April 10, 2017 / 8:04 AM / 3 years ago

Ex-policeman flees Philippines after testifying to Duterte 'death squad' link

MANILA (Reuters) - A retired police officer who testified to killing hundreds of people while working for a “death squad” under Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte when he was a city mayor has left the country in fear of his life, he said.

FILE PHOTO: Retired policeman Arturo Lascanas takes an oath before testifying at the Philippine Senate inquiry on alleged extra judicial killings, in Manila, March 6, 2017. REUTERS/Erik De Castro

Arturo Lascanas in February told a Senate hearing he had killed 300 people, about 200 as a member of a hit squad at the behest of Duterte when he was mayor of southern Davao City.

The government has dismissed his account as a fabrication and Duterte’s aides stress that investigations into his past have found no wrongdoing.

Senators concluded after their inquiries that no proof existed that the “Davao death squad” existed, despite testimony by two men who said they were members.

Lascanas said he needed to get away.

“I was advised that my life is really in danger,” Lascanas said in an video clip posted on the website of the Philippine Daily Inquirer news organisation. He said that criminal cases against him were being prepared.

The Bureau of Immigration cleared Lascanas to leave for Singapore by air two days ago.

“Lascanas did not have any immigration lookout bulletin order or hold departure order issued against him,” the agency’s spokeswoman, Antonette Mangrobang, said in a text message on Monday.

Lascanas had told Reuters in an interview that he did not fear the president and believed four other members of his alleged hit team would come forward to testify.

Human rights groups say history has repeated itself in the Philippines since Duterte took office mid-last year and unleashed a war on drugs during which more than 8,000 people have died.

About 2,500 killings were by police, in what they say were self-defence. Activists say the mysterious killings of thousands of drug users during the campaign bear similar hallmarks to hundreds of suspicious deaths of criminals in Davao City during the 22 years Duterte was its mayor.

Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales; Editing by Martin Petty and Nick Macfie

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