Ex-cop claims he murdered about 200 people on Duterte’s orders

Ex-cop claims he murdered about 200 people on Duterte's orders
A tearful at a press conference when he first admitted a role in the so-called Davao Death Squad, operating under Mr Duterte’s orders

Former policeman Arturo Lascañas has told a Senate hearing he was a hit-man who killed some 200 people on the orders of then city mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

His evidence was a complete U-turn after a Senate appearance last October, when he denied the so-called Davao Death Squad even existed or that Mr Duterte had ever asked him to kill.

At that time he accused another witness, , of lying for his claims that he’d killed people for the DDS.

Lascañas has since said that he had earlier lied to the Senate out of fear for his family’s safety. His change of heart, he claims, was an overwhelming sense of guilt. Among his victims, he said, were two of his own brothers and a young child.

In a 12-page sworn affidavit signed on February 19 and released on February 27, Lascañas specifically mentions Mr Duterte’s direct involvement in at least 141 killings.

Lascañas says Mr Duterte formed the DDS under the guise of an anti-crime task force to target criminals. The squad’s primary function changed over time.

Arturo Lascañas alleges that Mr Duterte personally ordered hundreds of killings, even asking to confront some of the victims before they were killed.

“Later on, however, we were ordered by Mayor Duterte to go after and kill his personal political enemies,” Lascañas said in his affidavit. “We became like hired or contract killers who killed not only criminals but innocent people.”

He also alleges Mr Duterte ordered the DDS to bomb several mosques in retaliation for the St Peter’s Cathedral bombing in December 1993.

Mr Duterte allegedly went to their office to plan the operation. “During the meeting, Mayor Duterte told us that the ones responsible for the cathedral bombing were radicals and extremists from the Muslim community,” Lascañas said. “He then ordered us to retaliate by bombing several mosques.”

Mr Duterte, said Lascañas, always had the last call regarding the fate of people who fell into the hands of the DDS, and gave the example of the Patasaja family, one of whom was a suspected kidnapper.

Lascañas said the entire family was with the target when he was ambushed. The DDS team then asked Mr Duterte what should be done with the pregnant wife, a young child, an elderly father-in-law, and two house helpers.

“Mayor Duterte gave the go ahead and said in Bisaya, ‘Sige, limpyo lang’ (make it clean)”, Lascañas said

Lascañas also alleged that it became common practice to present captured suspects to Duterte before they were killed.

“During the many years that we operated the DDS, we brought many persons to Mayor Duterte, sometimes in his house and sometimes in other places, he said.

Further allegations covered cash payments for successful hits, and promises of protection.

“In my presence, Mayor Duterte told them, ‘Don’t worry, if anything happens I’ll take care of you’,” Lascañas said.

Senate public order committee chair Panfilo Lacson closed the hearing, saying that it iss now up to the police and the Commission on Human Rights to investigate the testimony.