Philippines' Duterte needs six more months for his war on drugs

A former Filipino militiaman on Thursday testified before the country's senate that president Rodrigo Duterte, when he was still a city mayor, ordered him and other members of a murder squad to kill criminals and opponents in attacks that left about 1,000 dead.

"I didn't kill anyone unless ordered by Charlie Mike", he said, telling the senate it was the death squad's coded reference to Duterte, who was then mayor of the southern city of Davao, using the phonetic alphabet. More than 1,000 were killed in Davao City alone, he claimed.

Matobato also implicated Duterte in the bombings of mosques in retaliation for a 1993 grenade attack on the San Pedro Cathedral. They are saying I'm part of a death squad.

In 2013, Matobato said, he tried to leave the death squad. Duterte himself has variously denied and confirmed that he was responsible for the squads, and even that he has personally killed criminals.

"We'd remove their clothes, burn the bodies and chop them up", he said. "I have denied that DDS is a criminal group". Its members consisted of former rebels and police.

Mr Duterte became mayor of Davao in 1988, and his tough stance saw crime rates plummet, an approach he has vowed to replicate at national level.

"A few days later, he ordered that we arrest and kill Muslim suspects, so we were staking out the Muslims", Matobato testified. "They are sadists", he said, describing to Lima how the victims were strangled.

The Senate inquiry, led by Senator Leila de Lima, began about a month ago, in the midst of a sudden rise in the number of drug suspects being killed either by police or vigilantes across the Philippines since Mr Duterte took office on June 30. But the killing was not carried out.

He said some bodies were tossed in the sea, cut up and concealed in a quarry or - in one case - fed to a crocodile, Reuters reports.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano accused Mr Matobato of being part of a plot to oust Mr Duterte.

"The officers told us ordinary killings won't do".

Matubato said his group had also kidnapped and killed four supporters of former House Speaker Prospero Nograles on the orders of Duterte, then his bitter political rival.

Asked if anyone could corroborate his testimony, Matobato said, "No".

"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. They are mere hearsay. "I'll kill you, ' he said, as The Guardian reported".

Duterte made the statement in his remarks at the presentation of freed Norwegian hostage Kjartan Sekkingstad in Davao City, where he detailed the extent of the drug problem in the country.

He was admitted to the justice department's witness protection programme but left to go into hiding when Duterte won the presidency, Matobato added.

The recent killings of suspected drug dealers have sparked concerns in the Philippines and among United Nations and USA officials, including President Barack Obama, who have urged Duterte's government to take steps to rapidly stop the killings and ensure his anti-drug war complies with human rights laws and the rule of law.

Almost 3,500 alleged drug traffickers and addicts have been killed since he assumed office, some 1,500 in police operations and the rest by vigilante groups, according to the police.

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