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Conversations with Arturo Lascañas Part 2

As the Davao Death Squad (DDS) operations became deeply embedded in the administration of Rodrigo Duterte as mayor of Davao City, the killing operations mutated into going after his perceived critics.

Fr. Pedro “Pete” Lamata is a priest in the archdiocese of Davao City. Duterte once ordered him killed, according to Arturo Lascañas, a retired police officer and self-confessed member of the DDS. The order rested squarely on Lascañas’ shoulders as a DDS team leader.

In a rare moment in his long DDS occupation, Lascañas did not follow the order to kill Fr. Lamata. “I dilly-dallied the order. I did not follow the order. But [SPO4] Sonny [Buenaventura] gave me P200,000 as operational fund.”

Buenaventura was a police officer who was Duterte’s driver-bodyguard from 1988 until he retired in 2008.

Why did Duterte want to kill the priest? Lascañas replied: “[He] wanted to kill Fr. Pete Lamata because Lamata, during his homil[ies], always attacked Duterte. And Duterte wanted me to shoot Lamata. I said, ‘Mayor Duterte, no, no, we will use knife’.”

“And he said: ‘Make it faster, Arturo – that is one million [pesos], Fr. Pete Lamata, including… (Apollo) Quiboloy will pay another one million [pesos]’. That is true. That is true.”

“This was the aftermath of the election.” Duterte’s issues with Lamata soon died down.

The momentum of vendetta also appears to have fueled Duterte’s plans to kill Leila De Lima, then-chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. Duterte wanted her killed while she was in Davao City to conduct a series of investigations on the DDS killings. De
Lima appeared to have hit a nerve. As early as that time in 2009, there already were confessions from some DDS hitmen attesting to the killings.

Duterte cooks sausage while planning De Lima assassination

Interviewed last Nov. 17 somewhere outside the Philippines, this was how Lascañas related the De Lima assassination plan:

“Duterte, me, Ben Laud and SPO4 Sonny Buenaventura talked about this, the De Lima assassination. But not ambush (in Laud Quarry) because Ben Laud [did] not agree that Commissioner De Lima will be ambushed on his property. Because the main suspect at that
time (of the DDS killings) could be Ben Laud and our group.”

Ben Laud is a former police officer said to be the “handler” of the Laud Quarry, which Lascañas described as a burial site for thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings.

“But the other option of Sonny Buenaventura [was] to kill De Lima through a sniper… The plan was to kill De Lima, I think somewhere in Bajada or Insular Hotel. But it [did] not materialize because of the trees of Insular Hotel, many trees… And there were so many
security [personnel] monitoring them.”

I asked him again if he was part of the plan. “Yes, at the residence of Mayor Duterte. In fact Mayor Duterte cooked sausage for our lunch,” he recalled. In the meeting, the possible snipers were identified.

“I was being called by Superman into his residence — me, and SPO4 Sonny Buenaventura and SPO4 Ben Laud. But Ben Laud refused the ambush. Why? Because the people would pinpoint to Ben Laud as the mastermind, and it will reach Duterte at that moment. I told
Duterte – ‘this is a crazy idea, Sir. Why not use your sniper rifle?”
Superman was the DDS code name for Duterte.

In September 2016, when the former DDS hitman Edgar Matobato testified in the Senate hearings which then-senator De Lima conducted as chair of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, he revealed that he was to be the hitman when De Lima and her
CHR investigators entered the caves at Laud Quarry in 2009.

During the interview, Lascañas clarified Matobato’s perspective. “Matobato was at Laud Quarry that time. He was being prepared to be used.” He said Matobato was not aware of the decision to kill De Lima by sniper shot.

Ozamiz mayor killed for failing to kill Misamis mayor

Lascañas claimed it was also anger that drove Duterte to kill former Ozamiz City mayor Reynaldo “Aldong” Parojinog right inside his residence in the wee hours of the morning of July 30, 2017.

Police operatives, armed with six search warrants, entered the Parojinog residence in Ozamiz City, and claimed later there was a clash of gunfire. But one Parojinog aide told the media that no shot was fired from their side. It was an emblematic Duterte “nanlaban” script. The police destroyed all CCTV cameras so no evidence of a rubout could

The shootout was a massacre. Killed were then-mayor Parojinog, his wife Susan, his two siblings Octavio Jr. and Mona, and eleven others.

In August that year, Duterte accused Parojinog of involvement in the illegal drug trade. But what actually drove Duterte to order the police raid on the Parojinogs, I asked Lascañas? He explained that the Mindanao drug trade was divided into two zones. Southern Mindanao was Duterte territory. Northern Mindanao was the turf of the
Parojinogs. “Aldong Parojinog knows so much of the drug trade of Duterte, especially [of] the brother of Michael Yang in Cagayan De Oro City.”

Cagayan De Oro was part of the Parojinog zone of drugs. Parojinog’s common thread with Duterte was still Yang, a Chinese businessman whom Duterte appointed as presidential economic adviser in 2018 despite being a foreigner.

Lascañas said there was something else that really got Duterte’s goat on Parojinog. “Meron pang gustong ipapatay si Mayor Duterte kay Aldong Parojinog na mayor sa Misamis Occidental, nalimutan ko lang ang pangalan, pero hindi pinatay ni Aldong. Isa ‘yun nagalit na
si Duterte dahil ito palang taong ito ay Filipino-US citizen pero working with the US DEA. Sunog na si Duterte sa tinood lang with the US Drug Enforcement [Administration].”

(There was another guy that Mayor Duterte wanted Aldong Parojinog to kill, a mayor of Misamis Occidental, I forgot his name, but Aldong did not kill him. It turned out that this guy was a Filipino-US citizen who was working with the US DEA. In truth, the US Drug
Enforcement [Administration] had the goods on Duterte.)

“I will confirm it. I confirm it [that Parojinog was a drug competitor of Duterte],” the 63-year-old Lascañas said.

After the interview, I clarified with Lascañas that in 2019, masked men killed then-mayor David Navarro of Clarin, Misamis Occidental in Cebu City, even while his town’s police was escorting him. Lascañas said he now remembers that the mayor Duterte wanted Parojinog
to kill was the municipal mayor of Clarin, Misamis Occidental. In the version of Duterte, he had named Navarro as part of his so-called drug matrix.

One can easily conclude that someone who had perfected killing as something above the law could have only masterminded the aforementioned examples of killing narrated by Lascañas.

As audaciously powerful as he was, Duterte had probably believed that all the tracks were covered. He never could have imagined that someday his own killers would squeal on him.

There was something else in the Duterte hierarchy of horror that Lascañas could never forget.

“Duterte instructed us to rape”

Lascañas relates one very gruesome incident that took place at Laud Quarry. Suspected female drug users were brought to the execution site for a supposed investigation. “I witnessed it. Duterte instructed us to rape these suspected female drug users. But also we were required to be an audience during the investigation with rape.”

The ones assigned to do the raping were “mostly civilian assets from the Agdao rebel returnees. Superman was there. We were the spectators because we were required by Superman to witness. Then after the rape, kill the victim.”

On November 11, 2020, Arturo Lascañas, signed the ICC’s Third Agreement on Limited Use of Information. The agreement gives Lascañas a degree of immunity, that the ICC cannot prosecute him for having participated in the extrajudicial killings in Davao city under the Duterte family. That means Duterte himself or his alter egos cannot file a case in the ICC against Lascañas. It is a first in Philippine history for international criminal law.