Ex-policeman says Philippine leader ordered death squad

 21 Feb 2017 - 10:59

Ex-policeman says Philippine leader ordered death squad
Arturo Lascanas, a retired Davao policeman, speaks during a news conference at the Senate headquarters in metro Manila, Philippines February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco.

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines: A retired senior policeman has accused President Rodrigo Duterte of having given orders to a “death squad” during his terms as mayor of southern Davao City. 

Arturo Lascanas told the Senate on Monday that Duterte had paid death squad members tasked with eliminating criminals up to 100,000 Philippine pesos ($1,985) for every target.

The allegations came less than five months after Lascanas told a Senate inquiry into alleged unlawful drug killings that such a vigilante group did not exist.

On Monday, GMA News quoted Lascanas as saying he had killed a “critical” radio host at the behest of a driver and close aide of Duterte, who served as mayor of Davao City for 22 years before winning last year’s presidential election.

The Malacanang presidential palace dismissed the allegations, with Communications Secretary Martin Andanar saying the claims were “part of a protracted political drama aimed to destroy the President and to topple his administration”.

“Our people are aware that this character assassination is nothing but vicious politics orchestrated by sectors affected by the reform initiated by the Duterte administration," Andanar said in a statement.

Lascanas appeared at a Senate hearing in October after being implicated by a self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad, Edgar Matobato, who claimed the group was responsible for over 1,000 murders from when he joined in 1998 until September 2013.

Duterte -- who has been accused of forming the squad -- has repeatedly denied involvement in vigilantism either as mayor or president.

Since Duterte’s inauguration June 30, an anti-drug drive has seen more than 7,000 people killed over suspected drug links -- with 60 percent of the deaths attributed to “vigilante-style killings” and the remainder to police operations, according to national police data cited by Rappler.