Press Release
March 7, 2017

The Source - CNN Philippines
Pinky Webb
7 March 2017 | 9:03 AM | Tuesday

Webb: Let's go straight to the source of the story, Senator JV Ejercito. Senator, good to have you again, thank you for being here.

Ejercito: Yes Pinky, it's nice to be here again, good morning.

Webb: So yesterday, you were at the tail-end of the questioning SPO3 Arturo Lascañas. How would you assess his testimony?

Ejercito: Well, first of all, he already went there and testified last October under oath and here he comes again, recanting all that he said and again testifying. So from there on, once you recant and you lied under oath, your credibility somehow already suffers. But we do not want the Senate to be accused of concealing the truth, that's why politically, we think that it will not be good, but we still allowed Lascañas to tell his side of the story.

Webb: So were you part of the 10 who allowed Lascañas to come back to the Senate?

Ejercito: Actually, I abstained, because I had mixed feelings. If you noticed, I'm not really into these investigations, if you noticed, even against Sen. De Lima and the other high-profile, highly controversial cases because I feel there a lot of things more important or equally important matters that need our attention. So I feel spending 6-8 hours every day glued to the television sets, we are spending so much time for these investigations, but yesterday was probably my first time in a long while to attend because I found something fishy, because I thought that when Lascañas said that he was really loyal, extremely loyal, to Mayor Digong Duterte then, to the point that he is blindly loyal, but I told myself, how come when he retired, that was the time that he turned the tables or turned against President Duterte. So I told myself, probably there were expectations that were not met.

Webb: Because there was a line of questioning, Senator, we're going to bring that a little later on in the program. You were trying get more information about his life after retirement.

Ejercito: Yes.

Webb: What happened? How did you... why is there, seems to be like this background check on Arturo Lascañas?

Ejercito: Well I had that suspicion already because why will you, being loyal for so many years, why is it what when you retired, that was the time that you turned against President Duterte. So I just felt that he had expectations, probably it's normal for any police officer to think about their future after retirement, so I had an inkling that there were things probably were not given to him, so we had, I personally and my admin, we went to Davao to investigate.

Webb: You went there?

Ejercito: Yes.

Webb: For how long?

Ejercito: Actually it was my Chief Admin who spent quite a few days for the investigation. I went there only overnight, just to confirm part of the story.

Webb: Before you tell us about the story you found out, why go to that extent? Why did you have to spend your own time, overnight and your staff, to spend a number of days in Davao just for Arturo Lascañas. What was your point?

Ejercito: Well, it is our job, it is the part of our job, the investigation, it is our job to do our homework in this investigation as well.

Webb: But why this man? What makes him so special?

Ejercito: I had that suspicion already, and you cannot just go on... I do not want the Senate to be used as an institution, to be used for any ouster plot or any destabilization, and I just feel that this testimony of Lascañas, the ones behind him, are after Duterte's ouster in the future, this is just a part of it, and if you would look at the lawyers with Lascañas now...

Webb: The FLAG lawyers?

Ejercito: The FLAG lawyers. The Sanidad brothers, Diokno, Estabilla, kulang na lang si Mel Marcelo, sabi ko, I think these are familiar faces, these are the same faces with Chavit Singson in 2001.

Webb: The prosecuting team.

Ejercito: The prosecuting team.

Webb: Against your father.

Ejercito: Yes, they were part of the ouster plot against my father.

Webb: Okay, so what does make you feel? Let me start... let me continue on with that because you faced the Sanidad Brothers yesterday and then tinanong mo sila, di ba? Parang sabi mo hindi ba kayo yung lawyer ni Chavit Singson? As a matter of fact, I think that was Atty. Arno Sanidad who said, so what's the question, tinanong ka nya? Tapos doon ka na napunta doon sa I don't want the Senate to be used as a venue for destabilization plot. Were you in order to have said something like that, knowing that you were a Senator and they were resource persons there?

Ejercito: Well, since that is already history, but I guess they were the same faces behind the ouster plot against President Estrada then and I feel that this time around, with Lascañas coming out, well, Sen. Trillanes, he's behind it as well...

Webb: So malinaw sa iyo yun? It's Sen. Trillanes who's behind this?

Ejercito: Well, he's the one taking care of Lascañas.

Webb: You said, sabi niyo po Si Sen. Trillanes is behind this?

Ejercito: He's the one taking care of Lascañas and he admitted, yes. But you know, I just feel that we have to give the President a chance. This DDS, all of these issues were hurled against him already during the campaign right? But the Filipino people still chose him. We gave him a resounding mandate, victory, of 16-million, so we have a contract with him, he has a contract with the Filipino people. We just have to respect, we just have to learn how to respect that mandate and we cannot just go on and oust the President and it's not going to do the country any good.

Webb: Senator JV, when you talk about something like this, may pinapanggalingan ka because you said déjà vu, Sen. Ping Lacson said, he said another word...

Ejercito: Traumatic.

Webb: Traumatic experience for you. Noong nakaharap mo ba yung FLAG lawyers lumabas po ba ulit yung sama ng loob mo o galit sa kanila?

Ejercito: No, but ano na lang, siguro on hindsight, Pinky, even after my father was ousted in 2001, even the first few years of the Arroyo Administration was really turbulent, because there was no political stability, the legality of her assumption to office was in question. So, that is my point, that we can't just go on how's the President that we do not like. We just have to give them a chance, because we have to respect the mandate given to them by the Filipino people and you know, one of the most sacred rights that the Filipinos really value is their right to vote and to choose their leaders. We just have to respect that.

Webb: Balikan ko lang yung Sanidad brothers, because I wanted to also get your reaction that in situations where for example, Chavit Singson, way back then and you have to compare votes, you have Lascañas now. Do you take it against them that ganoon po ba that they were with Chavit and then now that they are with Lascañas, because is not the duty of lawyers to protect...

Ejercito: Well you know, if there is something I learned from my father, it is how to forgive and how to have a wider understanding, I have nothing against them but I just do not want... again and again I do not want the Senate to be used as an institution for any ouster plot. I'm against destabilization and we do not want that to happen again and because it's not going to do the country any good.

Webb: But is there destabilization plot, Senator?

Ejercito: Well, probably the aim of the whole testimony is really to destroy the credibility, to destroy the image of the President. Ano lang yan, it's like a steel rust, kumbaga slowly but surely they will try to weaken even if iron or steel is a strong element, but slowly but surely, through all of this the negative things, the demolition job will somehow weaken it in time.

Webb: And that's what you're trying to protect?

Ejercito: We just have to protect the mandate that was given we have to protect the President because he was the one chosen to lead the nation for the next six years.

Webb: Yes, so that means you have blind obedience or blind loyalty just using the words of Lascañas?

Ejercito: Well, Of course we after the truth, but again if you weigh it, I think all of these issues were already hurled against him and yet the Filipino still chose him.

Webb: Ok. So let's go back to you line of questioning kay Arturo Lascanas, you said that you went to Davao overnight and you have a staff of yours investigate Arturo Lascanas and this was what you were asking SPO3 Lascanas. Let's listen.

(Audio clip played)

Webb: So, dahil hindi napagbigyan, Senator, what were you trying to emphasize here?

Ejercito: Well, again Pinky I had already that suspicion that after his retirement, probably he was thinking of his future and probably because of his being from Davao, being perceived as close to the President, that he would be able to obtain some business venture upon retirement, one of which is a group, I'll just call them the Davao group, they attempted to get an STL in the juicy areas like Cavite, Bulacan and Laguna.

Webb: Together with Arturo Lascanas?

Ejercito: Lascanas is one of those in the Davao group.

Webb: There's a Davao Group?

Ejercito: There were Barangay Captains, some of his colleagues as well. He was the one who said he had a chance to talk PCSO Chair Jorge Corpuz in a chance meeting and he asked for this. Even some of the known Duterte people were there as well. But unfortunately, Chairman Jorge Corpuz did not give them the franchise.

Webb: So what are you trying to say? Because he tried to get into four business ventures, all didn't push through?

Ejercito: Yes.

Webb: You're saying what now? Masama ang loob niya?

Ejercito: In a way probably, because there's the STL, Customs and then the van terminal, the transport terminal and last but not the least, there was a long coastal road project in Davao, Toril, that's about 53 km, they wanted to supply the quarrying needs of the said contract which was also again turned down. So probably, sabi nga namin hindi lang strike four, zero-four nga sabi. So probably, ano I think he felt really bad probably.

Webb: That's why?

Ejercito: Because that's was four, I guess that was four ... four ventures.

Webb: Yes, these were ventures na sabi nga at some point nabokya.

Ejercito: Yes.

Webb: But I'm not going to read between the lines because I know what are you trying to say, so because hindi nakuha yung mga possible business ventures...

Ejercito: That probably triggered why he turned against the President. Because some of his colleagues, in our investigations, Tocmo and others that were mentioned, they already have better lives, they are in a better situation compared to him. So kumbaga parang he was the one who was left out of the group.

Webb: Alright, this is The Source on CNN Philippines. Still to come, did Lascanas' testimony finally draw the line at the Senate? And what's next after the Senate shake up and the death penalty bill? Senator JV Ejercito will still be with us after the break.

(Commercial break)

Webb: We're still with Senator JV Ejercito. So, balikan ko lang the testimony of Lascanas, what about the stuff that he was saying, Senator? Did that even make you think yung sinabi niya na he was responsible for the death of his two brothers?

Ejercito: Yes, Pinky I forgot to ano... I had during our investigation, I found out something also, that two of his brothers were killed, well I found out also that he had a squabble with two of his brothers because of a property that they inherited, so that's the inside story that I forgot to ask yesterday, so, they were not really in good terms.

Webb: So does that mean that, because the brothers were killed supposedly in his testimony because of drug-related activities, hindi yun ang dahilan kung bakit sila isa doon?

Ejercito: Well, probably, it came from him that his brothers were involved in illegal activities like, even kidnapping, drugs all of those. But probably he said that he give his consent because probably because he had a rift with two of his brothers.

Webb: Okay. That's what you were trying to say. Alright at some point Senator Manny Pacquiao wanted him to be cited in contempt hindi naman natuloy yun, and then Senator Ping Lacson saying that seems to be the end of the testimony of Arturo Lascanas, should this end all talk or hearings in the Senate of Lascanas?

Ejercito: Well, I'm hoping because we just have to move on Pinky, and I think our legislative agenda suffered much because, in the Senate we only passed two measures as of this time because I think all of this high-profile investigations or controversial investigations have really hampered our work in the Senate.

Webb: And is there another one right now? Also Jee Ick-Joo, I think?

Ejercito: Yes. Imagine we are glued again to the television for four, six hours a day, so I would rather buckle down to work, like infrastructure, economy, there are equally important matters that need our attention.

Webb: And possibly even more. Two legislative measures so far passed, the House is looking at passing the death penalty bill. Let's go to the Senate, of course hindi naman yan maipapasa kung wala naman yung Senado. Senate President Koko Pimentel was saying that's he's looking at a 14-10 or 10-14, depende kung where the tide will turn. Where are you in the death penalty bill?

Ejercito: Well it's very touchy, a very controversial issue. But I am pro-death penalty, but for high-level drug trafficking, I am for it. Had Digong Duterte not become President, we would not have known that 90% of our barangays all over the country are infested with drugs. I was a Mayor also for nine years and we're not remiss in our duties in fighting the drug problem, but we never had an idea of the magnitude of this drug problem. Then, if you analyze, if you look at our ASEAN neighbors -- Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand -- all of them have drug trafficking. Probably, I'm sure you know that every time you enter, if you fill in your Immigration card, it says there, boldly - Death to all Drug Traffickers. And it's only our county, it's only the Philippines which repealed the death penalty, and probably, in my suspicion, my personal analysis, is that we became the drug hub for international drug syndicates because we are the only country that doesn't have the death penalty.

Webb: Ok. So just to qualify that, you're yes to death penalty, but only on high-level drug trafficking.

Ejercito: Yes Pinky.

Webb: Walang plunder? Walang rape?

Ejercito: Well, that was the question, the President questioned that. But may sinasabi na karumal-dumal na krimen like rape, raping your own daughter, your relatives and killing them, those should be included. But probably some in the House probably thought that just to pass this measure, they assign it to drugs.

Webb: Well, Senator, they said that already. House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez said mahihirapan tayo, at saka na lang natin dagdagan. Pero ang stand mo, high level drugs ka lang ba or pati karumal-dumal na...

Ejercito: I'm also thinking of that, because sometimes if, you know, watching it on the news, you feel really like, sometimes taking the law into their hands to prevent that. We just have to have the death penalty to prevent people from taking the law into their own hands.

Webb: So you are for high-level drugs and possibly meron kang, you're open to heinous crime.

Ejercito: Yes.

Webb: But plunder?

Ejercito: Why not? So that it will become a deterrent for people not to do, not even think of...

Webb: You're for plunder to be included in the death penalty?

Ejercito: For not being involved in any corruption because I'm confident, Pinky, because as a public servant, public service is a public trust. I've tried my best to keep my name. I guess I have done that, even if I had a case, I was also already acquitted. So, probably it will show, it will give a strong signal that if you're in public service you just have to maintain the trust, you just have to give that priority to maintain the trust and your credibility. I hope it will become a deterrent.

Webb: You are also open to that, ang plunder. What about treason?

Ejercito: Well, if it becomes too many already, it may have a hard time passing. But I think these are issues that deserve to be studied. I'm open to it. I'll try to study.

Webb: Looking to it.

Ejercito: I will be looking forward to it, but at this time I'm only for high level drug trafficking because Pinky, it really destroys the future of individuals.

Webb: Very quickly Senator, people saying that first and foremost, we have to fix the judicial system in the country before we even implemented death penalty, are you not considering that to be possibly the first thing that we should do?

Ejercito: Well of course, we are for judicial reforms, we want to have it fixed, but, Pinky, what I'm worried about is that, again, going back, the Philippines has become the international drug hub for international drug trade because of... we are only country does not have death penalty among the ASEAN nation, so probably these international drug syndicates, the Chinese, you know who are involved. At least in the Philippines if you get caught you will not be killed. We will not allow high-level drug trafficking and that will already be a good deterrent for international syndicates to think twice about doing business here in the Philippines.

Webb: Senator JV very quickly, how do you describe the Senate now after that shake- up?

Ejercito: I guess now we have already defined our lines. It's been an awkward situation but Pinky don't get me wrong I work very well with our colleagues in the Liberal Party. I feed bad, it's a mixed feeling because on one hand most of the majority senators feel that every time we vote on issues we're on the opposite side and we are called the super majority. There's a feeling of awkwardness every time there is a situation like that. To be fair, Sen. Bam Aquino, even if he is in Liberal Party, we have collaborated to pass the SK Reform Law. Sen. Hontiveros, unfortunately I'm the recipient of the Committee on Health which is her advocacy, talagang love niya yun.

Webb: Sa kampanya pa lang.

Ejercito: It's her campaign promise but I told her, you know I have to be honest with you, this is not my cup of tea, I have to study and then it will take me a while to be able to have a grasp of the Committee on Health, so I asked her if she would be willing, even she is in the minority, I will make her the vice chairperson.

Webb: Pumayag?

Ejercito: So, that there will be a continuity and she gladly obliged.

Webb: Very good. It's refreshing to know that someone like you even said, I don't know much about that, di ba? At least umaamin.

Ejercito: I'm just being honest.

Webb: I mainly need your help, and get her former chairperson.

Ejercito: So that there will be a continuity Pinky, so that all the advocacies she has started will have continuity while I'm learning.

Webb: You guys can learn from each other.

Ejercito: We can learn from each other, probably my local experience.

Webb: We can help each other.

Ejercito: So I'm really happy that you know, despite line that was already drawn, we can still work together especially in advocacies and that's the good thing about the Senate, we work on issues most of the time and we do not work along party lines.

Webb: So that good to hear. Sen. JV Ejercito. Thank you so much and will see you again, sir, maraming salamat.

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