By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) |Retired police officer Arthur Lascañas is grilled by senators yesterday over his claims that President Duterte ordered killings in Davao City through a death squad. GEREMY PINTOLO
MANILA, Philippines - President Duterte and his son Paolo had taken part in killings in Davao City, with the then city mayor reportedly showing no compunction over “collateral damage” in the alleged killing sprees, a self-confessed former death squad member told a Senate panel yesterday.
Retired Senior Police Officer 3 Arthur Lascañas hurled the accusation before the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs, chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lascañas was the main witness in the first and last hearing conducted yesterday by Lacson’s committee.
The witness also said national police chief Ronald dela Rosa, then Davao City police chief, was aware of the DDS operations but had no actual involvement.
As the hearing progressed, Lascañas was thought to be someone only wanting a payback for failing last year to secure profitable business contracts that he thought he would bag using his alleged closeness to Duterte.
Lascañas surfaced last Feb. 20 at the Senate for a “public confession,” tagging Duterte as having ordered the assassination of broadcaster Jun Pala and the killing of hundreds of other people when he was still mayor of Davao City.
The retired policeman said he had a “spiritual renewal” around October 2015 when he survived a kidney transplant and decided to tell all on the killings he had allegedly witnessed or participated in upon the direct or indirect orders of Duterte.
Yesterday, the senators zeroed in on his recantation of his testimony before the Senate on Oct. 3 that the DDS did not exist and that the statements of self-confessed hit man Edgar Matobato were not true.
“We adjourned it (inquiry) because we don’t see any point to pursue it. (Sen. Vicente Sotto III) moved to adjourn. There’s nothing – what can you squeeze out of this when everything’s been said already,” Lacson told reporters after the six-hour hearing.
He said Lascañas’ testimony as well as his affidavit he submitted to the committee had no probative value, except maybe for cases expected to be filed against the witness.
“Res inter alios acta – a thing done between others does not harm or benefit others. Meaning, you’re alone in your extrajudicial confession against yourself but not against those alleged conspirators or persons being implicated in the commission of the crime in the absence of any independent evidence,” he said.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito grilled Lascañas on his failed attempts to enter into government contracts as he was processing papers for his retirement last December.
These included a franchise for small-town lottery for southern Luzon, a bus terminal in Davao City, and a supply contract for a coastal road in Davao. Ejercito said Lascañas also tried to secure a post at the Bureau of Customs.
Upon questioning from Sen. Manny Pacquiao, Lascañas denied receiving money in exchange for testifying against Duterte.
“It’s just common sense. I don’t believe that you didn’t feel bad after your proposals have been rejected,” Pacquiao said.
The senator, who is known to lead Bible-reading sessions, also questioned Lascañas’ sincerity, noting the witness claimed to have “spiritual renewal” in 2015 yet he claimed to have continued to receive his P100,000 monthly allowance from Duterte until January this year.
He said he wanted to make peace with his conscience, his family, and God, especially after he “indirectly” had his two younger brothers killed in police operations as they were involved in drugs.
Aside from broadcaster Pala, and a family of five, Lascañas tagged Duterte in the killing of 11 Chinese drug suspects, and innocent civilians who happened to be with the targets. They were paid for each killing ranging from P20,000 to P3 million.
On the killing of the family, he testified the target was only a certain Mr. Patasaja, whom Duterte tagged as the mastermind of the abduction of a businesswoman.
However, Patasaja was intercepted with his pregnant wife, four-year old son, his father-in-law, and two helpers in Cotabato City, and were transported to Davao City and killed in Laud quarry upon Duterte’s orders to “erase them cleanly,” he said.
Some years back, he said he and his fellow DDS members executed in the same quarry 11 Chinese nationals, including some female chemists, who were arrested in a bloody raid in Davao City with elements of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.
He said he personally shot nine of the suspects despite their leaders offering them P200 million for their release.
In Davao City, Paolo lashed out at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV whom he accused of trying desperately to destroy his father.
“Trillanes is now desperate in bringing down my father that he would move heaven and earth just to pin us down in these made up accusations,” Paolo said. – With Edith Regalado, Edu Punay