MANILA, Philippines — A former police officer from Davao City pointed to President Rodrigo Duterte as the mastermind behind the killing of a journalist during his time as the chief executive of the city.
The confession of SPO3 Arthur Lascañas largely corroborated the testimonies of confessed hitman Edgar Matobato before the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Matobato claimed last year that Duterte himself founded the "Davao Death Squad" in 1988 and ordered the killings of criminals. He said that Duterte ordered the assassination of journalist Jun Pala.
On Sept. 6, 2003, Pala was gunned down by two men on a motorcycle while walking home from work. Although Duterte denied involvement in the killing, he said that he knew who was behind Pala's death.
Lascañas, who reappeared at the Senate, said Duterte who was then mayor of Davao City ordered the killing of Pala allegedly because of his hard-hitting comments that did not sit well with the mayor.
He said that a trusted aide and driver of Duterte, SP04 Sonny Buenaventura, contacted him because the then mayor was really angry because of the Pala's critical commentaries of him.
He quoted Buenaventura as saying, "Galit na galit si Mayor Rody kay Jun Pala dahil sa palagi nitong atake araw-araw sa radyo."
Lascañas said: "Sa madaling sabi kami ang nagplano na i-assassinate si Jun Poras Pala."
He said he was hired for P3 million for the killing of Pala, an offer that he accepted.
Lascañas said that after accepting the kill order, he contacted SP01 Jim Tan who supplied him with hitmen.
Tan then tapped Davao rebel returnees Valentin Duhilag, Roland Duhilag, Allan Duhilag and an alias Joy to execute their plan. They also hired the services of Jerry Trucio, a part-time bodyguard of Pala, to provide them with intelligence on the movements of the journalist.
He said that it took them three attempts before they were able to finally gun down the journalist in September 2003.
After the murder, Lascañas and Buenaventura divided P1 million between the two of them while P2 million was given to Tan. Of this amount, another million went to Lascañas while the remaining money was for Tan and his hitmen.
Lascañas was given another P1 million by Duterte several months after the killing, the former police officer narrated.
"Ito po ang buong katotohanan sa Pala murder case. Isa ako sa nagpatay kay Jun Pala," he declared.