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Conversations with Arturo Lascañas Part 4: ‘Inday wanted to make her own trademark in the death squad, and that was Oplan Tokhang’

Statement of Vice President Sara Duterte issued Feb. 01. Lascañas held an online press conference with Manila media Jan. 31.


Mga kababayan, Assalamualaikum.

Ayon sa isang nagpakilalang testigo, may kinalaman umano ako sa Oplan Tokhang, sa Davao Death Squad, at sa mga insidente ng pagpatay o extrajudicial killings sa Davao.

Bago ang script na ito.

Sa mga taon na nagsilbi ako bilang Vice Mayor at Mayor ng Davao City, ni minsan ay hindi naugnay ang aking pangalan sa isyung ito.

Bigla na lang nagkaroon ng testigo laban sa akin nang mahalal ako na Vice President. At kabilang na nga ako ngayon sa mga akusado sa International Criminal Court.

Maliban sa tiyempo, malinaw na sadyang pinilit lang na maidugtong ang pangalan ko sa isyung ito para ako maging akusado sa ICC.

Ang pagpupumilit ng ICC na pakialaman ang ating hudikatora ay panghihimasok sa ating soberanya. Paglapastangan ito sa dignidad ng mga Pilipino at sa karangalan ng Pilipinas.

Wala na itong debate, sa testigo at mga tao na nakapalikod sa kanya magfile kayo ng kasong murder laban sa akin dito sa Pilipinas.

In the affidavit submitted by self-confessed former Davao Death Squad hitman Arturo Lascañas to the International Criminal Court (ICC), he mentioned that Vice President Sara Duterte knew and approved the killings that her father had ordered when she was Davao City mayor.

I interviewed Lascañas face-to-face last Nov. 17 and 18 somewhere outside the Philippines and he gave more details in support of what he mentioned in the affidavit.

(VERA Files wrote Vice President Duterte about this article last Jan. 25 enumerating the claims of Lascañas and asked for her side. We followed up the request with her staff through text and viber. We have not gotten a reply as of Jan. 28, 10 p.m.)

Sara was mayor from 2010 to 2013 and from 2016 to 2022.  Her father, former president Rodrigo Duterte, served as mayor for 22 years before her.

Lascañas said Sara, who is addressed and referred to in Davao with the Visayan endearment “Inday,” had participated fully in the extrajudicial killings and at times even more brutal and ruthless than her father.

He narrated: “When [Ronald] Bato Dela Rosa (then police director of Davao City, now an incumbent senator) started the Operation Tokhang, I was called by him about Tokhang and it was approved by Sara Duterte. She was the mayor at that time.”

“[Then]Colonel Dela Rosa told me that he will impose another police operation about drugs, not through DDS but through abduction, and use the Laud Quarry as mass graves. And it was approved by Sara Duterte when we talked personally – me, Sara Duterte and Sonny Buenaventura. Sara Duterte said: ‘Karaan na man nâ inyohang style kanang pusil. Kidnapa na lang nâ inyong target unya ilubong’ (Your style of shooting targets is passé. Just kidnap your target and then bury them).”

I asked him to expound on this revelation for the benefit of the doubt, to take it with a grain of salt: Was Sara aware of the extrajudicial killings being done? “Not only of the extrajudicial killing but also of the mass grave, of the Laud Quarry,” Lascañas said.

Sometimes si Sara naga firing doon, kasama si Michael Yang, inside the Laud Quarry (Sometimes Sara does practice shooting there, with Michael Yang, inside the Laud Quarry). Nobody knows it.”

This information about Sara doing target range practice inside the quarry with Michael Yang was not mentioned in his affidavit to the ICC.

“Mayor Inday Duterte confirmed the instruction of Bato Dela Rosa to me about the Oplan Tokhang at that time. If I’m not mistaken, it was February in 2012 or 2013. She was the city mayor at that time, instructing me and Sonny Buenaventura at the Caltex Minimart (Starmart) in Ecoland.” (This incident is in his affidavit submitted to the ICC.)

I asked him the reason for Inday’s instruction to him. He replied: “She was allegedly disturbed by the questions of media people about the killing in Davao City, especially in the shooting. It was initiated by her father, but Inday want[ed] to make her own trademark in the death squad, and that was Oplan Tokhang.”

Oplan Tokhang was the national branding given for Rodrigo Duterte’s “kill” policy when he became president. That was also conceptualized when the same Bato Dela Rosa – said to be the author of Tokhang – was appointed by Duterte as the chief of the Philippine National Police.

Lascañas explains  how different was Sara Duterte’s Oplan Tokhang.

“Oplan Tokhang is the abduction of the target. It’s very easy to abduct the target while we were in Davao City because of the LTO (Land Transportation Office) personal information data that we received from Bong Go and from Eduardo De Guzman at that time.”

In his affidavit, he explains the illegal act of pilfering the personal data of those registered in the LTO, including their photos. It was this that easily guided the DDS killers to case their targets from the addresses provided and the photos on the identification registers. Such data cannot be secured without any court order, but Lascañas relates that this was simply accomplished with the connivance of the Davao City LTO with the Davao Death Squad. He mentioned in his affidavit that the person responsible for this operation was Bong Go, Rodrigo Duterte’s long-time aide and now an incumbent senator.

“So Inday wanted that if you abduct your target, it was only a ‘missing person’ case. No investigation could be conducted if there [were] no dead. No dead bodies, no evidence.” All they had to do after killing the target was to bury the corpse. In that way, no talks about it in the media, just silence.

One gets horrified at such ghastly revelations, at the vileness of such advice from a public official. Lascañas said, “I’m telling you [it was] more than evil, it was very dangerous, more than the Medellin Cartel or the Mexican drug lords.”

Did they follow Mayor Inday’s advice? “Yes, we enforced it. And I think [on] several occasions.”

I referred him to the confessions made public to the media of Edgar Matobato, who said that their allowances as death squad killers was sourced from the Davao City hall’s ghost employees when Inday was mayor. Matobato said they did not sign any receipts but solely on pieces of yellow pad paper.

Lascañas corroborates Matobato: “That’s true. It happened to me… on a monthly basis.”

Matobato also exposed in his confessions to the media that he had participated in throwing dead bodies overboard in the Davao Gulf.  Lascañas had explained in his affidavit to the ICC that the DDS maintained a killing boat, as it were. He said that “in the Davao Gulf, more than 100” bodies were disposed of.

“First, we strangle the target. That is the first move before the boat leaves the coast,” he narrated. Then, the dead body is tied with hollow blocks. Yet, Matobato had said that some of the bodies floated, and hence had aroused some media attention. “That’s why Inday doesn’t want it, that kind of operation,” Lascañas explained.

“I am challenging mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte to face me face-to-face. If he is a real man, face me face-to-face… and Inday Sara Duterte to a debate. I am challenging her to a debate. She’s a lawyer.” Lascañas himself is a law graduate.


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.