ARTURO Lascanas, the retired Filipino policeman who claims to have led the so-called Davao Death Squad at the behest of then-mayor Rodrigo Duterte, has sought refuge in Singapore as he feared for his life.
Lascanas told Singapore’s Straits Times he sought refuge in the city-state because it was safer than Manila, where his safe house was compromised to those who wanted to kill him.
“I now sleep much better here and I have even ventured out once to church,” he told the newspaper during an interview which stretched for an hour.
Recounting his experience, Lascanas said he was part of the 10-member team that hunted and killed 300 people. As well as drug pushers and other hardcore criminals, the 56-year-old retired officer said the team had killed Duterte’s political opponents.
Lascanas said he used to have nightmares about the people he had killed in the past, adding the faces of those he killed “keep coming back sometimes.”
He said he had also been involved in the murder of an elderly man, a couple including a pregnant woman, and a boy.
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The bloodied bodies of some who were killed, he said, were piled in a white van before being disposed at a quarry. He said even his two brothers, who were drug users, were not spared from the death squad between 2009 and 2014.
“I was the one who ordered the killings… They (his brothers) were killed by my companions because of my blind loyalty.
He said he’s prepared to redeem himself and face the consequences of the law.
“I hope I can bring closure to the families of the victims. I hope I would still be able to point out the graves of their loved ones.”
Duterte, who was Davao city mayor for 22 years, has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Testifying against the president in the senate in February and March, Lascanas said Duterte’s critics, broadcaster Jun Pala and Fred Sotto, a former part-time commentator, were among those killed between 1989 to 2015.
Lascanas said he did not always shoot targeted people, but also oversaw the operations, which were instructed to him by Duterte’s bodyguard.
However, the senate hearing at which Lascanas was testifying abruptly ended because senators feared Duterte’s “anger”.
The United States said on Thursday it was troubled by the growing number of extrajudicial killings in the Duterte’s war on drugs and called on Manila to stick to its commitment to investigate them.
Close to 9,000 people – mostly drug users and small-time dealers – have been killed since Duterte took office almost 10 months ago and promised an unrelenting campaign to rid the Philippines of illicit narcotics.
Police say about a third of the victims were shot by officers in self-defence. Human rights groups believe many of the remaining two-thirds were killed by paid assassins cooperating with police or by police themselves, disguised as vigilantes. The government and police reject that.
US deputy assistant secretary of state for Southeast Asia Patrick Murphy said the US shared Manila’s objective of eliminating the scourge of illicit drugs and wanted to help.
“We, however, do have a very sustained and deep concern when elements of the drug war are operating outside the rule of law,” Murphy told reporters. “The growing number of extrajudicial killings is troubling.”
Additional reporting by Reuters