MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – If former Davao policeman Arturo “Arthur” Lascañas is to be believed, Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo “Pulong” Duterte, whose father, President Rodrigo Duterte is leading a war against illegal drugs, dipped his finger into the illegal drug trade himself.
Speaking under oath during a Senate probe into the existence of the so-called “Davao Death Squad” on Monday, March 6, Lascañas said that sometime in the early 2010s – either in 2012 or 2013, the younger Duterte called him for help in speeding up a shipment of furniture from China. (Watch the Lascañas hearing live on Rappler)
The 40-foot container van was supposed to bring in items for the younger Duterte’s new home. It had been delayed for a few months, prompting him – who was then vice mayor of Davao City – to ask for Lascañas’ help.
A certain Davao-based “Charlie Tan”, whom Paolo Duterte had met in China, asked that he insert “souvenirs” in the container van that the vice mayor was going to ship to Davao anyway. The younger Duterte at the time suspected that drugs – “shabu,” in particular – had been inserted in the container van, according to Lascañas.
Lascañas would later say that Charlie Tan, who owns a KTV Bar in Ecoland, Davao City, was known to have links to illegal drugs in Davao City.
Paolo Duterte allegedly asked Lascañas to escort the van upon arrival to the covered courts in Barangay Catalunan in Davao City.
The plan was to open the van upon arrival and for Lascañas and other police with him to arrest Tan on the spot.
When the delivery was done, however, Lascañas said Paolo Duterte called him up and said he would “arbor” the situation. Duterte also allegedly said he would take care of Charlie Tan himself.
Lascañas said this was the last time he dealt with the younger Duterte.
Questioning the Dutertes
“Dito nagkaroon ako ng maraming iniisip. Siguro kung hindi ako gumawa ng isang maling judgment call sa mga kapatid ko, kung inarbor ko mga kapatid ko, baka buhay pa ngayon, nakakulong lang,” he said, referring to his two brothers whom he allegedly helped plot to kill because of links to illegal drugs.
(It was then that I had a lot of doubts. Maybe if I did not make a wrong judgmental call over my brothers, if I had vouched for them, they might still be alive today, although behind bars.)
Lascañas admitted he did not see for himself what the container van contained but nonetheless, he already had hard feelings about the situation. “Puwede palang mamili. Samantalang ako, nakalubog ang dalawang paa ko sa impyerno dahil sa pag-enforce ko sa campaign ni Mayor Rody sa illegal drugs,” he said.
(He had the option to choose. But… my two feet are already in hell because of my enforcing Mayor [Duterte’s] campaign against illegal drugs.)
This is not the first time that Duterte’s son has been implicated in confessions by self-confessed DDS hitman, Edgar Matobato, the first among them to come out publicly, said the president’s eldest son had tapped the hit squad to eliminate personal enemies.
Also either in 2012 or 2013, Lascañas claimed that Paolo Duterte complained that somebody had been pretending to be him in cellphone and telephone calls to scam businesses in Davao City.
The suspect was investigated, validated but later killed during an operation, allegedly by Matobato and Senior Police Office 1 Renante Medina. The operation also resulted in the death of a bystander, an old man.
Lascañas is a self-confessed hitman of the supposed DDS, an infamous death squad that apparently was – or is – behind the killing of suspected criminals in Davao City. In a press conference and in his affidavit, Lascañas said Duterte himself ordered the killing of alleged criminals and personal foes in Davao City.
The Senate resumed its probe on the DDS on Monday after Lascañas’ February 21 public confession.
The retired policeman apologized to the Senate for his October 2016 testimony, where he denied the existence of the DDS and the alleged involvement of President Duterte in it. He said he was forced to “deny everything.”
In a statement released to media hours after the hearing, the younger Duterte slammed Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, among his father’s chief critics and the senator whom Lascañas turned to when he decided he wanted to go public.
“No less than retired SPO3 Lascañas admitted that he sought the help of Trillanes in recanting from his earlier Senate testimony,” said the Davao city vice mayor.
He added: “This only shows that Trillanes is behind the latest Lascañas testimony that not only dragged the name of President Duterte in the summary killings but also tried in vain to include me and my friend in the illegal drug trade. 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. Trillanes is making money in this circus because his political career is already at a dead end.” – Rappler.com