MEMBERS of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs took turns questioning ex-policeman Arturo Lascañas’ motives in shedding light on the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) and the alleged involvement of then Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
It turns out that Lascañas tried to do business with the government several times after his retirement, but was turned down by the President’s men.
Lascañas also claimed to have undergone “spiritual renewal” in late 2015, yet admitted that he perjured himself as he recanted his October 2016 Senate testimony that the DDS did not exist.
Lascañas narrated before a Senate inquiry several operations of his group against crime suspects and others allegedly on orders of Duterte and admitted involvement in the killing of at least 200 people.
He told senators Philippine National Police Chief Ronald de la Rosa was aware of the operations of his group when he headed the Davao City police.
Lascañas particularly cited the case of a Taiwanese who was suspected of being involved in illegal drug operations in the southern city.
The Taiwanese was reportedly a competitor of a certain Charlie Tan who, according to Lascañas, was also involved in illegal drugs and was a friend of Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte.
He said the operation against the Taiwanese was ordered by Senior Police Office 4 Sonny Buenaventura and de la Rosa knew about it.
Lascañas recalled that they were able get the Taiwanese, who was with two Filipino companions. When he asked Buenaventura what to do with them, he said he was ordered to get rid of the two companions as well and consider them collateral damage.
The three were taken to Laud quarry where they were killed and buried, Lascañas said.
He also revealed what he knew about the case of Sali Makdum, a suspected terrorist who was abducted and killed by the DDS according to Edgar Matobato, the self-confessed hired killer who testified before the Senate last year.
Lascañas said the wife of Makdum complained about a ransom demand and that de la Rosa got angry after learning it was Matobato who asked for the money. He admitted to de la Rosa however that it was his group and not Matobato who demanded the ransom.
Kill order disobeyed
Lascañas also recalled when de la Rosa, then police director of Davao City, launched an operation against the most wanted criminal of Davao del Sur, identified as Felicisimo Cunanan Jr.
He said they were able to kill Cunanan and arrest two of his companions who were later brought to the heinous crimes office where they were met by Duterte and de la Rosa.
Lascañas claimed Duterte ordered him and de la Rosa to kill the two companions. But Lascañas said he did not do it after being instructed by de la Rosa.
The ex-policeman claimed Duterte paid between P20,000 and 100,000 to kill several personalities and suspected criminals on top of the allowance he regularly received from city hall.
‘The devil came in a dream’
Lascañas told senators he decided to come out and tell the truth after undergoing “spiritual renewal” in September 2015, which some senators found confusing considering that he had admitted to lying before the Senate when he testified in October 2016 that the DDS did not exist.
He said the devil appeared to him in a dream, only to be banished by a child-like figure. “It looked and felt very real and when I woke up I saw a flashback of all the killings I’ve done,” Lascañas said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order committee, noted that Lascañas committed perjury after the “spiritual renewal,” an observation echoed by Senators Joseph Victor Ejecito, Joel Villanueva and Emmanuel Pacquiao.
Ejercito also noted that Lascañas recanted his earlier testimony after four of his business proposals were turned down by officials of the Duterte administration.
Ejercito asked Lascañas about his bid to secure a Small Town Lottery franchise, establish a customs brokerage firm, operate a van terminal in Davao City, and supply quarry materials for a proposed 53-kilometer coastal road project.
The former police officer admitted all his proposals were rejected by the government.
“It appears that our witness here got four strikes after his retirement. Not one of his attempts to put up a business were allowed,” Ejercito said.
Can’t indict anyone
Lacson later told reporters Lascañas’s testimony could no longer be used to indict anyone.
“As of now, there is no independent evidence other than what he had already testified on,” Lacson said after adjourning the hearing.
Even if independent evidence is presented, the Supreme Court had ruled that an extrajudicial confession should have been made while the conspiracy is happening, he said.
Lacson noted that Lascañas testified on incidents when the President was still the mayor of Davao City. “So on both counts how can you use his (Lascañas) testimonies, his recanted testimony, to indict?” he added.
Malacañang also dismissed Lascañas’ claims. “Arthur Lascañas has proven himself to be a polluted source and perjured witness. We therefore regard his testimony now as fabricated and unacceptable,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a statement.
Detained Sen. Leila de Lima however said Lascanas’ testimony was credible and compared it with that of self-confessed DDS hit man Edgar Matobato.
“Both Lascañas and Matobato are actual and direct participants in many incidents of killing as ordered by then Mayor Duterte. Their testimonies are based on their personal firsthand knowledge, hence, admissible and worthy of credence,” de Lima said in a handwritten note sent to reporters.
“From these revelations, the hard, ugly and inconvenient truth is that President Duterte has a criminal mind as he is in fact a criminal, a mass murderer at that,” she added.
WITH A REPORT FROM CATHERINE S. VALENTE