Former policeman claims he worked for Duterte 'death squad'

Mr Lascanas wiping his tears yesterday at the news conference as he spoke about crimes allegedly ordered by Mr Duterte.
Mr Lascanas wiping his tears yesterday at the news conference as he spoke about crimes allegedly ordered by Mr Duterte.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MANILA • Police carried out killings in the Philippine city of Davao under the instruction of its former mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who is now the country's president, claimed a former policeman yesterday.

Mr Arturo Lascanas, a retired Davao policeman, said he was part of a "Davao death squad" tasked with eliminating criminals. He claimed that he killed a radio host critical of Mr Duterte, purportedly at the behest of a driver and a close aide of the then mayor, and alleged that Mr Duterte paid money to police officers for carrying out assassinations.

Mr Duterte has repeatedly denied being involved in vigilantism, either as president or during his 22 years as Davao mayor - until late 2015. Both Mr Duterte and the police have also denied the existence of a Davao death squad and described such claims as "fiction".

Said Mr Lascanas at a news conference at the Senate building in Manila: "Of all the killings we did in Davao City, either we buried them or threw them into the sea.

"Most of the time, (we were paid) 20,000 pesos (S$563), sometimes, 50,000, and depending on the status of the target, sometimes 100,000," he added.

Presidential communications secretary Martin Andanar told CNN Philippines that Mr Lascanas' claims were part of "a protracted political drama" and attempted "character assassination" of Mr Duterte.

Mr Lascanas' comments yesterday differed from those he had earlier made at a Senate hearing in October last year into alleged unlawful drug killings. He had then denied the existence of a Davao death squad.

However, his account yesterday was similar to that of self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato, who testified before a Senate hearing in September last year that he saw Mr Duterte shoot a man dead and also give orders for the police to kill suspected criminals.

Human rights groups have documented some 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao since the early 1990s, and critics say the nationwide war on drugs that has killed 7,700 that Mr Duterte unleashed after becoming president bears the hallmarks of similar methods.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 21, 2017, with the headline 'Former policeman claims he worked for Duterte 'death squad''. Print Edition | Subscribe