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De Lima: Report on police death squad 'true'

PhilStar Global logo PhilStar Global 4/20/2017 Audrey Morallo

MANILA, Philippines — An international news agency's story on Philippine police receiving cash payments for killing drug suspects, planting evidence and carrying out most of the killings blamed on vigilante groups is true, Sen. Leila de Lima claimed on Thursday.

In a statement from her detention cell at the headquarters of the Philippine National Police (PNP) at Camp Crame, De Lima said that the Reuters story citing two police sources who claimed to have knowledge of the operations showed the "ugly and disturbing truth" of what the national police had become.

"The Reuters story, citing sources purporting to be police officers who are in-the-know about the anti-drug operations, is not a fiction. It's real. It's the ugly and disturbing truth of what has become of the PNP," she said.

On Tuesday, Reuters released a special report on the Philippine drug war in which it detailed what it described as "the most detailed insider accounts yet" of the government's drug war.

The wire agency based its story on the accounts of two senior officers, one a retired intelligence officer and the other an active-duty commander. The two claimed that the killings were in fact orchestrated by the police who were paid for eliminating not just drug suspects but also rapists, swindlers, gang members and other petty criminals.

The two further said that civilians under the so-called death squad from Davao City were recruited to augment the police in their nationwide operation.

, saying it does not have money to pay for the alleged killings.

"There's no such order or instructions coming from the leadership," PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Dionardo Carlos said in a press briefing at Camp Crame on Wednesday.

He also said that the national police is probing the allegations. "These are serious accusations and these are not being done by the PNP," he said.

In February, human rights watchdog Amnesty International also alleged that police officers were given incentives of from P8,000 to P12,000 to kill drug personalities. The Palace has denied the accusations in the AI report, which also said that the police paid hired killers, planted evidence and fabricated police reports.

Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said that some rogue police officers may have used President Rodrigo Duterte's repeated statements of support of the police as an excuse for killings and other unauthorized activities. 

"Some of these 'scalawags' may have taken that as a form of cover in order to engage in those operations," he said.

Sen. Leila De Lima said on Thursday that the report of an international news agency detailing the cash payments and planting of evidence was true. Leila De Lima/Released © Sen. Leila De Lima said on Thursday that the report of an international news agency detailing the cash payments and planting of evidence was true. Leila De Lima/Released

De Lima: Killings are state-sponsored

De Lima said that she was convinced that a significant number of PNP personnel were "equally shaken and appalled by the lawlessness that has swept their ranks."

She added that only the PNP itself could save the national police from further "infamy."

She also stressed that she was sure that the killings that had mostly targeted the poor were "state-sponsored."

"I'm more than morally convinced that the ongoing human carnage targetting mostly the poor is state-sponsored as incited by a blood-thirsty head of state. Ooops... No, I'm not just more than morally convinced. Without any reservation, I KNOW it's State-sponsored," she said.

De Lima, who is detained on allegations that she financially benefitted from the trade of illegal drugs in the national penitentiary, said that the latest accounts reported by Reuters corroborated the statements of Edgar Matobato and Arthur Lascañas, self-confessed members of the so-called death squad in Davao City.

De Lima said that rewards for killers and the planting of guns on drug were some of the characteristics of the "nightmare" Davao Death Squad.

"The DDS, in its monstrous form, has simply been transplanted from a local kingdom to the national sphere. It's now a nationwide plague," she said.

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