MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday that the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) existed in his city, but only during the martial law period.
Duterte, who served as Davao City mayor for more than two decades, said the DDS was used during martial law to go after the liquidation unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) called the Special Partisan Unit (SPARU), also known as the “Sparrow Unit.”
“If you really ask, I’m not into excuses. No apologies, pero we should learn more about DDS. It was organized to combat the Sparrow noon sa Davao,” Duterte said in a speech in Malacañang.
“You can ask the people, the old guys there. It was then known as the DDS martial law.”
Duterte gave this explanation amid fresh claims that he used the squad to kill petty criminals, drug traffickers, and even political enemies in Davao City.
Duterte denied that he created the DDS or used any squad to go after criminals.
"I will not create a DDS, may police department ako," Duterte told reporters.
On Monday, self-confessed DDS hitman Arturo Lascañas faced the Senate and testified that he took orders to kill from Duterte.
Asked to react to Lascañas’ claims, Duterte said, “They are all lies. Why should I respond to lies?”
In October 2016, Lascañas denied in a Senate hearing the existence of the DDS, calling the group a myth created by the media.
However, Lascañas recanted and admitted last month that the DDS indeed existed. Despite questions on his credibility because of his recantation, a Senate panel headed by Senator Panfilo Lacson decided to investigate his claims.
Lacson’s panel, however, on Tuesday decided to terminate the probe after only one hearing. The senators, considered Duterte allies, cited Lascañas’ supposed lack of credibility.
During Monday's Senate hearing, Lascañas claimed he killed about 200 people as a member of the hit squad.