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Conversations with Arturo Lascañas Part 3: ‘Polong was the mastermind in the smuggling of shabu in the Port of Davao’

If their father Rodrigo was into the drug trade, as Arturo Lascañas narrated in Part 1 of this interview series, could the Duterte children be far behind? Not exactly, Lascañas relates from the memory of his years of close association with Davao City’s ruling family.

I interviewed Lascañas, a self-confessed former member of the Davao Death Squad, last Nov. 17 and 18 somewhere outside the Philippines.

In this part of the interview, Lascañas exposed the involvement of Paolo ‘Polong’ Duterte, currently the representative of Davao City’s 1st district, in the illegal drugs trade.

(VERA Files sent a letter on Jan. 16 to Duterte’s office at Batasan Pambansa to get his side of the story, and followed it up by calls and text messages. We have not received any response from him as of  Jan. 19, 9 a.m.)

Lascañas said Polong was “very close” to Michael Yang and Charlie Tan, two Chinese operators of the shabu laboratories in Davao City, as mentioned in Part 1 of this series.

“Polong was the mastermind in the smuggling of shabu in the Port of Davao, and I was one of his conduits or front men, ” he said.

P50K for Bato Dela Rosa every week

Lascañas said he was tasked to deliver money “to the Bureau of Customs, well, of course, to Polong, and to Bato Dela Rosa every week.”

“Every week I delivered to Bato Dela Rosa P50,000… every week, when he was the city police director of Davao City, when he started the Operation Tokhang.”

Bato Dela Rosa is  incumbent Sen. Ronald Dela Rosa, chief of the Philippine National Police from July 1, 2016 to April 19, 2018, under Rodrigo Duterte’s presidency.

When asked for his side on Lascañas’ claim, Dela Rosa said: Naniwala naman kayo? Ang dali lang gumawa ng kwento. He is lying.”

(And you believed him? It’s easy to concoct stories. He is lying.)

I asked Lascañas how Paolo Duterte figured in the death squad killings. He gave very specific details about the involvement of the Duterte son.

“I was even summoned by Paolo Duterte three times to kill people,” he said.

There was a killing that took place in 2013 in Deca Homes, where three were killed including a woman. Paolo was said to have ordered it because of an argument with the target who had confronted him for being the arrogant son of the city mayor.

Lascañas said: “I know it personally. He instructed me to kill these people, with Edgar Matobato. It was in Deca Homes near the house of Police Captain Ronald Lao, a part of the assassination team summoned by Paolo Duterte at that time.”

I asked how three people were killed when Paolo was angry with only one of them. The other two, a woman and an old man, were simply collateral damage, he said.

“There were many more collateral damages, buried at the Laud Quarry and at the Mandug mass grave.” Lascañas contends that there were three mass graves. A third one is in Maa, aside from the one in the Davao Gulf.

Rumors have long circulated in Davao City that Paolo also controlled smuggling in the Davao ports. I asked Lascañas if he was in the position to confirm this. He had related Paolo’s drug connections in his affidavit.

Brothers in Freemasonry, brothers in smuggling

“I was being used by Paolo Duterte as front in the smuggling of rice and the illegal drugs of Charlie Tan. That’s it. Our cashier in our group is named Mark Suico. He is a multibillionaire young man, cashier of Paolo Duterte.”

Lascañas said they smuggled mostly rice, shabu, and sometimes sugar. The popular belief was Paolo Duterte was in the business of ukay-ukay (imported used clothing). “Mayor [Rodrigo] Duterte knows this because I told him about these activities of Paolo.”

Lascañas described his relationship with Rodrigo Duterte as “more than brothers.” He could tell him about the illegal activities of his son.

“Sometimes I can’t read [Rodrigo Duterte’s] reactions. Sometimes he would be angry. But when he lies, it is very easy to catch him because he was so relaxed, and then he would concoct another story to cover the truth; he wanted his mouth to be the source of the investigation. That’s why this is what happened with all the killings in Davao City. No policeman can investigate truthfully without the dictation of Mayor Duterte. No policeman can do it. He will give a bribe money to the police but disguise it as reward money,” Lascañas narrated.

And then he gave a first-person (eyewitness) confirmation. “Polong Duterte had a drug triad tattoo. I saw it personally. I saw his very big tattoo, [a] dragon like his father[‘s].”

“At that time, Polong entered the Freemasonry. When you enter the Freemasonry you are required to take your clothes off. So when I tasked Polong to take off his clothes, he refused. He said there was a triad tattoo on his back. I said, ‘I can take care of it, do not worry. I am the Worshipful Master of this lodge, Davao Lodge 149 of [the] Freemasonry.’ So Polong and I are brothers in Freemasonry, brothers in smuggling.”


(On Nov. 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.)