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Philippine President Duterte 'ordered political rivals killed'

Edgar Matobato told a Senate inquiry yesterday that he and a group of policemen killed some 1,000 people in Davao city on Duterte's orders from 1988-2013, with the politician himself shooting dead one of the victims.

Numerous others were garroted‚ burnt ‚ quartered and then buried at a quarry owned by a police officer who was a member of the death squad.

In harrowing details, he described how his squad strangled and disembowelled suspects they picked up, or hacked them to pieces and torched them, or dumped their bodies at sea.

Edgar Matobato, a 57-year-old former Filipino militiaman, testified before Philippine's Senate and said that Duterte had ordered him and other members of a liquidation squad to conduct the killings when the president was still a city mayor and eyeing the presidential seat.

The alleged killer for hire also accused the president of ordering a failed hit on his longtime critic, and the leader of the committee investigating Duterte's suspected human rights violations, Senator Leila De Lima.

Duterte's office denied the claims made by Matobato on Thursday, and said the President was "unfazed" by the Senate investigation.

Mr. Matobato said that in 1993, he and other members of the death squad were on a mission when they approached a road blocked by the vehicle of an agent from the justice department's National Bureau of Investigation.

The agent ran out of bullets and was wounded in a shootout before Rodrigo Duterte, the Davao mayor at the time, showed up armed with a submachine gun, Matobato said.

During a television interview this spring, as Michael Sullivan reported for NPR, a TV host asked then-candidate Duterte about the 700 people allegedly killed during his time as mayor.

"Jamisola (the justice department official) was still alive when he (Duterte) arrived".

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This month, he called Obama a "son of a whore" and threatened to repeat the slur in person if Obama challenged him on extrajudicial deaths as the two crossed paths at a regional meeting in Laos. Matobato also alleged that the president's eldest son and Davao's current vice mayor, Paolo Duterte, was a drug user who ordered the death of a hotel owner in 2014.

He explained that his only job was to kill criminals, as well as anyone who got in the mayor's way. That's what we did.

More than 3,500 people, or about 47 per day, have been killed in the past 10 weeks, some 58 percent by unknown assailants and the rest in legitimate police operations, according to police.

Malacañang on Thursday said the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) already investigated then Mayor Duterte and filed no charges against him.

Another Duterte spokesman, Ernesto Abella, said at a news conference that while Matobato "may sound credible, it is imperative that each and every one of us properly weigh whatever he said and respond right".

After winning the election, he exhorted police to shoot to kill drug suspects who would resist arrest, promising them bounties and protection from prosecution.

Wilnor Papa, a campaign officer for the Manila office of Amnesty International, said the problem of impunity was coming to a head partly due to the failure of previous governments, which failed to prosecute Duterte.

"They were killed like chickens", said Matobato, who added he backed away from the killings after feeling guilty and entered a government witness-protection program.

Matobato said the victims included political and personal rivals of Duterte and his family, a journalist and at least one government official.

Paolo Duterte issued a statement dismissing Matobato's testimony as "all based on hearsays".

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