Palace on Lascañas claims: 'Political drama' to destroy Duterte

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang dismissed as "political drama" the accusations of a former Davao City policeman that President Rodrigo Duterte paid members of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) to kill individuals, including the murdered journalist Jun Pala.

Earlier that day, former police officer Arturo "Arthur" Lascañas claimed in a press conference that Duterte, when he was still Davao City mayor, paid hitmen P20,000 to P100,000 to kill. Lascañas said Duterte offered a P3 million reward for the murder of Pala, a radio commentator critical of him.

"The press conference of a self-confessed hitman, SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, is part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration," said Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar in a statement on Monday, February 20.

He said the press conference, called by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, was nothing but "character assassination" and "vicious politics orchestrated by sectors affected by the reforms initiated by the Duterte administration."

Trillanes, one of the President's fiercest critics in Congress, last week revived his claims that Duterte failed to disclose P2.4 billion in funds stashed in bank accounts under his name and that of his family members.

Andanar said claims of Duterte's links to the DDS had already been investigated by various groups, most recently by the Senate committee on justice.

"The Commission on Human Rights, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate committee on justice already cleared the President of extrajudicial killing and his involvement in the Davao Death Squad," said Andanar.

Lascañas had in fact been one of the witnesses called to testify during the Senate hearings on the DDS in October 2016. That time, he had denied that he was part of the DDS and that he was close to Duterte.

In the Monday press conference, Lascañas contradicted his earlier statement and instead corroborated the testimony of another self-confessed hitman, Edgar Matobato.

Lascañas has executed an affidavit and is ready to testify before any government body. – 

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at