7 Mar 2017

Ex-policeman says he killed 200 for Duterte

8:58 am on 7 March 2017

A retired police officer in the Philippines has testified he killed nearly 200 people as part of a death squad linked to President Rodrigo Duterte when the president was Davao City mayor.

Arturo Lascanas had previously denied killing on behalf of Mr Duterte, and said he changed his testimony because he was tormented by what he had done and due to his "fear of God".

Arturo Lascanas testifies at a Senate hearing in Manila.

Arturo Lascanas testifies at the Senate hearing in Manila. Photo: AFP

The former policeman said he had personally killed 300 people, about 200 as a member of a "Davao death squad", with his last in 2015. He also detailed two cases where he had murdered critics of Mr Duterte, under the instruction of the then-mayor's bodyguard.

He admitted to lying in October during a Senate inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings linked to Mr Duterte, but said he did so only because he feared for his family's safety and because police had warned him to "deny everything".

The president's allies dismiss the claims as a plot by his opponents to discredit a popular leader and his war on drugs, a campaign that critics say has disturbing similarities to a pattern of mysterious killings in Davao.

Philippine senators abruptly ended the hearing on Monday, citing a lack of proof that the death squad even existed.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte Photo: AFP

Mr Duterte has repeatedly denied involvement in summary executions, either as president or during his 22 years as Davao mayor. His police chief, Ronald dela Rosa, a former Davao police chief under Mr Duterte, has dismissed the death squad claims as a myth created by the media.

Human rights groups have documented about 1400 suspicious killings in Davao while Mr Duterte was mayor and critics say the war on drugs he unleashed as president has the same hallmarks. Numerous investigations have found no proof linking Mr Duterte to those deaths.

More than 8000 people have been killed nationwide since Mr Duterte took office eight months ago, mostly drug users killed by mysterious gunmen in incidents authorities attribute to vigilantes, drugs gang members silencing informants, or unrelated murders.

Police reject activists' allegations that they are behind most of those killings. Police say they were responsible for 2555 of those cases, when drug suspects had resisted arrest.

On Monday, Ronald dela Rosa announced the re-launch of police anti-narcotics operations after a month-long suspension of police involvement in the campaign.

- Reuters

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