MANILA, Philippines – Arturo “Arthur” Lascañas claims to have killed more or less 200 people in Davao City, supposedly because of his “loyalty” to Rodrigo Duterte, mayor of the bustling Mindanao city for over two decades.
Since the creation of the infamous “Davao Death Squad” in 1989 to 2014, when he started lying low, the retired policeman said he would kill so long as Duterte ordered it, and as long as it came at the right price.
First, it was the scum of society – suspected criminals, drug lords in particular. Later, he said, the death squad started eliminating political rivals and innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Now that he’s bared what he supposedly knows and been labelled either a hero or a joke, Lascañas breathes easier. He said he's sleeping better now. (READ: 'I'm alive': Dance instructor of Duterte's sister denies Lascañas' claims)
“[I have] no fear,” he told Rappler in an interview on Wednesday, March 8.
And for the police – who have been and are again at the forefront of President Duterte’s war on drugs – Lascañas warns them of a “suffering” that's inevitable.
“Matagal, ma-feel yung na-feel ko. You will suffer na hindi mo ma-explain kung bakit. Wala kang ano, parang wala kang, parang nakakulong ang katauhan mo dito sa loob ng konsensiya mo,” said Lascañas, who retired from the police force in December 2016.
(Eventually, you’ll feel what I felt. You will suffer and you won’t be able to explain why. It’s like… your person is trapped in your conscience.)
Lascañas sought refuge from members of the Catholic Church shortly after he retired. He later reached out to Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, among Duterte’s chief critics, to help facilitate his “public confession”.
Lascañas’ allegations triggered a Senate probe into the so-called DDS, but the chances of a second hearing are close to zero. (READ: Senate ends Lascañas probe after 1 hearing)
Lascañas doesn’t seem to mind, explaining that his ultimate goal was for his story to come out. He said he had a change of heart in 2016, as he was undergoing treatment for a kidney problem.
He decided he needed to write down what he knew and make it public.
The former cop went on to explain to the current police force: “Mamanahin ng mga angkan ng mga angkan mo ang kamalasan sa pagpatay ng tao. Mamanahin talaga yan kaya yun ang explain ko sa mga anak ko, na mamanahin ninyo pag hindi ko ito ilalabas, kung dalhin ko ito sa libingan ko… sabi ng mga anak ko, patayin ka, ikulong ka. Sabi ko, mas mabuti nga. At least kahit papano alam ko na itong buhay ko, kulang itong kabayaran. Ang sa akin, nagawa ko na ang gusto kong magawa.”
(Generations after you will inherit the guilt that comes from killing people. They will inherit that and that’s how I explained it to my children – that they’ll carry the burden if I don’t come forward, if I bring this to the grave. My kids told me: ‘You’ll be killed or jailed.’ I told them: ‘That’s better. At least now I know that this life, it’s not enough payment. What’s important is I did what I wanted to do.)
Lascañas surprised many when during a press conference last February he confessed to being a DDS member and accused Duterte of paying hitmen – a mix of cops and “rebel returnees” – for every kill made.
In October 2016, during a Senate probe into the existence of the DDS, Lascañas insisted it did not exist.
He also once accused Edgar Matobato, the first self-confessed DDS hitman to go public, of lying. Lascañas now is saying that Matobato’s knowledge of the kill squad was limited because, unlike him, Matobato was not part of its inner circle.
Duterte has long been hounded by allegations of links to the infamous death squad. Critics have also linked it to the spate of killings nationwide in the context of Duterte’s popular but bloody war on drugs.
Lascañas noted similarities in how vigilante groups execute people now and how they did it as supposed members of the DDS.
“Pareha ang pattern – riding in tandem, may packaging tape, lagyan ng cardboard, the same. Siguro ang wala lang dito sa Maynila is yung libingan. Kami, meron kami doon, yung Laud quarry at yung laot (The pattern is the same – riding in tandem, the use of packaging tape, leaving behind a cardboard sign, it’s the same. Maybe the only thing missing here in Manila is a grave. We had the Laud quarry and bodies of water),” he said.
Duterte ordered a stop to all police operations in the drug war after it was revealed that anti-illegal drugs cops kidnapped and murdered a South Korean businessman.
And after ordering police to focus on “internal cleansing,” Duterte changed his mind and allowed the police to return to the drugs war 4 weeks later.