"Kontento na ako na nagawa ko ang promise ko sa Diyos na magsagawa ng isang public confession."
With these words, retired SPO3 Arthur Lascañas, the alleged leader of the Davao Death Squad, confirmed Monday the existence of the group, contradicting his earlier Senate testimony that the group was "nothing but media hype."
During a press conference on Monday, Lascañas claimed he carried out extrajudicial killings upon the orders of then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and was paid anywhere from P20,000 to P50,000 per kill.
He also claimed personal knowledge of the killing of broadcaster Jun Pala, the massacre of an entire family in General Santos City and the bombing of a mosque in Davao City.
He also shed tears after claiming that he was instrumental in the killing of his two brothers.
"Isa ako sa instrument sa pagkamatay ng dalawa kong kapatid - si Cecilio at si Fernando. Tanggap ko po kung ano mangyari sa akin. Dahil sa sobra kong loyalty sa kanyang campaign, nagawa ko ito. Sarili kong dalawang kapatid pinapatay ko," he said.
It was a complete about-face for the alleged DDS team leader who earlier told the Senate that self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato was lying about the DDS murders.
“Wala pong Davao Death Squad, your honor. Media hype lang ‘yan. [There is no Davao Death Squad, your honor. That’s only media hype.]” Lascañas told Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
Matobato earlier described Lascañas as Duterte’s “right-hand man,” and that he was Lascañas' closest aide.
“Si Arthur Lascañas, para itong general, maski colonel nauutusan niya sa Davao City. Ito ang pinaka-powerful na pulis sa Davao. [Arthur Lascañas is like a general. He can even give orders to a colonel. He is the most powerful cop in Davao City.],” Matobato said during a Senate hearing last September 15.
Matobato earlier said the death squad, which initially started as “Lambada Boys” in the late 1980s, continues to operate up to this day in Davao City. He claimed that the DDS was led by cops, not civilian vigilantes, as well as New People’s Army (NPA) rebel returnees who were close to Duterte.
“Ang trabaho namin ay pumapatay ng mga kriminal tulad ng drug pusher, rapist, snatcher. Ganyan ang pinapatay namin araw-araw,” he said.
After Lascañas' "confession", Atty. Arno Sanidad of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) said the police officer has already executed an affidavit about his claims which he will submit to the proper government agency at the proper time.
He said Lascañas confession was a voluntary act and started about a month or two months ago.
He added that the next time Lascanas will be speaking "will be under oath" hopefully before a Senate investigation.
Sen. Antonio Trillanes said he will make a manifestation to investigate Lascañas claims before a Senate panel.
Duterte earlier denied any involvement in the DDS, saying it was used as an opposition tool to try to derail his presidential bid.