Lascañas: Sara Duterte initiated Oplan Tokhang as Davao mayor  

Lascañas: Sara Duterte initiated Oplan Tokhang as Davao mayor  
Vice President Sara Duterte during the courtesy call of Dr. Sadat Minandang in December 2023.
Inday Sara Duterte

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED February 1, 4:36 p.m.) — Vice President Sara Duterte supposedly came up with the “trademark” of Oplan Tokhang in Davao City when she was mayor there and allegedly ordered then-police chief Ronald dela Rosa to implement the violent campaign, retired police officer Arturo "Arthur: Lascañas said in a media forum on Wednesday.

“Hindi lang niya (Sara) alam 'yung gingawa ng kanyang tatay na bogus drug war. Nag-imbento talaga siya ng bagong trademark na extrajudicial killings in the name of tokhang,” Lascañas told reporters in a press conference, according to a livestream by Pilipinas Today.

(She was not only aware of what her father did, the bogus drug war. She actually invented a new trademark of extrajudicial killings in the name of tokhang.)

In a response issued Thursday, Duterte maintained that she had nothing to do with the Davao Death Squad and that the self-confessed hitman's allegations were a "new script."

The self-confessed head hitman of the “Davao Death Squad” said that Dela Rosa told him that they crafted the Tokhang or “toktok hangyo” campaign against illegal drugs, which are derived from Bisaya words for knock (tok) and plead (hangyo).

“Sinabi sa akin ni Bato Dela Rosa na nagcraft sila ng panibagong EJK campaign against illegal drugs, which is toktok hangyo - meaning Tokhang,” Lascañas said.

Lascañas added that the Tokhang order came from the vice president who was then-Davao City mayor after she was repeatedly asked by media to comment on crimes committed by motorcycle-in-riding tandems. 

“Kasi ayaw ni Inday Sara na palagi ini-interview ng media na tinatanong about itong motorcycle riding in tandem sa Davao. Ang daming namamatay at walang nag-i-imbestiga,” he added.

(Because Inday Sara doesn't want to be interviewed by the media asking about this motorbike riding in tandem in Davao. Many are dying and no one is investigating).

“Dito na-confirm ko kay Sara at SP04 Sonny Buenaventura 'yung order sa akin ni Bato Dela Rosa about oplan tokhang, Kung papayag ba si Mayor (Sara) dito. Kinonfirm niya personal sa akin at kay Sonny Buenaventura,” Lascañas added.

(Here I confirmed from Sara and SP04 Sonny Buenaventura the order given to me by Bato Dela Rosa about the tokhang plan. If the Mayor (Sara) will agree to this. She confirmed it personally to me and to Sonny Buenaventura).

Lascañas said that Duterte specifically ordered to “kidnap” and hide the bodies of people.

“She said, kidnapan ninyo at ilubong. Para ang kaso missing persons lang… It’s true,” he added.

(She said, kidnap them and bury. So that the case will be tagged as missing persons... It's true.)

Duterte last week denied any connection with the Davao vigilante group, saying in a statement that she does not "require a death squad" for the things that she can do.

“During the years that I served as Vice Mayor and Mayor of Davao City, not once was my name discussed or linked to the alleged Davao Death Squad. However, after I won as Vice President, suddenly there was a witness against me and now I am among the accused in the International Criminal Court," Duterte said.

The vice president told reporters at the sidelines of a Department of Education event last week that she has yet to receive a formal notice from the International Criminal Court, which has authorized its prosecutors to investigate former President Rodrigo Duterte for the alleged killings in his so-called war on drugs.

Official estimates suggest that thousands lost their lives during police operations under the former president. The Philippine National Police reported around 6,000 deaths linked to anti-drug operations, but human rights groups argue that the actual number could be as high as 30,000, with several innocent victims.

Critics and international observers have consistently pointed to a lack of due process in Duterte’s drug war and raised concerns over the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement in going after persons suspected to be using illegal substances.

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