Recently retired Philippine National Police SPO3 Arthur Lascanas landed a haymaker against President Rodrigo Duterte this week when he rescinded his previous Senate testimony about the existence of the Davao Death Squad (DDS).
Originally, Lascanas denied that the dreaded DDS even existed. This, after DDS member Edgar Matobato had pointed to the police officer as one of the leaders of the squad that operated with impunity in Davao City during the term of then Mayor Duterte.
At the start of the week, the cop confirmed everything that Matobato had told the Senate, adding a lot more details that left everyone hearing them shocked. He gave details of how much was budgeted for each hit, and just how far the brutality of the DDS went.
Two things stood out in Lascanas’s revelations: One, he went so far as to have two of his own brothers killed as part of then Mayor Duterte’s drive against criminality. And two, the assassination of broadcaster Jun Pala was among the biggest of the killings ordered by the current president.
Pala was the head of the anti-communist Alsa Masa, credited with kicking the NPA and its operatives out of the city in the 1980s.
I recall a friend from Davao who said that the situation had become so bad that random killings were taking place in the city. She witnessed one daylight shooting, which she later learned was an NPA team’s work against an anti-communist businessman.
My friend told me many tales of how the NPA had all but controlled the city, until Pala and his organization took them on, and won.
This is not to say that Jun Pala was some kind of hero. He was supposedly engaged in his own criminal activities within the city according to his critics, but at least he played a major role in ridding Davao of the underground left.
Pala was formerly a supporter of Rodrigo Duterte, but the two had a falling out over God-knows-what. But one of the most cruel things that President Duterte did was to curse Pala to hell a couple of months ago.
This was most unFilipino. We as a people always respect the dead, and avoid speaking ill of them. What Mr. Duterte had against the late Jun Pala will sooner or later come to light, especially now that Lascanas has admitted that his DDS was behind the killing of the broadcaster.
It was understandable for the PNP official to originally deny the existence of a shadowy vigilante organization that executed hundreds of suspected criminals, much less be a part of it. It only meant that law and order in Davao City was nothing more than an illusion, since the very men tasked with enforcing the law were breaking it.
There could be a hundred reasons for Lascanas to take back what he said, including his conscience bothering him. In doing so, he has made some very, very powerful enemies. He has everything to lose and nothing to gain. This makes him a most credible witness, one whose testimony can jolt the Duterte administration to the core.