MANILA – An alleged leader of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) on Monday denied the existence of the vigilante group, saying reports about it were only hyped up by the media.
Self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato earlier claimed in a Senate hearing that he killed on orders of then-Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, and that the group was led by SPO3 Arthur Lascañas of the city’s heinous crime unit.
During the continuation of the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings linked to Duterte’s war on drugs, Lascañas denied the existence of the death squad and called Matobato a liar.
“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.
Lascañas admitted that he knew Matobato because of the former's real estate business. He said, Matobato got commissions from him for selling real estate properties.
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.
The southern Philippine city is now led by Duterte’s daughter, Mayor Sara, and his son, Vice Mayor Paolo.
Matobato said the group carried out direct orders from Duterte or from Davao City cops close to him.
“Ang trabaho namin ay pumapatay ng mga kriminal tulad ng drug pusher, rapist, snatcher. Ganyan ang pinapatay namin araw-araw,” he said.
(Our primary task was to kill criminals such as drug pushers, rapists, and snatchers. Those were the kinds of people we killed everyday.)
"Hindi pumapayag ang opisyal na ordinary lang ang pagkamatay, kasi para silang mga sadista. Kailangan putul-putilin ang mga katawan."
(Our bosses were not satisfied with ordinary killings. They were sadists. They wanted the bodies chopped up.)
Matobato claimed that the DDS was led by cops, not civilian vigilantes.
“Sa pulis wala nang imbestigasyon na ganyan…Walang nahuhuling mga DDS kasi mga pulis yan. Hindi mga civilian ang DDS,” Matobato said.
(No investigations were made into the killings. No DDS member was ever caught because they were composed of policemen. They were not civilians.)
Matobato added, New People’s Army (NPA) rebel returnees who were close to Duterte were also brought into the group. He estimates that there are currently about 300 rebel returnees in the death squad.