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He is the omnipresent man Friday of Rodrigo Duterte. Was he as ever-present in the days of the Davao Death Squad killings? And hence, once the International Criminal Court names whom to be indicted in the Duterte case of alleged crimes against humanity, will Christopher “Bong” Go be included?
The affidavit of the case’s star witness, the former DDS team leader Arturo Lascañas, is a tell-all of the assassinations that took place in Davao City under the Duterte mandate. As extensive as his confessions were, however, the ICC also has access to the other testimonies of DDS participating assassins. The Lascañas affidavit is spectacularly corroborative, rich in details, and was clearly written from a memory as sharp as nails.
It is also a painfully nauseating read. From beginning to end, it is filled with ghastly details that only a macabre mind can think of. That mind belongs to no other than Rodrigo Duterte, code named by his squad of killers as Superman, who spares no one in his kill, kill, kill orders from his public office at the Davao City Hall, the “Balete Tree” of the DDS hierarchy.
Apart from Duterte himself, no other person crosses the 186 pages of the Lascañas affidavit as frequently as Bong Go.
Lascañas related that as early as 2001, when Superman ordered the creation of the Heinous Crime Task Group Office, the order was relayed to the police through Go. In that order, select police station commanders were told to organize their own death squads, “to lethally foil and neutralize the alleged growing numbers of shabu users and pushers in Davao City.” The star witness then traces the growth of this core group and how it had metastasized down to the barangay level until 2016 when Duterte became president.
“As members of the Death Squad, we follow this level of command, to wit: the final orders of executions/killings came from Mayor Duterte, himself, and sometimes thru SPO4 Sonny Buenaventura and Bong Go.”
That was how the DDS evolved until, Lascañas related, “Police Superintendent Ronald dela Rosa asked permission from Mayor RRD that he would create his own death squad to help Mayor RRD’s drug war campaign in Davao City, and Mayor RRD approved it.”
In effect, there were two parallel death squads, the Heinous Crime Task Group under Lascañas, and the death squad of Dela Rosa. Both were funded by the mayor’s intelligence funds, Lascañas would narrate in his affidavit.
Call orders “through cellphone mostly came from SPO4 Sonny Buenaventura, sometimes from Bong Go, and sometimes from Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte himself.”
For instance, they were ordered to be on standby always in the middle of the night at the Heinous Crime Task Group office inside the Almendras Gym compound. Then call orders would come, through Buenaventura or Go, to bring dead bodies or victims of abduction to the DDS mass grave and execution site called Laud Quarry.
There were also instances when Superman would task Go to gather the assassins in a meeting, as in the case of the slain broadcast journalist Ferdinand Lintuan in 2007. In that one can easily understand Go’s role – a loyal and trusted aide of Duterte, a right-hand man who can be depended upon for his boss’s kind of work.
But Lascañas would swear in his affidavit that Go had later graduated into giving the killing orders himself. One of the most bizarre parts of his affidavit was the case of the mall businessman’s driver. The businessman had confided to Go that a female employee was suspected of pilfering money. A criminal case had been filed but the woman remained at large.
Go’s advice was, at best, peculiar. He wanted the Lascañas group to abduct the missing employee’s husband who was also the driver-bodyguard of the mall businessman.
“Go suggested that the husband of the suspect be investigated in an under-duress situation so that he would be forced to divulge the whereabouts of his wife.”
But when the driver-bodyguard was abducted and tortured by the DDS operatives at Laud Quarry, he was uncooperative and denied everything. He also did not provide the whereabouts of his wife. The assassins thus made a phone call to receive orders on what to do. An hour later, the order came: Patya nâ ninyo, pare. Ilubong para dili na makit-an. Clear na nâ kang Superman (You kill him, bro. Bury him so that he will be forever missing. Superman has given the go-signal).
Sometime in July of 2016, when Duterte was already president, Lascañas was in Manila to formally submit his retirement documents in Camp Crame. On October 5, 2016, the new chief of the Philippine National Police Ronald dela Rosa invited Lascañas to dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Greenhills. Also in that meeting was a police colonel formerly assigned in Davao City, two retired policemen from Davao City, and Lascañas’ lawyer.
The topic of the meeting was the kill quota of the new president. The police colonel intimated to Lascañas that he had received an order from Duterte, through his then special assistant Go, to do the quota of 10 killings per day nationwide.
“PNP Chief Dela Rosa nodded in confirmation.”
Around November 2016, less than a month before Lascañas’s compulsory retirement from the police service, he received a most urgent request: devise an operation plan (oplan) to kill senator Antonio Trillanes IV. He narrates in his affidavit: “The plan was to smash – break into pieces – the vehicle of Senator Trillanes using a 20-wheeler container truck. The killing would appear to be an ordinary vehicular accident with an extraordinary victim, an incumbent senator of the Republic of the Philippines.”
Lascañas said he was told President Duterte approved the plan, “with unlimited funding.” Go then called Lascañas to inquire: “When could this be possibly implemented and the logistics I would be needing? Go even offered ‘intel’ information on Sen. Trillanes’ movement and vehicle route, and that President Duterte wanted the ‘oplan’ to be implemented as soon as possible.”
In December 2016, he received a phone call again, informing him that a “safe house” had already been prepared for him and his group somewhere in Parañaque City and Las Piñas City.
“Meanwhile, retired Police Master Sergeant Sonny Buenaventura planned to place me as an employee at the Bureau of Customs, as my cover while secretly working on the ‘oplan’ to kill then Senator Trillanes. I feigned consent of his plan.”
By that time, Lascañas had begun his vacillations. He conscience had been bothering him for some time. He went to see a priest and confessed all his sins of murder. This was a high point in his affidavit:
“In January 2017, I flew to Manila not to carry out President Duterte’s engineered evil plan to assassinate then Senator Trillanes, but to expose Duterte publicly.”
The Arturo Lascañas affidavit is now deposited at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. He has already testified in a pre-trial hearing of the court.
His narrations only point to one lifeblood need: if these killings were truly orchestrated by state forces using state resources, those named in his affidavit must face trial. If Lascañas was lying all throughout his 186 pages, then what is there to fear?
All these names in his affidavit, from Rodrigo Duterte down to all his loyal lieutenants in his so-called Davao Death Squad, have never been investigated ever in our Philippine courts. Will Bong Go be part of the ICC charge? Let the ICC prove their guilt or innocence if justice cannot be served in our judicial system. If they are innocent, what is there to fear? – Rappler.com
Antonio J. Montalván II is a social anthropologist who advocates that keeping quiet when things go wrong is the mentality of a slave, not a good citizen.