Philippines: Retired policeman says Duterte paid police for carrying out assassinations
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte delivers a speech during the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) alumni homecoming in Fort Del Pilar, Baguio city, north of Manila, Philippines February 18, 2017. Reuters

A retired Philippine policeman said on Monday that he used to work as a part of a "Davao death squad" tasked with eliminating criminals. He admitted that the police carried out a number of killings in the Philippine city of Davao under the instruction of then mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

Arturo Lascanas, a former Davao policeman said he had previously killed a radio host critical of Duterte at the order of a driver and close aide of the mayor. He also said that Duterte had paid money to police for carrying out assassinations. "Of all the killings we did in Davao City, either we bury them or throw them into the sea, it is paid (for) by Mayor Rody Duterte," Lascanas told a news conference at the Senate in Manila.

"Most of the time 20,000 (pesos) sometimes 50,000 and depending on the status of the target, sometimes 100,000," he added.

President Duterte has repeatedly denied his involvement in vigilantism either as president or during his 22 years span as Davao mayor until late 2015. He along with the police have also denied the existence of a Davao death squad and referred to it as fiction.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar, described Lascanas' claims as part of "a protracted political drama"" and attempted "character assassination" of Duterte orchestrated by his chief critics.

However, Lascanas' comments differed from those which he made at a Senate hearing in October into alleged unlawful drug killings. At that time he denied the existence of a Davao death squad.

Lascanas' comment on Monday was quite similar to that of Edgar Matobato, the self-confessed hit man. Before a Senate hearing in September, he had testified that he personally watched Duterte shooting a man dead and giving orders for police to kill suspected criminals.

Over 7,700 people have been killed in the nationwide anti-drugs crackdown since Duterte took over office seven months ago. According to police, some 2,500 are shootouts during raids and sting operations.

The human rights groups have documented some 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao since the early 1990s. The critics say the bloody war on drugs bear the hallmarks of similar methods of killing that has been seen after Duterte became the president.

A number of death cases are still under investigation and the authorities have attributed to vigilante killings, drugs gangs covering their tracks and unrelated murders. However, the activists believe that many of them have been extrajudicial killings.