File photo by LeAnne Jazul/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – In a House hearing, national police chief Ronald dela Rosa broke his silence over one of the many allegations of self-confessed Davao Death Squad (DDS) hitman Arturo "Arthur" Lascañas, in particular former Davao City mayor President Rodrigo Duterte's supposed orders to have a suspect killed.
"I know him as a policeman from Davao. He was a member of the heinous crime division of the Davao City Police Office," said Dela Rosa during a House of Representatives briefing on the police's Project Double Barrel Reloaded, its campaign against illegal drugs, on Tuesday, March 14.
Dela Rosa had previously chosen to stay mum on Lascañas' claims, saying he would only answer the allegations before the Senate. He was invited to the March 6 hearing on Lascañas, but skipped it because of the relaunch of the PNP's campaign against illegal drugs.
Lascañas, a retired Davao policeman, is the latest whistle-blower to claim the existence of the notorious death squad.
In a turnaround of an earlier claim made under oath before the Senate, Lascañas said Duterte had ordered police who were supposed members of the death squad to kill suspects and even his political and personal enemies.
The former Davao cop had claimed that when Dela Rosa was city director of the Davao City Police Office, the group targeted the "most wanted criminal" of Davao del Sur, a certain Felicisimo Cunanan Jr alias "Sergeant Sisi." Lascañas claimed "Sergeant Sisi" was killed during the operation because he was armed and refused to raise his hands.
The suspect supposedly had two companions, one who surrendered and another who was unarmed. (READ: Lascañas' affidavit: Duterte's roles in Davao Death Squad killings)
Lascañas said they brought the two men back to the heinous crime office and claimed Duterte and Dela Rosa visited them close to midnight.
"[Duterte] cursed at the two, he got mad at them," recalled Lascañas during his March 6 appearance before the Senate.
The cop claimed that Duterte ordered them to kill the two, then left. He said when Dela Rosa returned after bringing Duterte to his car, the former Davao City police chief ordered them not to kill the two because "kawawa 'yan (they're pitiful)."
Dela Rosa supposedly told Lascañas to file a case against the armed companion and release the unarmed driver.
Dela Rosa denied the claim about Duterte on Tuesday.
What kill orders?
"'Yung sinabi niya do'n sa may gustong ipapapatay si Presidente doon sa opisina nila, nandoon ako sa opisina… sabi ko file-an 'nyo ng kaso iyan. Hindi ko po nakita si Presidente nandoon at nagbigay ng instructions na patayin. Hindi ko nakita si Presidente," said Dela Rosa, who insisted the meeting was only between himself and Lascañas.
(This claim that President Duterte was in their office, I was there. I told him to file a case. But I did not see the President there, giving instructions to kill. I did not see the President.)
Dela Rosa, however, did not give a blanket denial for all of Lascañas' claims, saying he could not comment on things he does not have personal knowledge of.
Lascañas, who is now under the protection of Duterte nemesis Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, earlier claimed the so-called Davao Death Squad was formed the first year Duterte was elected mayor. He said they initially targeted suspected criminals, until they eventually began targeting Duterte's personal and political enemies.