Palace confirms Duterte meeting with senators

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 23 2017 01:17 PM

President Rodrigo Duterte speaks during an economic forum in Davao city early February. Lean Daval Jr., Reuters

MANILA - Malacañang on Thursday confirmed that President Rodrigo Duterte met with several senators this week after the revival of allegations that he paid a "death squad" to kill crime suspects and political opponents when he was mayor of Davao City. 

Duterte, however, did not seek to pressure senators into blocking a proposed legislative inquiry into the confession of retired SPO3 Arturo Lascañas, who linked Duterte to the Davao Death Squad (DDS), said Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto Abella. 

"There is no truth to the allegation of Senator [Leila] De Lima that the senators were pressured by Malacañang with regards to the reopening of the investigation on the DDS," Abell told reporters. 

"As Senator [Vicente] Sotto said, the group of senators met with the President but they did not talk about the case of the retired police officer Lascañas." 

Abella, however, declined to detail the agenda of the Tuesday meeting that occurred on the same day that senators, voting 10-8, decided to hear Lascañas testimony. 

Duterte has not commented on the allegations though he has denied similar accusations in the past. Presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo said the allegations were a "continuing fabrication" and "another false narration". 

The Senate committee on justice, which Gordon heads, last year found no proof that the DDS existed, or that killings that had taken place when Duterte was mayor, and since he became president in June, were state-sponsored.

Human rights groups have documented about 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao while Duterte was mayor, and critics say the war on drugs he unleashed when he became president has the same hallmarks.

More than 7,700 people have been killed since June, about 2,500 in what police say were shootouts during raids and sting operations. Most of the rest are under investigation and activists believe many were extrajudicial killings. -- With Reuters