BASED on the personal knowledge of Matobato and Lascanas, President Duterte is the mastermind of the Davao Death Squad which he created in Davao when he was mayor. It started with the “Lambada Boys” in 1988 when he first became mayor and later was known as the Davao Death Squad.
This Davao Death Squad or DDS carried out a system of death squad killings for the whole 20 years that Duterte ruled Davao. It is an organization separate from the police, and is composed of select active policemen and civilian hitmen. At first, it was one group until, due to quarrel over reward money, it split into two factions.
But always, it was allegedly managed by senior police officer Sanson “Sonny” Buenaventura who was Duterte’s long-time driver and bodyguard ever since he was prosecutor of Davao. Duterte allegedly managed the group through Buenaventura.
There came a time that the DDS installed death squads in every police station in Davao City, which was deployed everytime there was a “project” or a target to be killed.
This practice of death squad killings claimed more than 1,400 lives when Duterte was mayor of Davao for 20 years.
When Duterte was installed as the crime czar by President Arroyo, he bragged that his method of crime control is the “best practice” which found to be effective and his secret in making Davao the ninth safest city in the world.
I humbly submitted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) that the existence of the Davao Death Squad with Duterte as alleged mastermind is an established fact based on the testimony of the two whistleblowers.
It is also my humble submission that the extra-judicial killings happening after July 1, 2016 emanate from the same “best practice” of the Davao Death Squad in Davao City, because it was continued in his war on drugs to achieve his promise to solve the drug problem in six months.
Naturally, having found it to be an “effective” crime control method, Duterte continued with its implementation in the war on drugs.
The reported forensic indicators on the crime scene show a glaring pattern or similarity, as exemplified among others by the cardboard sign, the firearm and drug sachet alongside the dead suspect, the manner of execution based on the bullet wounds.
Matobato and Lascanas have direct personal knowledge about the modus operandi in the thousands of executions of the Davao Death Squad.
Before Lascanas retired from the police force of Davao City and before he testified against Duterte in the Senate, he was allegedly asked by National Police Director General Bato dela Rosa and his assistant, to help Duterte in the war on drugs, allegedly asking him to recruit hitmen in Davao City, because Senior Supt. Edilberto Leonardo was finding a hard time in recruiting hitmen in Metro Manila. Lascanas was allegedly told that the same reward of P5,000 to P20,000 would be given for each dead target.
Lascanas was a long-time policeman in Davao City and became a trusted lieutenant and leader of the DDS allegedly next in rank to Sonny Buenavantura.
Leonardo was allegedly personally handpicked by Duterte from Davao to manage the death squad operations in the war on drugs at the national level, including the disposition of reward money. He is assigned at the Manila Police District.
Buevantura and Leonardo, together Senior Supt. Royima Garma, also handpicked by Duterte from Davao, were included in the criminal complaint in the ICC.
The public pronouncements of Duterte, as mayor, presidential candidate and as president, clearly evince a mental state, that is, a mental awareness of the system of death squad killings which, significantly, he never condemned up to now. His pronouncements constitute an admission of the system of death squad killings and its continuation in the war on drugs.
If it is any indication, when Duterte was interviewed by media, he said that he knew who killed Jun Pala, a Davao journalist who was his archenemy. It turned out later, based on the later testimony of Lascanas, that he was the mastermind of the assassination.
Another important piece of evidence is the search warrant case emanating from a Manila court and ending up in the Supreme Court which ruled in November 2014 that the search warrant was valid.
In the case, Ernesto Avasola was presented as a witness by the National Police to support an application for a search warrant. He testified that he witnessed the murder of five persons by the Davao Death Squad and he was allegedly instructed by police officer Bienvenido Laud to bury the bodies inside three caves in the Laud quarry.
The search warrant was applied for to search the caves for human skeletal remains. The Supreme Court found that in the meantime the search was conducted and human skeletal remains were indeed found.
Matobato and Lascanas both testified that Bienvenido Laud was a trusted henchman of Duterte in Davao City. He owns the Laud quarry which was allegedly transformed by the DDS as a cemetery where they buried the bodies, apart from throwing them into the sea at the Samal Island in Davao.
If there is still any doubt about the credibility of Matobato and Lascanas, this Ernesto Avasola case erases any doubt because their testimonies corroborate on material points, and support a prima facie finding of the existence of the DDS and its killings in Davao City.
It is my humble submission that the Davao Death Squad and its system of death squad killings is what factually and undoubtedly connects Duterte to the extra-judicial killings since his time as mayor up to now, which has spanned more than 20 years.
(Jude Josue Sabio is a lawyer from Misamis Oriental. He filed a complaint against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court.)