Philippine president seeks extension of bloody war on drugs

Sep 19, 2016, 00:35

A self-confessed assassin told a Senate inquiry on Thursday President Rodrigo Duterte himself or active-duty police officers assigned to him gave orders to kill not just criminals but also his opponents.

Rights groups claim that there were around 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao city during Duterte's reign.

Prior to his election, Duterte acknowledged his involvement with the death squads.

Since he took office in June, more than 3,000 suspected drug users and dealers have been killed by security forces and vigilantes, raising worldwide alarm over judicial process.

In an interview with a radio station here, Jocelyn denied Matobato's allegations.

"He (Matobato) has been vetted, there is some truth to what he said, but the result of the questioning of Senator Lacson tells a lot already, not to mention those who are handling him such as [Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th] who has a penchant for bringing in whistleblowers but never really gained popularity", Tayao said. "It's good that you left".

President Barack Obama, U.N. officials and human rights watchdogs have raised concerns over the widespread killings, but Duterte has lashed back at them and other critics.

"The detailed testimony from a "death squad" member that then-Mayor Duterte was personally involved in killings and ordered others are very serious allegations that require an independent investigation", Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement Friday.

She said that Matobato chose to testify because he wanted to show that the killings in Davao City had the same pattern happening in Metro Manila.

"Our job was to kill criminals, rapists, [drug] pushers and snatchers", Matobato testified. Matobato also alleged that the president's eldest son and Davao's current vice mayor, Paolo Duterte, was a drug user who ordered the death of a hotel owner in 2014.

There was no immediate reaction from Mr Duterte.

Duterte's office denies the claims.

His killing, Matobato says, was done on the order of Duterte's son Paolo. Matibato alleged that Duterte "emptied two Uzi magazines on" Jamisola, an agent from the justice department's National Bureau of Investigation in 1993. He testified that he threw a grenade at one mosque but there were no casualties because the attacks were carried out when no one was praying.

The bodies of other victims were disemboweled and dropped at sea to be eaten by fish, while others were left on Davao streets, their hands made to clutch a handgun, he added. "They are sadists", he said, describing to Ms.de Lima how the victims were strangled.

He told the Senate panel he went from a witness protection programme into hiding when Mr Duterte became president, fearing for his life.

His testimony set off a tense exchange between senators allied with Mr Duterte and those critical of him.

In June, after winning the presidency he effectively sanctioned the public killing of drug suspects, telling a rally "if you destroy my country, I will kill you".

De Lima said the rights body later dug up several skeletons of unidentified people at the Davao quarry.

"If you think you are afraid of being killed-if you are there in the rural areas where the NPAs [are active]... then do not run for public office; find another occupation", he said. "You have no immunity".

Senator De Lima, disappointed with Pimentel, was quoted in Inquirer today as saying she will continue to push for protective custody for her witness by withdrawing the request to Senate and submitting it instead to the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which she chairs.

"What if a leader is elected and turns out to be a mass murderer?" she speculated.

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