Philippines President accused of heading death squads

Manila, Feb 20 (IANS) A former Filipino police official has accused President Rodrigo Duterte of heading death squads to kill off detractors during his tenure as mayor of Davao city, a media report said.

In a news conference in the Senate, Arturo Lascanas, who served as an officer in the National Police until December 2016, admitted the Davao death squad was real, Efe news reported.

Lascanas said Duterte used to pay them “20,000 pesos ($400) for each kill”, and sometimes even 50,000 or 100,000 pesos.

However, in October, Lascanas, one of the policemen closest to Duterte in his over 20 years as Davao mayor in the period between 1988-2016, had denied the existence of death squads.

The former policeman regretted his earlier statement and called it “all lies” and confessed to his role in some of the killings allegedly ordered by Duterte.

He added Duterte gave him 3 million pesos to hire a hitman to kill radio commentator Jun Pala in 2003.

Lascanas added in 1993 he had direct orders from Duterte to kill religious leader Jun Barsabal for land-grabbing in Davao, and also submitted an affidavit saying he was ready to testify before any government agency, including the Senate.

Last year, the upper house of Parliament conducted a probe into the Davao death squads — said to be responsible for killing over a thousand people – but did not find sufficient evidence to prove their existence.