Rodrigo Duterte's office on Thursday, 15 September, rejected claims that he ordered militias to conduct extra judicial killings when he was the mayor of Davao city.
The allegations were made by a witness named Edgar Matobato, who testified on Thursday in front of a Philippines Senate Committee, which has been set up to investigate the alleged extra judicial killings in the country since Duterte became the president three months ago.
"I don't think he is capable of giving those orders," Martin Andanar, a spokesperson for the president, said at a news conference. "The Commission on Human Rights already conducted an investigation years ago, when the President was still a Mayor, and charges were not filed, they did not see any direct evidence."
The vice mayor of Davao city and the eldest son of the president, Paolo Duterte, has also denied the accusations and said that the witness was a "madman." He elaborated, "What De Lima and this certain Matobato say in public are bare allegations in the absence of proof. They are mere hearsay."
Matobato testified that he was a part of the 300-member Davao Death Squad (DDS), which he claimed was run on the orders of Duterte. "Our job was to kill criminals, drug pushers, petty robbers and rapists," he said.
He went to testify that DDS killed alleged drug dealers and other criminals in Davao city on Duterte's orders when he was the mayor between 1988 and 2013 and that more than 1,000 people were killed in the city alone. He also alleged that Duterte killed a member of the Justice Department with an Uzi submachine gun while he was the mayor.
The president himself has not responded to the accusations but in the past he did suggest that he shot suspects in a kidnapping case. Last year, during a regular live TV show broadcast in Philippines, he addressed claims of being part of a death squad and said, "Me? They are saying that I'm part of a death squad? True, that's true," he said in a combination of English and Visayan, a language spoken in Southern Philippines. Later on, he withdrew the statement saying there were no Davao death squads. He has, however, been criticised by several local and International human rights groups.