DISCLAIMER: This is not a legal opinion. Rather, it represents questions that may be in the minds of lay people — the Filipino people. We make no assertions of any guilt or innocence.
Aiding and abetting is a legal doctrine related to the guilt of someone who aids or abets in the commission of a crime. It exists in a number of different countries and generally allows a court to pronounce someone guilty for aiding and abetting in a crime even if they are not the principal offender.
In Canada, a person who aids or abets in the commission of a crime is treated the same as a principal offender under the criminal law.
If we were to apply these laws and principles in the case of retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, could it be that Senator Alfonso Trillanes who staged this political theater is guilty of aiding and abetting?
We all know that Trillanes had a hand in bringing Edgar Matobato, self-confessed member of the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS), to testify before the Senate while providing him protective custody.
Matobato’s Senate testimony all but crumbled and failed to establish the existence of the DDS under then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
One of the counter-witnesses was Lascañas who, under oath, denied Matobato’s claims on the DDS.
PERJURY: the willful and corrupt taking of a false oath in regard to a material matter in a proceeding.
Then yesterday, in a press conference put together by Trillanes, Lascañas flip-flopped and is now claiming that the DDS did exist in Davao and that he was personally involved in the “extra-judicial killings.” His statement at the press conference, was of course, not made under oath.
UNLESS PROVEN WITHOUT REASONABLE DOUBT, Lascañas’ new statement could be nothing but FALSE TESTIMONY.
Nobody knows for sure what made Lascañas completely change his statement on the DDS. For now, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and accept what he said at the press conference that it is his fear of God and his conscience that prompted him to make this “public confession.”
So, let’s focus on Trillanes.
If he knew that Matobato’s testimony was false but still acted to bring the witness before the Senate hearing — and provided him protective custody — isn’t that tantamount to aiding and abetting?
If Trillanes knew that Lascañas’ Senate testimony was the truth and is now facilitating the retired police officer’s recanting of his testimony under oath (and for whatever consideration that may have been promised for Lascañas), can that not be considered aiding and abetting?
Of course, we do not know what Trillanes knows or does not know. Only he can answer that.
But let’s also give him the benefit of the doubt, and let him prove his case and that of Lascañas.
Aiding and abetting: guilt of someone who aids or abets in the commission of a crime.
Perjury and False Testimony are both crimes.