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Duterte denies creating DDS: 'I had my own police department'

Reuters file photo of President Rodrigo Duterte
The online news portal of TV5

MANILA, Philippines - President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday denied the testimony of retired senior police officer Arturo Lascañas that the chief executive, when he was still mayor, formed the Davao Death Squad (DDS) that was allegedly behind numerous extrajudicial killings in the city. 

"I didn't create the DDS. May police department ako (I had my own police department]," Duterte told reporters during a chance interview at the Palace. 

During Monday's hearing by the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs, Lascañas reiterated his earlier public confession that Duterte founded the dreaded vigilante group, whom he allegedly ordered to kill his enemies and suspected criminals, which also victimized numerous innocent civilians including a four-year-old boy. 

In his sworn statement, Lascañas said the origin of the DDS was the Anti-Crime Task Force allegedly organized by Duterte when he was elected mayor in 1988.

“At the start, Mayor Duterte was serious in going after criminals, especially organized crime. I was a member of this task force. Because of the works of the Anti-Crime Task Force, and with the cooperation of the other police units and the Davao Metropolitan District Command, the crime rate in Davao City went down,” Lascañas said.

He claimed that it was at this time when Mayor Duterte began organizing liquidation squads that later became known as the Davao Death Squad. 

“In  the beginning we targeted and killed drug addicts, drug pushers, snatchers, hold uppers and other criminals. Later on, however, we were ordered by Duterte to go after and kill his personal and political enemies,” the former police officer said. 

Last month, the President admitted knowing Lascañas but said that "as policeman" he only saw him "once (or) twice." 

Self-confessed killer and DDS member Edgar Matobato had claimed that Duterte was very close to Lascañas and that he had witnessed the alleged brother-like relationship between Duterte and Lascañas.

"Noong pinatay namin ang pamangkin ni Mayor Antalan noong January 2013, pinakain muna kami ni Mayor Duterte doon sa Victoria Plaza. Tapos, sabi n'ya, 'Tur, kung wala ka, hindi malinis ang Davao'.'Ginanyan pa, inakbayan s'ya ni Duterte," said Matobato in a video interview with ABS-CBN. 

[When we killed the nephew of Mayor Antalan in January 2013, Mayor Duterte had us eat at Victoria Plaza. And then Duterte said, 'Tur, Davao won't be clean if you were not here.' Duterte even put his arms over his shoulders.]