MANILA, Philippines – Retired Davao policeman and whistle-blower Arturo “Arthur” Lascañas has a message for President Rodrigo Duterte: there is a God and killing is not the ultimate solution.
In an interview Wednesday, March 8, Lascañas said this is what he would say if he had a chance to address the President: “Sabihin ko sa kanya na merong Diyos. At hindi ultimate solution ang pagpatay, mali yun,” and repeats it in a whisper, “mali yun.” (I’ll tell him that there is a God and killing is not the ultimate solution, it is wrong, it is wrong.)
He also said, he would tell Duterte: “Hindi natin puwedeng gampanan ang role ng Diyos na para rin tayong Diyos, sinong gusto nating mabuhay, sinong gusto nating mapatay. Napakamaling-mali, mali yun. As per history kung titingnan ni Mayor, walang taong na nag-succeed sa ganoong policy, mali yun. Kasi talagang merong eternal judgment.”
(We cannot play the role of God, deciding who will live and who will die. That is so wrong. If Mayor looks at history, no one succeeded using that policy, it’s wrong. Because there really is eternal judgment.)
For many years a loyal and blind follower of the former Davao mayor, Lascañas – who claims to have undergone a spiritual transformation after suffering from kidney failure and going through hemodialysis – said he had a change of heart as early as March 2016. He first appeared before the Senate in October of the same year and contradicted claims by first whistle-blower Edgar Matobato.
He turned his back on Duterte, the Davao leader whom he admitted, treated him well and was generous to him.
Describing how he knew the former Davao mayor, Lascañas said: “As a leader, sa una ko pagkakilala personal kay mayor, he's a good leader especially sa aming mga pulis in terms of law and enforcement. Sa kanya naman na personality, dahil hindi naman ako araw-araw na sumama sa kanya, ang pagkakaalam ko ay marami siyang babae sa buhay niya. And then, mahilig siya sa baril. Sa pamilya niya, pagkakaalam ko, ay mabuti.”
(As a leader, based on my first knowledge of him, he’s a good leader, especially to us policemen in terms of law and enforcement. As to his personality, because I’m not with him every day, from what I know he has a lot of women in his life. And then, he loves guns. To his family, as far as I know, he is good.)
He also said that among Duterte’s luxuries are motorbikes and guns.
Asked if the former mayor was a tough man and hot-headed, Lascañas said, “Matigas ang puso niya kasi inuutusan niya kami na patayin ang kriminal. Mainit ang ulo niya, meron siyang temper na kumbaga i-describe ko ay sarili ko lang ano, ay he has this momentum of lethal temper.” (He has a hard heart because he orders us to kill criminals. He is hot-headed, he has what I would personally describe as a momentum of lethal temper.)
Duterte can easily summon them or somebody else “to kill someone as he wishes… Pagka gusto niya ipapatay, talagang ipapapatay niya.” (If he wants someone dead, he will really order the killing.)
Duterte is merciless toward criminals but has a soft spot for those who are abused, especially the victims of crime.
It was during Holy Week in March 2016 that Lascañas recalled he started writing his memoir and what he considered a “written confession” of his sins. He started writing in the morning of Holy Thursday, March 24, and continued afternoon and evening of Good Friday, March 25. During the interview, he mistakenly recalled the dates as March 22 and 23.
He reiterated details of his dream where he was visited by the devil while he was all alone in a rented condominium.
“I was visited by a devil. Wala na nga akong bisita, iyon pang demonyo ang naging bisita ko. And then na-picture ko ang sarili ko noon as talagang napakasama ko pala. So natuto ako na magdasal.”
(I already had no visitors and it was the devil who had to visit me. Then I pictured myself as really evil that’s why I learned how to pray.)
About a week after his October 2016 appearance in the Senate where he lied, he approached a nun from Davao but who was based in Manila. He asked for forgiveness for his lies and bared his full person. He told her about his written confession and sought her help for an audience with a priest whom he did not name.
Lascañas also told the nun he would first let his retirement pass so he could get his benefits then return to Manila to give his written confession. That was December 22, 2016. He met the priest in person and gave an “oral testimony” before more priests and the nun about the previous killings he either was a party to, or knew about.
Everything happened in a convent in Metro Manila where he also handed his “written testimony” as proof of what he knew.
Lascañas said he surprised himself with the English words he used in his confession, something that critics used to cast doubt on the credibility of his writing. (READ: 'I'm alive': Dance instructor of Duterte's sister denies Lascañas' claims)
“Ako mismo nagtaka bakit ganoon, nagtaka sila kung bakit ganoon ang english ko, when in fact, nag-aral ako ng law, 4th year law ako. And then lahat ng ma-recall ko sa mga ginagawa ko eh sinusulat ko. And lahat ng lumalabas sa mind ko, sinusulat ko. Hindi naman continuing ang pagsulat. Lahat lang ng pumapasok na ma-recall ko sinusulat ko para ma-review ko. Merong mga lapses, pero ang importante, iyong content, iyon talaga. Hindi ko makaya na kapag namatay ako ay dalhin ko sa libingan ko. So I promised sa sarili ko na ilalabas ko ito, ibibigay ko sa simbahan.”
(I myself wondered about it, they wondered why my English was that way, when in fact, I studied law, I was 4th year law. And all that I could recall about what I was doing, I wrote. Everything that came out of my mind, I wrote. The writing wasn’t continuous. Everything that came to me, which I recalled, I wrote so I could review. There were some lapses, but what was important was the content. I couldn’t take it that I would bring to my grave when I died what I knew. So I promised to myself, I would reveal this, I would give it to the church.) – Rappler.com
Chay Hofileña is editor of Rappler's investigative and in-depth section, Newsbreak. Among Rappler’s senior founders and editors, she is also in charge of training. She obtained her graduate degree from Columbia University’s School of Journalism in New York.