International Criminal Court

THE LASCAÑAS AFFIDAVIT | ‘I killed for Duterte’

Rappler Investigative Team
THE LASCAÑAS AFFIDAVIT | ‘I killed for Duterte’

Graphics by Emil Mercado/Rappler

Arturo Lascañas’ disclosures to the International Criminal Court jibe with information that Rappler previously obtained pertaining to alleged murders by the Davao Death Squad and the alleged links of President Duterte to suspected drug personalities

Bookmark this page for the list of stories in this series as we publish them starting on Thursday, November 11.

Rodrigo Duterte gave orders or the go-signal to kill, based on Rappler’s count, at least 100 individuals – including a child who just happened to be with a parent who had been targeted – during his time as Davao City mayor and until 2015, just before he ran for the presidency, one of his self-confessed gunmen revealed.

In a 186-page affidavit accepted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in its investigation into state-sponsored killings under Duterte, former cop Arturo “Arthur” Lascañas also said a number of the killings targeted individuals they feared could reveal the drug trade of businessman Michael Yang, coddled by Duterte. 

The ICC probe involving a Philippine president is the first in the country’s history, and the court’s acceptance of Lascañas’ affidavit is unprecedented. 

Lascañas, a Davao City cop for nearly 35 years and an original member of the notorious Davao Death Squad (DDS, originally Duterte Death Squad), told the ICC that the kill orders were either given directly by “Superman” – their code name for Duterte – or through the latter’s trusted close-in aides.

In instances where the orders were coursed through aides, how did he and the other gunmen know these actually came from the then-mayor? The former hitman said that, each time, city hall resources were used, active-duty cops provided cover, cash reward always followed the operation, and no “suspects” were brought to account.   

Lascañas dropped the names of Duterte’s alleged “enablers,” many of them appointed or elected to national positions when the boss became president of the Philippines, such as senators Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa and Christopher “Bong” Go and Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director General Wilkins Villanueva. 

He also made claims about the President’s children but we could not independently verify these accusations.  

In this series, Rappler shows how a number of Lascañas’ disclosures jibe with information that we previously obtained pertaining to other alleged murders by the DDS, key people related to them, and the alleged links of some members of the Duterte family to suspected drug personalities and the DDS itself. New disclosures in recent Senate blue ribbon committee hearings about businessman Yang and his supposed influence over Duterte are consistent with some claims made in the Lascañas affidavit. 

Other DDS killers confirmed the details provided by Lascañas about the particular kill missions and the death squad’s operations in general. 

The Rappler Investigative Team started working on the project in the latter part of 2020 after obtaining a copy of the Lascañas affidavit sometime in October. Before that, we had reported on Lascañas’disclosures to the Senate in March 2017 and had interviewed him days after. We continued monitoring his whereabouts after he fled the country for fear of his life. 

When we heard about the possibility of his becoming a witness in the ICC against Duterte, we sought him out and interviewed him again, this time remotely, in October 2020. At the time, discussions with the ICC were still underway and we needed to corroborate his disclosures. On September 23, 2021, we interviewed Lascañas for the third time – by then the ICC probe into the DDS killings had been approved.

We reached out to the persons implicated by Lascañas, and gave them considerable time to answer questions on the specific allegations against them. Most of those we were able to contact refused to give comments. Some of those we spoke with to corroborate some of the information or accounts said they could no longer remember details of particular incidents. The whereabouts of several cops could not be traced. If you have information about them, you may share them with us via email: investigative@rappler.com.

We interviewed at least 25 people and combed through various transcripts, affidavits, past interviews, documents from the Commission on Human Rights and the ICC, intelligence and classified reports, among others, to corroborate and make sense of the information found in Lascañas’ affidavit. 

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, a former human rights lawyer, dismissed the former DDS insider’s written testimony as “hearsay” that had little value without cross-examination in court. 

Yang’s lawyer, Raymond Fortun, said the allegations were “without factual basis.” He also cited Yang’s statement that authorities had previously cleared his name of links to the drug trade. 

Rappler will update the stories in this series once individuals named by Lascañas send their statements. 

Lascañas’ affidavit, among other testimonies, was apparently one of the reasons why the ICC’s pre-trial chamber agreed on September 15, 2021, to authorize a probe into the killings in Davao under Duterte when he was mayor and the killings made in the name of his war on drugs as president.

Lascañas fled the country in April 2017 after implicating Duterte in killings carried out by the DDS. On November 11, 2020, he signed the ICC’s “Third Agreement on Limited Use of Information,” which states, among others, that the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the ICC “will not use as evidence against Arturo Lascañas any information that he provides in accordance with this agreement.” 

It also says that the OTP may use the information he provided “as evidence in any proceedings before the ICC…as well as to pursue leads or develop additional information or evidence.”

Read and watch the stories in this series:

Rappler.com

Contributors to “THE LASCAÑAS AFFIDAVIT | ‘I KILLED FOR DUTERTE’” series: Lian Buan, Jodesz Gavilan, Glenda M. Gloria, Chay F. Hofileña, Pia Ranada, Rambo Talabong 

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