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Duterte 'paid for killings, including radio host'

February 20, 2017

President Duterte authorized and paid for extrajudicial killings while he was a city mayor, retired policeman Arthur Lascanas has alleged. Lascanas also claims that a critical radio commentator was among those targeted.

Philippinen Arturo Lascanas, früherer Polizist
Image: Reuters/R. Ranoco

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered him and his colleagues to carry out extra-judicial killings during his time as mayor in Davao City, a former policeman said on Monday.

Arthur Lascanas admitted that he had been part of a "Davao death squad" that murdered suspected criminals and a critical radio host. He said he and his colleagues received payments for the killings, in particular for those of high-profile targets.

"Whether we buried [the bodies] or dumped them at sea, we were always paid by Mayor Rody Duterte," Lascanas told reporters at a press conference organized by human rights lawyers. "Most of the time 20,000 [pesos] (373 euros), sometimes 50,000 and depending on the status of the target, sometimes 100,000."

Family of kidnapping suspect killed

Arthur Lascanas mentioned several specific people his death squad had allegedly targeted.

A driver and close aide of Duterte had asked for radio commentator Jun Pala, who was critical of the then-mayor, to be killed and Duterte had paid money to the gunman who had shot and killed Pala in 2003, the retired police officer said.

Lascanas also said that his squad had shot dead a kidnapping suspect along with the man's pregnant wife, young son, father-in-law and two others at the request of Duterte. The retired policeman quoted Dutertes as saying: "All right, make it clean," after they had informed him that they had captured the man.

Philippinen Manila Aussage Edgar Matobato
Edgar Matobato testified in September 2016 that Duterte had ordered him to kill suspected criminals during his 22 years as Davao City mayorImage: picture-alliance/dpa/M. R. Cristino

Other deadly attacks Lascanas attributed to Duterte included the 1993 bombing of mosques in Davao, meant as retaliation after Muslim rebels were blamed for the bombing a Roman Catholic cathedral.

The accusations Lascanas made against Duterte on Monday are similar to those of Edgar Matobato, a former militiamanwho testified at a Senate hearing in September that Duterte had ordered hundreds of extra-judicial killings and personally shot a man dead. Matobato had named Lascanas as a member of one of Duterte's alleged death squads, but Lascanas had denied his involvement in extra-judicial killings at a Senate hearing in October.

"I had my own two brothers killed"

On Monday, Lascanas said he had decided to speak out because he was bothered by his conscience. He said he felt guilty in particular about the fact that he ordered the murder of his siblings because they were drug users. "I had my own two brothers killed out of my blind loyalty to former Mayor Duterte. Even if I end up dead, I'm content because I've fulfilled my promise to the Lord to make a public confession," he said.

A presidential spokesman rejected Lascanas's claims. "The press conference of self-confessed hitman Arthur Lascanas is part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the president and to topple his administration," Martin Andanar said in a statement on Monday.

Phillippinen Rodrigo Duterte
President Duterte has openly threatened drug lords and dealers with death Image: Reuters/L. Daval Jr

Human rights groups have documented over 1,000 suspicious killings in Davao City during Duterte's 22 years as mayor of Davao city. 

Since being elected president seven months ago, critics -including many prominent human rights groups - say that Duterte has expanded his ruthless war on drugs and vigilante violence to the entirety of the Philippines, killing thousands without due process. 

More than 7,700 people have been killed in the nationwide anti-drugs crackdown since Duterte took office in June, some 2,500 in what police say are shootouts during raids and sting operations.

In many public speeches, Duterte has told policemen to defend themselves if drug suspects fight back and has openly threatened drug lords and dealers with death. He has also claimed to have personally patrolled the streets during his time as mayor, looking for criminals to kill. 

mb/rc (AP, dpa, Reuters)