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Cop close to Duterte denies DDS existence

SPO3 Arthur Lascañas gestures as he testifies during the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings yesterday. (Jansen Romero)

SPO3 Arthur Lascañas gestures as he testifies during the Senate hearing on extrajudicial killings yesterday. (Jansen Romero)

A Davao City policeman who is said to be “very close” to President Duterte yesterday denied the existence of the so-called Davao Death Squad and considered whistleblower Edgar Matobato’s testimony before the Senate as politically motivated.

At the resumption of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights probe into the alleged extrajudicial killings, SPO3 Arthur Lascañas yesterday took the witness stand and refuted Matobato’s earlier testimony linking him to summary executions committed by members of the death squad and said he is lying.

Lascañas is one of the Davao City-based policemen who have been accused of being part of the infamous group. In the committee’s fourth hearing, Lascanas denied that he killed certain personalities Matobato mentioned during his testimony, supposedly upon the orders of Duterte, then Davao City Mayor.

Lascañas, 55, set to retire on December 16, 2016, and currently on non-duty status, also told senators that the Davao City police Heinous Crime Section were all policemen and that no rebel returnees were part of the division.

He did not deny when asked by Sen. Leila M. de Lima that he became friends with Matobato and even helped him land a job with a mayor in Samal Island and that he sometimes invited Matobato to his birth anniversary party.

Matobato earlier testified that Lascañas, and another policeman, a certain SPO4 Sonny Buenaventura, were the two policemen who Duterte treated like “his own brother” are supposed to be the leaders of the death squad and would take “orders” from him whenever the former mayor requests a person to be killed.

Lascañas claimed he was part of the Heinous Crime Section from 2001 until it was dissolved in 2010, upon the intervention of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles, but rejected allegation there was a Davao Death Squad.

“Hindi totoo ‘yan at walang Davao Death Squad na sinasabi,” Lascañas told senators during the probe.

He also denied having a hand in the killing of radio commentator Jun Pala and Sali Makdum, an alleged terrorist.

Lascañas said he became close with Matobato in 1998 during the first creation of the Island Garden City of Samal where the former priest and Mayor Roger Antalan is a friend of his. He admitted referring Matobato to Antalan to be a caretaker or personal assistant.

“Pagkakakilala ko sa kanya, mabuti siyang tao. Ni recommend ko ‘yan kay Roger Antalan. Nung nanalo siya, pagkakaalam ko na employ siya sa city hall, sa Island City of Samal,” he said, contradicting Matobato, a confessed DDS member, that he was an employee at the Davao City Hall. (Hannah L. Torregoza)