Leader of Davao Death Squad says Duterte ordered killings

By Andrew V. Pestano  |  Feb. 20, 2017 at 9:32 AM
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Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Arthur Lascañas, a former Philippine National Police officer, on Monday confirmed the existence of the Davao Death Squad and said President Rodrigo Duterte ordered extrajudicial killings when he was mayor.

Lascañas, 56, in October denied the existence of the infamous Davao Death Squad's. But during testimony on Monday before the Philippine Senate in Pasay City, south of Manila, Lascañas retracted his previous statement and said Duterte was behind the killings carried out by the vigilante group.

Lascañas, who said he was the leader of the Davao Death Squad, said each execution earned them from nearly $400 to nearly $2,000. He corroborated previous allegations made by Edgar Matobato, a former member of the Davao Death Squad.

"We were tasked to kill criminals like drug dealers, rapists, [purse] snatchers. We kill those types every day," Matobato told a televised Philippine Senate hearing in September, adding that he and others of the Davao Death Squad killed about 1,000 people in a 25-year-period.

Police or vigilantes have killed at least 3,600 people since Duterte came into power in June under a crackdown on the Philippines' drug trade, head of the Philippine National Police, Ronald dela Rosa, said in late January. Duterte put his war on drugs on hold in order to rid the Philippine National Police of corruption.

The Davao Death Squad was first identified by Human Rights Watch in 2009. Duterte, 71, who served as the mayor of Davao City for 22 years, ran for the presidency on an anti-crime platform that appealed to the country's upper and middle classes who fear rising criminality.

Lascañas, after breaking down in tears during testimony, said Matobato's allegations were true. He said the Davao Death Squad was tasked with "salvaging" -- a euphemism in the Philippines for summary executions -- criminals and those involved in drugs.

"We started the salvaging of people when Mayor Duterte first sat down as mayor in Davao City ... The people we targeted are criminals and were into illegal drugs. We were implementing the personal orders of Duterte," Lascañas said. "All the killings that we committed in Davao City, whether they were buried or thrown in the sea, were paid for by Mayor Duterte."

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