Political murders in the philippines: ex-police officer incriminates the president

In the Philippine Senate, a former police officer has linked President Duterte to 200 murders. His spokesman immediately denied.

Allegedly murdered for Duterte: Arturo Lascanas in the Senate Photo: reuters

A former Philippine police officer has linked President Rodrigo Duterte to the killing of nearly 200 people during his time as mayor of Davao City. Arturo Lascanas testified before the Senate on Monday that he himself and other members of a so-called death squad carried out the acts. In return, he said, he received large sums of money from Duterte, partly directly and partly through other police officers.

The Senate had initiated investigations last year into allegations of extrajudicial killings of suspected drug criminals since the late 1980s with the knowledge or on behalf of Duterte. One of the alleged gunmen at the time had gone public and also accused Lascanas.

According to the daily Philippine Star, Lascanas also drew a comparison to the current extrajudicial killings in Duterte’s so-called "anti-drug war." Many features, he said, are similar to the killings from the 1980s. The perpetrators would often ride motorcycles and shoot their victims in the head. The victims were bound with parcel tape and had cardboard signs titling them "criminals," he said. Weapons had been placed in the hands of some victims to make it appear they were resisting, he said. In December, Duterte himself had said unarmed suspects should be given guns – apparently to justify killing them.

Human rights activists accuse police and death squads of having killed thousands of people since last year, also on behalf of the highest government circles. Since Duterte took office in summer 2016, there have been more than 7,000 murders, at least 2,500 of them by police officers. So far, the victims have mainly been poor slum dwellers.

Duterte’s spokesman Ernesto Abella rejected Lascanas’ accusations, calling Lascanas’ testimony "fabricated and unacceptable." Government supporters in the Senate confronted the ex-police officer over a 2016 testimony when he had denied that Duterte, as mayor, ordered the killing of drug suspects. Lascanas had testified then that there was no "Davao death squad."

Now Lascanas said he lied last year because he feared for the safety of his family. In his testimony under oath Monday, he justified his about-face by saying that his conscience had bothered him. He had known of Duterte’s direct involvement in some of the killings.

On Monday, the Philippine police resumed the "anti-drug war" after a month’s break. But the campaign should continue without bloodshed if possible, the police said. He was referring to heavy criticism that officers had been involved in extrajudicial killings, kidnappings and extortion.