Sat, Mar 11, 2017 - Page 6 News List

Alleged killer to testify in court against Duterte

AP, MANILA

A retired police officer who linked the Philippine president, when he was mayor of a southern city, to hundreds of extrajudicial killings in a local anti-drug crackdown said on Thursday that he is ready to testify in domestic and international courts and help authorities gather evidence.

Arturo Lascanas told reporters that the campaign he and others allegedly conducted on orders of then-Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte was “95 percent” similar to the bloody anti-drug crackdown currently unfolding across the Philippines under Duterte, now president.

The nationwide crackdown, which has left thousands of mostly poor drug suspects dead, has alarmed the US and other Western governments and UN human rights officials.

US-based Human Rights Watch has said Lascanas’ allegations linking Duterte to past killings heighten “the urgent need” for an independent UN investigation.

Lascanas, 56, linked Duterte to the Davao killings in testimony at a nationally televised Philippine Senate inquiry this week.

Last year, Lascanas, then still an active police officer, denied under oath any knowledge of or involvement in the Davao killings in an earlier Senate inquiry.

On Monday he told the Senate that he lied last year because he was afraid for his family.

Philippine Senators, including some Duterte allies, expressed doubts about his new allegations amid his turnaround.

Philippine presidents are accorded immunity from lawsuits, but critics have said the claims made by Lascanas could be used in an impeachment complaint or when Duterte steps down from office.

Duterte has denied condoning unlawful killings, but has repeatedly threatened drug lords and dealers with death in public speeches.

“There is no destroying if there is no killing,” Duterte said in a speech in Davao City late on Thursday, adding that he only ordered police to shoot back when threatened and that he is ready to go to jail for his men.

Lascanas said he is ready to testify in an international investigation or in a local court against Duterte and others allegedly involved in the killings in Davao, where he estimates about 300 drug suspects were killed by his group alone over more than two decades, starting when Duterte became mayor in the late 1980s.

A few years after his group of police officers, former communist rebels and other gunmen launched the killings in Davao, about nine other similar bands of assassins, collectively known as the “Davao Death Squads,” were formed in many districts of the city, considerably inflating the death toll, he said.

“My testimony is very incriminating to me,” said Lascanas, who added that he is ready to be convicted or even lose his life for involvement in the killings of about 150 of the 300 people gunned down by his group of about 50 hit men.

“It will have no relevance if I will not expose this to the whole world and it won’t get acted upon so ... this will no longer happen again to the next generations of police and local government units,” he said.

Lascanas said that the Philippine Ombudsman, who prosecutes government officials accused of corruption and other crimes, has asked him to submit an affidavit of his allegations against Duterte.

Lascanas said he could lead investigators to places where he and his group buried some of their victims.

He said some officials might try to dig up the bones to protect Duterte, but that he and a few other killers were the only ones who knew some of the burial sites in the vast area.

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