President Rodrigo Duterte admitted that “thousands” were killed in the anti-illegal drugs campaign of Davao City that lasted two decades.
The former Davao City mayor however clarified that those who died were killed in legitimate police operations.
He made the admission amid allegations by an alleged member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) that he masterminded the killings.
“According to the witness, killed by the hundreds. That’s right, that’s true! Twenty three years I am a mayor chasing drugs. It should have reached a thousand, he said only by the hundreds only. Why would I deny that?” Duterte said in a mix of Bisaya, Tagalog, and English.
The President said he ordered the police to kill but only if a drug suspect turned violent and put the lives of authorities at risk.
“I gave the orders in the first place. But my order was, to the police that, look for them, hunt them. And then ask them to surrender. If they won’t surrender then seriously, resist and attack you with arms, thereby your life being a police, a soldier is in danger, kill him/her. That is my order, and I will assume full legal responsibility for that. If there’s someone who is going to jail, it’s true, it’s me. Why the police?” Duterte said.
“I am not denying my liability if there is any, for those military and police who went out to arrest criminals and in the process, kill the criminal because they had to defend their lives. I assume full responsibility for their actions,” he added.
Critics say the anti-crime drive he implemented in his city is being adopted throughout the country. The bloody campaign against illegal drugs that was implemented by the National Police resulted in the killing of at least 7,000 people by policemen and unidentified gunmen.
Retired police officer Arturo Lascañas earlier claimed that Duterte ordered members of the DDS, including him to kill drug suspects. Edgar Matobato, who admitted to being a DDS hitman, testified at the Senate that Duterte ordered the killings of criminals and even his political rivals.
Both Lascañas and Matobato claimed that Duterte also ordered the bombing of a mosque in Davao City. They accused Duterte of ordering the killing of Jun Pala, a hard-hitting critic of the former Davao City mayor.
But Duterte reiterated his claim that extrajudicial killings, even in Davao City when he was mayor, were due to “rivalries” among criminal and drug syndicates.
The President said he will not mind going to jail for the killing of criminals during legitimate police operations.
“I will assume (responsibility). I never said that I will deny. I am not Judas… San Pedro who denies. All mine. Correct! No problem, send me to jail,” Duterte said.
“But as long as they (criminals) exist, I will really tell the police: ‘Police kill that because if you won’t, it’s you whom I will kill,’” he added.