A retired Davao City police officer on Monday admitted that the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) exists, and that they were paid by then Davao City Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte up to P100,000 depending on their target.
SPO3 Arthur Lascañas faced the press Monday with lawyers of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) led by national chairman Jose Manuel Diokno.
“Totoo po ang existence ng Davao Death Squad o DDS. Siya ay miyembro namin at isa ako sa pasimuno dito,” Lascañas said referring to Edgar Matobato, who earlier testified on the DDS before a Senate inquiry.
“Ito ay binabayaran kami ni Mayor Duterte, kadalasan P20,000 or P50,000 at depende sa staus ng target, minsan P100,000. Ako ay tumanggap ng allowance sa Office of the Mayor, P100,000,” Lascañas said.
At the Senate inquiry last year, Matobato tagged Lascañas as the supposed "team leader" of the death squad, adding that the police official was close to Duterte.
Lascañas then denied the existence of the DDS, as well as Matobato's claim that he was Duterte's right-hand man.
"Wala pong DDS. Media hype lang 'yan," Lascañas then said.
On Monday, Lascañas said he wanted to tell the truth because of his conscience, and love for country. He said he already suffered much due to his “blind obedience and loyalty.”
“Mamatay man ako o papatayin ako, kontento na 'ko na nagawa ang promise ko sa Diyos na magsagawa ng isang public confession,” he said.
He also called on the members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to be true to their mandate—to serve and protect the Filipino people.
“Panawagan ko sa mga kasamahan ko sa pambansang kapulisan na hindi solusyon ang pagpatay. Managot tayo sa batas ng tao at batas ng Diyos. Uusigin kayo ng konsensya natin hanggang sa katapusan ng angkan natin,” he said.
Duterte allegedly ordered to ‘salvage’ drug suspects
Lascañas said Duterte gave the order to “salvage” drug suspects when he was mayor of Davao.
He said the DDS started in a raid of the house of a certain “Allan Tancho,” who was believed to be a drug lord.
“Dito napatay ang katulong ni Allan Tancho. Wala kaming nakuhang shabu at dito nag-umpisa ang Davao Death Squad dahil may iniwan kaming note na 'wag pamarisan at may nakalagay doon na Davao Death Squad,” Lascañas said.
He also confirmed Matobato’s earlier statement, and claimed he was one of the police officials tapped by Duterte to bomb mosques in retaliation for the bombing of a cathedral in 1993.
“Nung nangyari ang pambomba sa San Pedro Cathedral, kung hindi ako nagkakamali, two days after, pumunta si Mayor Rody sa opisina ng Anti-Crime Group at dahil kami ang core group, kami na ang personal na inutusan niya na gumanti sa pagbomba ng San Pedro Cathedral sa pamamagitan sa pagbomba sa mga Muslim mosques,” he said.
With the support of rebel returnees, he said they bombed mosques in Davao City. Assigned to his group was a mosque along Diversion Road, he said.
“Grupo ni Edgar sa isang sulok ng Davao City,” he added.
He said they only stopped bombing mosques when then Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. announced an “anarchy” in Davao City.
Killed family, Jun Pala
Lascañas said the DDS was also involved in the murder of a family, including a four-year-old or five-year-old child.
Twenty years ago, Duterte ordered an operation following the kidnapping of a “Mrs. Abaca.”
He said they received information from a certain “Patayan” that the mastermind is “Mr. Patasaha.” In their follow-up operation, they followed the car of Patasaha, not knowing that the family of Patasaha was with him, along with their helpers. The family was brought to Laud Quarry.
“Positive daw ang subject at dapat erase na, meaning patay na at patayin lahat. Dito nagbigay ng go signal si Mayor Duterte. Ang sabi niya, ‘Sige, malinis lang,’” Lascañas said.
“Isa ako sa nag-protest at si SPO3 Jerry Baguhin na isa lang target natin, masama itong buntis, masama itong anak na four-year-old, masama itong matanda at katulong na lalaki at babae,” he said.
He said he then asked the group to at least spare the life of the child but was opposed, saying it was possible for him to seek revenge when he grows up.
“Namatay ang buong pamilya sa harap ko using a caliber .22 with a silencer. And the rest is history,” he said.
Lascañas also recalled being hired by Duterte, through the latter’s trusted aide SPO4 Sonny Buenaventura, to assassinate radio broadcaster Jun Pala.
He said Duterte paid P3 million to their team, and a P1 million bonus for him.
Pala, a broadcaster of Davao-based radio dxGO and critic of Duterte, was killed on September 6, 2003.
He said they were also ordered probed by the Commission on Human Rights over the murder of “Jun Bersabal.”
Lascañas' brothers killed for Duterte’s campaign vs. drugs
The former police officer meanwhile broke down when he talked about how his “blind obedience” led to the death of his two brothers, Cecilo and Fernando.
He said his brothers were drug users.
“Alam ng mga pamangkin ko na isa ako sa mga instrumento sa pagkamatay ng aking mga kapatid,” he said.
“Sa sobra kong loyalty sa kanyang campaign nagawa ko ito. Sarili kong dalawang kapatid, pinapatay ko,” Lascañas said.
GMA News is getting the Palace's reaction as of posting time.
Senator Richard Gordon has earlier said there was no proof to establish that the DDS exists and that it killed people on Duterte's orders.
Gordon is the chairman of the Senate justice committee which conducted a probe into the rampant extrajudicial killings and summary executions.
"Walang na-prove eh," Gordon told reporters.
PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa in September maintained his belief that there is no such thing as the DDS, after a Senate hearing featured Matobato, a supposed member of the group claiming killings it carried out over the past several years.
Dela Rosa, a former police director of Davao City, said his investigations into the matter turned up no results.
“Ilang beses na inimbestigahan yung DDS na sinasabi nila. Creation lang yan ng media pero wala talagang tao na nagsabi na may DDS na isang grupo," he said. —KG, GMA News