Andanar clarifies bribery claim not meant to tarnish credibility of Senate reporters

MANILA — Communications Secretary Martin Andanar on Tuesday stressed that his claim that as much as USD1,000 was given to journalists who covered the press conference of former policeman and self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) leader Arturo Lascañas was not intended to taint the credibility of Senate reporters.

In a press briefing in Malcañang, Andanar pointed out that he did not allude to any reporter in his interview with CNN Philippines, as shown in the official transcript of the interview.

“I have already released a statement yesterday (Monday). If we are to look at the CNN transcript, we can see there that no reporter was alluded to as the recipient of this kind of offer, in dollar or peso,” he stressed.

The Palace official said that he was just pointing to the fact that there is this concerted effort to conduct a massive protest during the EDSA Power Revolution celebrations on February 25.

He said that he knew the Senate reporters and holds them in high regard.

“It was not intended to say that the reporters at the Senate are corrupt. They are not! I know the reporters there (Senate). I hold them in high esteem and the fact that I said, in the same interview with Pinky Webb, that there was nothing in the intelligence report that says that the money was received, that proves that the reporter of the Senate are good reporters and they stuck to their journalistic integrity,” Andanar said.

Lascañas on Monday recanted his earlier testimony denying the existence of the DDS.

The former Davao police officer said his conscience led him to allegedly tell the truth and back the claim of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato that the group was real.

Malacañang has downplayed the disclosures and said that it was all part of a political drama aimed at ousting President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The press conference of self-confessed hitman SPO3 Arthur Lascañas is part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration,” Andanar said.

He said that the public is aware that the revelations are nothing but vicious politics being orchestrated by Duterte’s detractors.

“Our people are aware that this character assassination is nothing but vicious politics orchestrated by sectors affected by the reforms initiated by the Duterte administration,” the Palace official said.

Andanar also pointed out that “the Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate Committee on Justice already cleared the President of extrajudicial killing and his involvement in the Davao Death Squad.”