Sara denies hand in ‘Tokhang,’ dares accuser to file murder case

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Sara denies hand in �Tokhang,� dares accuser to file murder case
Vice President and Department of Education Secretary Sara Duterte meet students during the national launching of the School Mental Health Program and kickoff of the school-based feeding program for fiscal year 2024 on January 24, 2024.
STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — Vice President Sara Duterte has denied any involvement in the drug war killings that took place under her term as Davao City mayor, challenging the self-confessed hitman who recently revived the claim to file a murder case against her.

“Wala na itong debate, sa testigo at mga tao na nakapalikod sa kanya magfile kayo ng kasong murder laban sa akin dito sa Pilipinas,” Duterte said in a statement on Thursday.

(There is no more debate here. To the people surrounding him, file a case of murder against me here in the Philippines).

This comes after former Davao cop Arturo Lascañas accused Duterte of creating the “trademark” Oplan Tokhang (knock and plead) campaign — a deadly police operation that targets persons who use illegal drugs through a "knock-and-plead" strategy — when she was mayor of Davao City. 

The self-confessed Davao Death Squad member — who included the allegation in his affidavit to the International Criminal Court in 2022 — said in a media forum on Wednesday that Duterte came up with “Tokhang” alongside Sen. Ronald dela Rosa, then-Davao City police chief.

On Thursday, the vice president again reiterated that the allegations against her are a “new script” and said that she was never accused of ordering drug-related killings when she held local posts in Davao City.

Duterte — daughter of former President Rodrigo Duterte — previously served as the mayor of Davao City from 2016 to 2022, and from 2010 to 2013. She was the city's vice mayor from 2007 to 2010.

“Maliban sa tiyempo, malinaw na sadyang pinilit lang na maidugtong ang pangalan ko sa isyung ito para ako maging akusado sa ICC,” Sara said.

(Aside from the timing, it’s clear that they are trying to connect my name to the issue so that I can be accused in the ICC.)

The vice president again expressed opposition to the ICC’s drug war investigation in the Philippines, which seeks to identify any alleged crimes against humanity committed by former president Duterte during the so-called war on drugs.

Similar to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Sara said that the ICC’s investigation is a threat to the country’s sovereignty.

Human rights group Karapatan earlier urged the human rights panels of the House and the Senate, as well as the Commission on Human Rights, to investigate Lascañas’ allegations, saying that a thorough probe would “exact justice and accountability from the perpetrators” of the deadly drug war under former president Duterte. 

Official estimates peg the number of drug war deaths under the previous admin at around 6,000, but human rights groups believe the true figure could be as high as 30,000, with several innocent victims.

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