The self-confessed leader of Davao Death Squad has explained why he originally denied his role in the group when he appeared before a Senate hearing last year.
In a 12-page affidavit, retired police officer Arturo Lascañas said he had been afraid for his family’s safety if he revealed Duterte’s links in the group.
However, last week he claimed to have had a change of heart, and described how he had killed two of his own brothers on Duterte’s orders. (Read more here.)
“When I appear before the Senate, I denied the accusations made by Edgar Matobato about the extrajudicial killings in Davao City and the Davao Death Squad,” he said.
“I was forced to deny what Matobato said even if most of it was true, because I was afraid for the safety and security of my loved ones in Davao City.
“The truth is that most of what Matobato told the Senate is true. It’s just that Matobato was only a foot soldier and had limited knowledge of what really happened because the operations were compartmentalised,” he said.
Matobato earlier testified before the senate and claimed that he was a death squad member and accused Duterte of ordering killings in Davao City when he was mayor. He also said that Duterte was behind the bombing of mosques in the province.
(Read our report here.)
Lascañas said the death squad’s code name for Duterte was “Superman.”
“I was present when then Mayor Duterte ordered the killing of numerous men and women, and gave us reward money after we executed them.
“I was responsible for the killing of many men and women, and at least one child, upon the instructions of Mayor Duterte,” he said.
“I regret what I did and I now have to answer for all my misdeeds before the people, the law, and before God,” he concluded.
In the beginning, Lascañas said, the death squad targeted drug addicts, drug pushers, snatchers, armed robbers and other criminals.
Later, however, Duterte ordered them “to go after and kill his personal and political enemies,” Lascañas claims.
“We became like hired or contract killers, who killed not only criminals but innocent people,” he said.
Senators are now calling for a new probe into the alleged killings, while presidential spokesman Martin Andanar has dismissed the claims as a plot to undermine the president.
Since his election, the president has apparently admitted killing people personally, saying he would cruise around on his motorbike “looking for trouble” and even that he once threw somebody from a helicopter. (Read more here and here.) However, since these apparent admissions, Mr Duterte has claimed he was “only joking”.
Mr Lascañas is now under the protection of the Free Legal Assistance Group, an organisation of human rights activists and lawyers.
The group says that Mr Lascañas is prepared to testify before any government body, including the senate.
Senator Risa Hontiveros called Mr Lascañas’ allegations a “direct stab at the credibility” of the president that undermined his “moral capacity to lead”.
“They strengthen suspicions that the death squads responsible for thousands of unsolved extrajudicial killings are state-sanctioned,” Ms Hontiveros said. She has now called on the senate to investigate Mr Lascañas’ testimony.