
The senator believes he enraged the president by revealing that Mr Duterte has two billion pesos in various bank accounts. Mr Duterte denies the allegation, what was made shortly before his election win.
But Sen. Trillanes said Lascañas had told Buenaventura that it would be too difficult to kill a high-profile senator.
“It was too big a project for them. They were used to killing small targets like petty criminals. If ever, their biggest target was Jun Pala,” he said.
Last week, Lascañas, who recently confessed to being a leader of the Davao Death Squad under the control and pay of Mr Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City, claimed he was among those who killed Pala, an outspoken radio anchor often critical of Mr Duterte.
Trillanes said Lascañas had also told Buenaventura that killing the senator would result in a big backlash on the president. “It’s because they know the investigation into my killing would be a tough one and some of those behind it might squeal, and that was why it would be difficult to accomplish,” he said.
Lascañas also claims that he told Buenaventura to make the killing look like an accident, such as causing a truck to slam into Trillanes’ vehicle.
Trillanes said the retired policeman had told him that there were others that the Duterte administration wanted killed.
He has vowed to share more details when he testifies before the Senate on Thursday.
In the meantime, Solicitor General Jose Calida said his office was considering filing charges against Sen. Trillanes for “coddling” Lascañas and Edgar Matobato. “Trillanes is also a person of interest,” he said. “Why is he hiding and protecting this self-confessed criminal?”
When asked what specific charges would be filed, Mr Calida said, “Give me more time and I’ll have the proper case to be filed against him.”
When asked whether he was planning to bring down Sen. Trillanes, today, President Duterte simply replied: “He is too insignificant to bother with.”