The tales of fantasy of self-confessed murderer Edgar Matobato and now gun-for-hire cop Arthur Lascañas (by his own assertion) can make a good material for a documentary film except that the script is so replete with incredulities that are weaved in dubious political agenda aimed not only in eroding the unprecedented support of the people for President Rodrigo R. Duterte but also to salvage whatever is left in the 'yellow' opposition from total extinction. Can you believe Lascañas confession that he killed his own two brothers because of his 'loyalty' to Duterte?
The orchestrated anti-Duterte propaganda emerged on the heels of the Bishops and Yellows plot to destabilize the present government. Last Sunday, the homily of the priest who celebrated mass in Shang mall in Ortigas, Pasig sounded like an election campaign speech against Duterte. He sneered at how the President handles the drug menace and attributed the so-called extra-judicial killings on the Davao Death Squads which he inferred was organized by Duterte. With a devious smirk he belittled the President's campaign against crime which he said is impossible to achieve with 40 percent of the police force under his watch are involved in drugs and crimes.
The deception contrived in a pulpit is a mortal sin and worthy of eternal gnashing of teeth in hell. The preacher simply stonewalled the fact that Duterte is waging war against the network of crimes and corruption which had been ignored by the past administration and had therefore flourished and institutionalized.
Like the perjured witnesses presented by Senators Leila De Lima and Antonio Trillanes the priest in his homily brazenly claimed that then Mayor and now President Rodrigo Duterte organized DDS. This is so farcical and so far from the truth. DDS was conceptualized by Integrated National Police Col. Dionisio Tangatue Jr. sometimes in 1983 and was popularized by Jun Pala (Juan Porras Pala, Jr.).
The flip-flopping witness Arthur Lascañas also confessed that Duterte was the one who ordered Pala killed and paid a huge sum of money for the job. Just look at the lifestyle of Duterte today. It has not improved from when he was Mayor or from when he was an Assistant City Fiscal of Davao. Of course he is not that dirt poor for after all he is the son of the governor of an undivided Davao Province. He can actually buy a pair of socks but his simplicity is something that cannot be improved by the demands of his office.
But who is Pala whom Lascañas cites was ordered killed by Mayor Duterte?
Pala was actually a communist propagandist and a rabid anti-Marcos radio commentator at the time when the CPP/NPA was lording it in Davao City. I should know. I was President of Media Dabaw and Pala was a member. When Tangatue assumed as Regional Commander of the INP, the first thing he ordered was to cut the program of Pala off the air. Two months without his popular radio program, Pala was a virtual wreck. He had no other choice but to plead to Tangatue a decision which was not a difficult thing to do. The NPAs never gave him any help, he confessed, and that if he will get his job back, he will support the police campaign against the NPAs all the way. Knowing how effective Pala was, Tangatue in turn was just happy to grant his request provided he will be fair with his commentary.
But Pala deprived of his program and hungry and penniless, would not agree to the Recom Chief to just balance his tirade. Back on air, he became a feisty anti-communist commentator. For Tan-gatue he was the right man at the right time to carry out covert propaganda against the menacing NPA Sparrows who controls the city streets when darkness falls. With Pala in the announcers booth, he animated the ghost forces of Davao Death Squads sending shivers to the enemies. But DDS was not the sole phantom soldiers Tan-gatue and Pala invented. There were two others: 'Christian Soldiers for Democracy' and 'Contra Force', but the one which had an impact was DDS. For the perjured witnesses and Senators De Lima and Trillanes to claim that DDS executed Pala is like believing the Phantom, the long running comic character, is a true story.
Where was Rodrigo Duterte during these dark days of Davao City or when DDS surfaced? Digong was a new lawyer, served briefly as a Tanodbayan investigator and then was appointed as Assistant City Fiscal. Politics was not even a figment in his imagination. Now and then his name was mentioned in the media as the investigating fiscal against charges of murder filed against suspected NPAs, soldiers, policemen and CHDFs.
Duterte is a child of destiny. When the dictatorship was toppled, his mother Soledad who is known to us hoi pollois as 'Nanay Soleng' was appointed by Cory Aquino during her revolutionary government as Vice Mayor of Davao City. It was to recognize her for her central role in the Yellow Friday Movement in the city that denounced the assassination of Ninoy Aquino. But Nanay Soleng refused and declined the offer. Cory's point-man in Region 11, Jesus 'Chito' V. Ayala then proposed Digong. To cut short the process, the name 'Rodrigo' was substituted in lieu of 'Soledad'.
Digong won in the regular election in 1988 which pitted him against appointee-mayor Zafiro Respicio and Pala who was still basking in popularity. Pala was featured as a cover story of Asia Week. Pala came extremely close to the two. When he heard that Respicio will file an election protest over the conduct of counting, Pala took a different turn and reading his speech written in a half sheet of yellow pad paper conceded defeat to Duterte.
I do not wish to defile the death of Pala, but at the height of his popularity and fame, he refused to be counseled. He was on his own and he earned enemies not only from the NPAs but from businessmen, military and police officers politicians and from our own ranks in the media. He was later accused of murder. Mayor Duterte who, at one time helped him let the loose ends meet when he was down, have abandoned him. His few remaining friends dissociated themselves as Pala became a loose cannon. He was too hot to handle. Only time delayed his ultimate fate.
Duterte's administration was crucial in Davao City's history. The CPP/NPA had lost control of the city following the violent feud in the ranks of the NPAs when they executed in public three of their own 'tax collectors' in Agdao. Unknown to the executioners, the three victims are close relatives of Boy Ponsa, their top NPA Commander in their biggest mass base in Agdao. Ponsa waged a counter-operations against his comrades aided by the call of Jun Pala urging the masses to rise against the NPAs. His exact call was 'alsa masa'! Hundreds perished in the encounters dubbed as 'operation ahos' and 'operation zombies'.
With the NPAs out, drug and other crime syndicates crept into the city. The most vicious of these was the drug syndicate which quickly established distribution networks not only in the streets but inside university campuses. The countermeasures against the growing menace of the syndicate ended only when a new Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head Efren Alquizar was assigned in the region. In one occasion, he presented to media a list of drug suspects numbering to about 300. What followed later was shocking because many drug pushers were killed. Probers suspected that the mysterious executions were meant to erase the path that would lead to the identity of the drug lords.
Fast forward in 2009, Commission on Human Rights Chair Leila De Lima, conducted a probe against what she dubbed as Extra-Judicial Killings in Davao City. Her probe team was composed of men she picked from the national headquarters of their respective command. When she started with the probe in June, Duterte submitted a leave of absence as mayor and also gave up his police supervisory power. She grilled policemen, barangay officials and Duterte was not excluded. After four months of non-stop probe which led her and her team to digging several suspected graveyards she failed to produce a single piece of evidence.
De Lima, Human Rights Watch of New York and Amnesty International claimed they recorded hundreds of EJK victims. When De Lima was appointed Secretary of Justice by Pres. Benigno Aquino, her successor, Etta Rosales continued with her probe. Rosales exited but only her ranting reverberates in anger to this day. She was replaced by a certain Chito Gascon. As an aside even the United Nations Human Rights Watch dispatched a rapporteur to conduct its own investigation.
Now Senator of the Republic of the Philippines, De Lima revives her consuming desire to pin Duterte on the issue of DDS whom she and her prevaricating witnesses were claiming was organized by Digong.
De Lima has left the Senate having to face her own case over a magma of charges resulting from the discovery that the State Penitentiary was the central headquarters of drug distribution in the country during her watch as Justice Secretary. This episode is a movie in the making and fit for a documentary because the people involved are real, pulsating with feelings and emotions. But this being a true story it might be classified under X category.
(Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan)