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Death squad 'witness': Duterte ordered Davao kilings

President Rodrigo Duterte elaborates more on the allegations against Senator Leila De Lima during a press conference held at the Presidential Guest house in Davao City on August 21. KARL NORMAN ALONZO/PPD

MANILA, Philippines – An alleged member of the Davao Death Squad on Thursday tagged President Rodrigo Duterte to be behind the killings of suspected criminals in Davao City, where he served as mayor of 22 years.

Speaking at the Senate committee on justice hearing, 57-year-old self-confessed hitman Edgar Matobato said he was part of a group carrying out killings and police operations upon ordered of Duterte.

“Gusto kong mabigyan ng katarungan' yung nagawa kong mga kasalanan ng pumatay ako ng mga tao. Matagal na din… para malaman ng taong bayan ang ginawa namin sa Davao City,” Matobato said when asked why he chose to serve as a witness in the Senate hearing.

He said he was a former member of the Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit before he was hired by Duterte to join the DDS, which have been tagged for years by human rights groups to be hired guns behind extrajudicial killings in the southern city.

Matobato said the DDS was founded by Duterte, who became mayor in 1988, with only seven members. He claimed their leader was a certain SPO4 Arthur Lascañas.

The DDS, he said, was formerly called the "Lambada Boys” and membership grew through the years with rebel returnees as additional members.

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 “Ang trabaho namin ay pumapatay ng kriminal katulad ng drug pusher, rapist, snatcher. Ganyan ang pinapatay namin araw araw,” Matobato said.

Matobato shared that in 1993, Duterte ordered the bombing of mosques in Davao City as a way of revenge to the bombing of a cathedral.

“Umorder naman si Mayor Duterte na masakerin 'yung mga mosque ng mga muslim,” Matobato said, adding the DDS was divided into three groups tasked to plant bombs.

“Umakyat siya (Duterte) sa opisina namin, kinausap si Major Jacendista (alleged member of the DDS) na masakerin 'yung mga mosque... simbahan. Kasi parang gumaganti siya na binombohan na ang cathedral. Para naman po kaming terrorist, ma’am. ‘Di naman kasali 'yung bobombahin namin yung mga mosque,” he added.

Matobato also claimed Duterte ordered the kidnapping and killing of suspected terrorist Salim Makdhum from Samal Island, who was then buried at the Laud Quarry.

He said even current Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald “Bato” Dela Rosa, who was then chief of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force knew of Makdhum’s abduction. The suspect, Matobato claims, was first brought to Dela Rosa's office before he was killed.

Matobato said that as part of the death squad, he was a ghost employee of Davao City as an official part of the Civil Security Unit.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said in a concurrent news conference at Malacañang that the public should maintain a sense of objectivity and properly weigh each part of the testimony at the Senate panel hearing.

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