Lascañas says he killed more than 200; tags Duterte in death squad

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(File photo) Arturo Lascañas (L), President Rodrigo Duterte (R)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) —  Former police officer Arturo Lascañas told a Senate committee hearing Monday he was a hitman for the dreaded Davao Death Squad (DDS), having killed some 200 people on orders of his boss in the Davao City force and then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte.     

"Hindi ko kayang dalhin sa libingan ko itong dark evil secrets ng buhay…yung utos ni mayor…his campaign against criminality and drugs," he said. [I can't carry these dark, evil secrets in my grave… mayor's orders… his campaign against criminality and drugs.]

It was a complete turnaround from his October 2016 testimony where Lascanas denied the DDS existed or that Duterte ever ordered him to kill anyone.  He also accused another witness, Edgar Matobato, of lying for claiming to have killed people for the DDS.

Also read: Lascañas in affidavit: Matobato was telling the truth

Lascanas said he joined the DDS in 1989.  At first, the group engaged in legitimate police operations to combat illegal drugs and criminality, but these later became vendetta against the personal and political rivals of Duterte and his son, now Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo "Pulo" Duterte.

The self-confessed assassin said some DDS activities were purely for money-making purposes, such as kidnap-for-ransom.

He gave details of several operations he was involved in.  He told the senators Taiwanese and Chinese nationals linked to the illegal drug trade were ordered liquidated by Buenaventura on instructions of  "Superman," the code name they gave Duterte.

Lascañas also said the DDS that killed local radio broadcaster Jun Pala.

Asked by Sen. Antonio Trillanes if such operations were covered as legitimate police operations, Lascañas said: "yes."

"To my understanding po is contract killing po ito [to my understanding, it is contract killing]," Lascañas said.

He also mentioned the alleged kidnapping and murder of a dance instructor to avenge Duterte's sister,  Jocelyn.  He said the DDS was responsible for more abductions such as that of former barangay captain and part-time radio commentator Davao City director Felicisimo Cunanan, Jr., and a certain Fred Sotto, who were critical of Duterte.

Lascanas said he was paid up to ₱50,000 for each killing. This is on top of a monthly fee of ₱100,000 from the office of the mayor for his services. 

The retired policeman added DDS members bought unlicensed firearms such as .45 caliber pistols and M16 rifles using money from the mayor's office.

Legitimate operations turned personal

Senator Riza Hontiveros asked Lascañas about similarities in the way reported extrajudicial killings are being done today with that of the DDS.

Lascañas said there are indications of a similar approach like riding-in-tandem, shots to the head, using of packaging tape and placards that tag victims as drug addicts or "salot sa lipunan" [pest to society].

Also read: Bam Aquino: Lascañas testimony will 'test Senate independence'

In the middle of the hearing, Senator Manny Pacquiao moved  to cite Lascañas in contempt for recanting his original testimony. This was blocked by Hontiveros and Senator Vicente "Tito" Sotto III and Pacquiao eventually withdrew his motion.

Dela Rosa implicated

Lascañas dragged more personalities into summary execution activities, including Philippine National Police Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa.

Also read: Panelo: Lascañas being used by 'sinister forces' to destroy Duterte

Dela Rosa held various key positions in the Davao Region police force before he became the country's police chief.

Lascañas said Dela Rosa knows about at least three DDS operations.  One is the killing of a Taiwanese national with dealings with Davao-based drug lord, Charlie Tan and two Filipinos. After the DDS killed the Taiwanese national, Lascañas said Dela Rosa revealed described the incident as like an "elimination of competitors."

"Alam ito ng ngayon ay PNP chief na si Bato dela Rosa. Siya noon ang regional intelligence ng PRO11. In short R2. Dito supposed to be joint operations ng grupo namin at ng region," Lascañas said.

[Translation: Current PNP Chief Bato dela Rosa knows about this. He was then regional intelligence of PRO11. In short R2. It was supposed to be joint operations of our group and the region.]

"Ang sa isip-isip ko, hindi pala lingid sa kaalaman namin, nagiging foot soldiers kami ng mga drug lord," Lascañas added. [To my mind, it's not a decret from us that we're being used as foot soldiers of drug lords.]

The second incident was the kidnapping of Yemeni Sali Makdum in early 2000, an incident that Matobato admitted being involved in.

"Noong nag-complain ang asawa ni Makdum sa PAOCTF (Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force), nagalit si then Supt. Bato Dela Rosa. 'Bakit pa hiningan ng ransom ni Edgar?' Ang sabi ko kay Bato, hindi si Edgar ang nanghingi kundi kami. Ang gusto nga ni Bato, hulihin si Edgar. Pero sabi ko, 'file-an na lang natin ng kaso sir'," Lascañas said.

[Translation: When Makdum's wife complained at the PAOCTF, Supt Dela Rosa went angry and said 'why is edgar asking for ransom?' I told Bato, it was not Edgar who's asking (for ransom) but us. Bato wants Edgar taken. But I told him 'let's just file a case against him sir.]

The third incident was the killing of an alleged most wanted criminal of Davao Del Sur identified as Felicisimo Cunanan alias Sergeant CC.  Dela Rosa was then chief of Davao City Police.

"Dito, minura ni mayor ang dalawa, pinagalitan. After almost an hour, umalis si Mayor. Pero ang instruction niya bago siya umalis, sa amin ni Senior Supt Bato Dela Rosa is patayin niya na yan," Lascañas said. [Mayor cursed and scolded the two. After almost an hour, Mayor left. But his instruction us and to Senior Supt Bato Dela Rosa before he left is to kill them.]

"Pumasok si Senior Supt. Bato and then sinabi niya sa akin, wag mong ituloy dahil kawawa yan. Ang sabi ko sa kanya, 'pano sir kung magtanong si Mayor?' Ang sabi ni Bato, 'ako na bahala'," he added. [Senior Supt Bato entered then told me, don't do it, they're pitiful. I told him, 'what if mayor asks?' He told me, 'I'll take charge.']

Dela Rosa skipped Monday's Senate hearing, saying he would answer questions about Lascañas after he receives the official affidavit of the former policeman.

CNN Philippines' Cecille Lardizabal and Gerg Cahiles contributed to this report.