Philippine: Retired police officer admits to killing 300 people under Duterte

Samhati Bhattacharjya
Retired officer links Duterte to almost 200 killings

Arturo Lascanas, a retired Davao policeman, speaks during a news conference at the Senate headquarters in metro Manila, Philippines February 20, 2017. Reuters

A retired Philippine police testified before a Philippine Senate hearing on Monday to killing 300 people, about 200 people as part of a "death squad" under President Rodrigo Duterte when he was Davao City mayor. The officer said he came clean because of his "fear of God".

Arturo Lascanas made the allegations at the start of a nationally televised Senate inquiry. He also admitted to lying in October during another Senate inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings linked to Duterte. Lascanas added that he denied because he feared for his family's safety and also the police had warned him to "deny everything".

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"I feared for the life of my loved ones," Lascanas said when asked why he had earlier denied the death squad existed. He said that he changed testimony because he was tormented by what he had done and wanted to reveal the truth that would "set me free".

It was "because of my desire to tell all the truth, not only because of my spiritual renewal but the fear of God, I wanted to clear my conscience", he added.The retired officer said his last killing was in 2015. Reportedly, Lascanas also detailed two cases where he had murdered critics of Duterte, under the instruction of the then-mayor's bodyguard.

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While revealing his story two weeks ago, Lascanas broke down in tears before the media. He is the second person, who testified before the lawmakers about Duterte's alleged links to a clandestine hit squad.

However, Duterte's allies have dismissed all the claims and said that it is a plot by his opponents to discredit the popular leader and his war on drugs. The critics said his anti-drugs campaign has disturbing similarities to a pattern of mysterious killings in Davao.

President Duterte has repeatedly denied his involvement in vigilantism either as president or during his 22 years span as Davao mayor until late 2015. He along with his police chief Ronald dela Rosa, a former Davao police chief under Duterte, have also denied the existence of a Davao death squad and referred to it as fiction.

Over 8,000 people have been killed in the nationwide anti-drugs crackdown since Duterte took over office seven months ago. According to police, some 2,500 are shootouts during raids and sting operations.

The human rights groups have documented some 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao since the early 1990s. The critics say the bloody war on drugs bear the hallmarks of similar methods of killing that has been seen after Duterte became the president. Numerous investigations have found no proof linking Duterte to those deaths.

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

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