IN light of revelations by an alleged former death squad leader, Philippine President Rodrigo has acknowledged that hundreds of criminals were killed when he was still the mayor of Davao City.
“I did not deny that hundreds of criminals died in Davao City. Sa 23 years ko? Eh talagang naubos (In my 23 years? They were really eliminated),” Duterte told reporters during a media briefing at the Malacañang grounds on Monday, February 28.
Last week, alleged leader of the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) and retired SPO3 Arturo Lascañas testified that then-mayor Duterte personally directed the group to perform killings, usually of drug dealers and criminals, in exchange for money.
Despite acknowledging the killings, Duterte, however, insisted that no such task force like the DDS was formed.
“There is no task force. You can see that I give the orders to the chief, to Bato. Wala akong bata-bata na ganoon (I don’t play favorites). Even in the military,” the president said, referring to Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who also previously served as the Davao City police director from January 2012 to October 2013.
During the briefing, the president also said his current directives toward law enforcers are the same as they were while he was mayor of Davao City.
“Do not destroy my country, do not deprive us of our young people. You will die,” he said.
Commenting on Lascañas’ claims that the members of the squad were paid to carry out killings, Duterte pointed out that the police were given funds for operating expenses.
“It so happened that, itong mga ibang pulis (other cops) pocket-up, gaya ‘nong mga pera (money), because you know you have to give the police money… if they go out and hunt for trafficking of drugs, there must be a selling and a buying, otherwise, there is no trafficking,” Duterte explained.
Asked if he personally knew Lascañas, Duterte replied: “Well, as a policeman, yes. I saw him once, twice a year.”
Repeating his public confession last week, Lascañas, on Monday, submitted his affidavit to the Senate committee on public order and dangerous drugs chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
“In the beginning, we targeted and killed drug addicts, drug pushers, snatchers, holduppers and other criminals. Later on, however, we were ordered by Mayor Duterte to go after and kill his personal and political enemies. We became like hired or contract killers who killed not only criminals but innocent people,” Lascañas said in his affidavit.
This revelation contradicts the former death squad leader’s testimony during a Senate probe on the extrajudicial killings (EJK) last year in which he dismissed the existence of the DDS, saying the claims were mere “media hype.”
Asked to comment on Lascañas’ new statement, Duterte said: “Oh, well… There might be another one coming after recant of the recant. I’m sure.”
Malacañang earlier dismissed Lascañas’ claims as “political drama” and another attempt to “destroy the president and to topple his administration.”