More 'DDS whistle-blowers' coming forward?

MANILA, Philippines – Will more former members of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) come forward?

If self-confessed DDS hitman and retired cop Arturo "Arthur" Lascañas is to be believed, they will.

"Sa tingin ko, meron. Estimate ko sa pulis merong kung hindi isa, dalawa. And then sa mga players, lalo pa 'yung taga-libing, isa sigurado ako susunod 'yun, kung makalusot ng Maynila," Lascañas told Rappler's Chay Hofileña in an interview on Wednesday, March 8.

(I think more will come forward. My estimate for police… if not one, two. For the players [hitmen], especially the ones tasked to bury the dead, I'm sure there will be one who will follow, if he's able to come to Manila.)

Lascañas, who spent most of his police career in Davao City, is the second self-confessed member of the DDS to come forward. The death squad has long been linked to President Rodrigo Duterte, long-time mayor of the bustling Mindanao city.

But Duterte's supporters, particularly those who hail from Davao, have dismissed the DDS as a mere "creation" of the media.

Duterte himself has been inconsistent about it, first apparently saying in jest that he was "the death squad." He later said allegations of the DDS were untrue.

Recently, he said the DDS was established during the regime of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos.

Lascañas was once among Duterte's loyal soldiers who lied – while under oath before the Senate – about the existence of the DDS. During an October 2016 Senate probe into the infamous death squad, Lascañas insisted that Edgar Matobato, the first DDS member to go public, was lying.

But on February 20, 2017, Lascañas made a 180-degree turn from his earlier statements. He is now in hiding, following a public confession via a press conference and a Senate appearance.

No regrets

Still Lascañas told Rappler he has no regrets. "Masaya ako kasi nangyari ang gusto kong mangyari (I'm happy because what I wanted to happen, happened)," he said.

What he wanted was a chance to publicly confess his sins as a hired killer. He claimed Duterte would pay them to kill. The "prize" would be higher if the target was a more prominent figure.

Lascañas, however, admitted that the last time he was in contact with other possible whistle-blowers was last year. "Pero alam ko nagtago sila kasi alam nila na papatayin sila ng grupo ni Sonny [Buenaventura] at ni Jim [Tan]. Kasi itong mga ito, malapit sa akin," said Lascañas.

(I know they are in hiding because they know they will be killed by the group of Buenaventura and Tan. Because these people are close to me.)

Buenaventura and Tan, according to Lascañas, are also allegedly members of the death squad.

Lascañas himself is a little less concerned about his safety – even if this was among his top concerns back in October 2016, the first time he testified before the Senate. Lascañas said he was worried then about his family and his own personal safety that's why he lied about the DDS while under oath.

"Kung sasabihin natin natatakot, sa una. Pero ngayon, alam ko talaga na patayin ako, expected ko na 'yun (If you talk about being afraid, in the beginning I was. But now, I know that I will be killed. I already expect that)," he told Rappler.

He has accepted his fate and said he would in fact be happier with whatever happens because it would end everything. He is now without fear because, besides having made his public confession, he has also been blessed by the church and he has conditioned his family to accept what has happened.

Lascañas' appearance before the Senate as a whistle-blower, however, was his first and last.

The retired cop said depending on what his lawyers decide, they can either file a case against Duterte before the Ombudsman or the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). 

The CHR announced on Wednesday that a new team would be formed to probe the Davao Death Squad once again. –