A confessed hitman claims that he ran death squads for the president of the Philippines during his time as mayor of Davao, the president’s hometown.
Arthur Lascanas, a retired police officer, accused President Rodrigo Duterte of paying police to kill. “All of the killings that we committed in Davao, whether they were buried or thrown in the sea, were paid for by Mayor Duterte,” he explained in a tearful confession at a news conference Monday.
He said that he ran the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a group formed to target drug dealers and criminals, as well as political opponents, reports the New York Times.
He revealed that the members of the liquidation squad were paid $400 to $1,000.
Lascanas told a Senate hearing last year that he had not been involved in any extrajudicial killings in Davao, but guilt led him to come forward. “I had my own two brothers killed. Even if I end up dead, I’m content because I’ve fulfilled my promise to the Lord to make a public confession,” he explained, adding that his statements before the Senate last October were “all lies.”
He said that the shocking testimony by Edgar Matobato, another confessed hitman, was true.
Matobato said last year that Duterte was behind over 1,000 sanctioned hits in his hometown. He told the Senate that they carried out hits on the mayor’s behalf, claiming that they chopped up bodies and fed them to crocodiles. In a later interview, he said that Duterte personally killed at least eight people in a quarry.
Matobato has been in hiding since he testified against the president. His testimony was mocked by judicial and legislative officials and dismissed.
Lascanas confessed to killing Jun Pala, a radio commentator and a staunch critic of the former mayor. He also said that he and several other squad members murdered a kidnapping suspect in a nearby quarry. They also killed the man’s pregnant wife, his father-in-law, and two servants.
The presidential office called Lascanas’ testimony “a protracted political drama.”
“Our people are aware that this character assassination is nothing but vicious politics orchestrated by sectors affected by the reforms initiated by Duterte’s administration,” said presidential spokesman Martin Andanar. “Bringing change is not an easy task … The Duterte administration has disturbed, disrupted the establishment.”
Since Duterte took office as president, over 7,000 people have been killed in a brutal shoot-to-kill drug war.
Duterte has been accused of running death squads multiple times. “They are saying I’m part of a death squad. True, that’s true,” Duterte said prior to the election. He immediately changed his tune after he was criticized for his statement. “There’s no such thing as a DDS. There’s only a Davao Development System,” he explained later.
The president has also confessed to murder in several public forums. “In Davao I used to do it (kill) personally. Just to show to the guys (police) that if I can do it, why can’t you,” Duterte said in December. “I would just patrol the streets, looking for trouble. I was really looking for a confrontation so I could kill.”
It is unclear whether or not the president ordered extrajudicial killings during his time as mayor; however, some human rights organizations and lawmakers argue that Duterte should be impeached.
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