A retired policeman told a Senate hearing in the Philippines on Monday that he killed nearly 200 people as part of a “death squad” under the country’s now President, Rodrigo Duterte.
Arturo Lascanas said the killings occured when Duterte was mayor of Davao City.
But senators abruptly ended the hearing, insisting that there is no independent proof that such a squad even existed.
“I can’t take to my grave these dark and evil secrets…born from obedience to Mayor Duterte’s orders and his sincere campaign against criminality and illegal drugs,” Lascanas said.
“I had blind obedience and loyalty to the point that I was indirectly involved in killing my two brothers.”
Lascanas admitted to lying in October during another Senate inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings by a hit squad linked to Duterte, but said he did so for his family’s safety and because police had warned him to “deny everything”.
The testimony comes amid mixed messages from Duterte. He has denied ordering summary executions, either as president or during his 22 years as Davao mayor.
But he also said in December:
“I must admit that a third of the killings really happened during police encounters. And I know it because.. in Davao I used to do it personally.”
More than 8,000 people have been killed nationwide since Duterte became President eight months ago, mostly drug users killed by mysterious gunmen in incidents authorities attribute to vigilantes, gang members silencing informants, or unrelated murders.
‘Amnesty International’ has said widespread killings of alleged offenders by police and others may constitute “crimes against humanity”.
Also on Monday, the Philippines police chief announced the re-launch of police anti-narcotics operations he hoped would be less bloody, “or even bloodless”, entering a new phase in a war on drugs that has caused international alarm.