Soldiers to focus on terror: Duterte

Philippine troops need to work more closely with the police, their president says. Source: Wikimedia

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has said all soldiers must train to become intelligence operatives as he expects Abu Sayyaf extremists to launch more attacks.

The group is being blamed for the Davao blast that left 15 dead and at least 70 injured.

It was also claimed this week that Duterte carried out killings himself while he was the city’s mayor.

“You have to reinvent yourself from a soldier in uniform to all of you being intelligence operatives,” Duterte said during a visit to the headquarters of the Fifth Infantry Division in Isabela, north of Manila.

“You have to learn from the police,” he said, adding that soldiers should familiarise themselves with studies of “a bomber or a terrorist”.

Abu Sayyaf is still holding several foreigners and Filipinos captive in Sulu and Basilan and dozens of soldiers and militants have been killed in the recent offensive ordered by Duterte.

He told troops that although the government had signed a peace deal with the Communist New People’s Army that they should not relax as the threat of terrorism loomed large.

Duterte was apparently a member of a hit squad that killed hundreds in the southern city of Davao, where he was mayor. He allegedly took part in about 50 of the murders himself. One victim was alleged to have been fed to crocodiles and four others were hanged and thrown into the sea.

Edgar Matobato, who purports to be a hit man, said Duterte, oversaw the extrajudicial killings of about 1,000 criminal suspects and political opponents when he was mayor of the Mindanao city and ordering some of the deaths himself.

“We were tasked to kill criminals every day,” Matobato told a senate hearing investigating extrajudicial deaths under Duterte in Davao.

Matobato, 57, said he was appointed to the death squad after Duterte was elected mayor of Davao in 1988 and it operated with the tacit approval of the city police. Matobato said that he had heard Duterte order some of the killings to be carried out by the so-called Davao Death Squad.

The former hired killer said he saw Duterte kill a National Bureau of Investigation officer in Davao in 1993 with an automatic Uzi firearm. Senators did not press Matobato for more information.

Duterte’s spokesman Martin Andanar denied the charges. The Philippine Commission on Human Rights said that from 2005 to 2009, the Davao Death Squad was responsible for 206 deaths, including 107 people who had criminal records or were suspected of criminal activity.

Duterte usually responds to criticism by going on the offensive, earlier this month calling Barack Obama a “son of a whore” and threatened to repeat the slur in person if the US president challenged him on extrajudicial deaths at the Asean conference in Laos.