The Philippines faced calls Friday to investigate its firebrand president after a self-confessed hitman alleged Rodrigo Duterte ordered a thousand opponents and suspected criminals murdered when he was a city mayor.
Mr Edgar Matobato, 57, made the allegations before Senate, which is investigating alleged extrajudicial killings in Mr Duterte's anti-crime crackdown that police said has left 3,140 people dead in his first 72 days in office.
De Lima has emerged as one of Duterte's most-targeted politicians, and has herself worked to oppose Duterte's war on drugs by highlighting his police tactics as mayor of southern Davao City before being elected president.
The then head of the Commission on Human Rights‚ senator Leila de Lima‚ told the inquiry Matobato had surrendered to the investigatory body in 2009and had until recently been in a witness protection scheme.
"Our work was to kill criminals like drug pushers, rapists, snatchers". But he said their targets were not only criminals but also opponents of Duterte and one of his sons, Paolo Duterte, who is now the vice mayor of Davao.
His allegations were labelled "lies and fabrications" at the hearing while presidential spokesman Martin Andanar said investigations into the president's time as mayor had gone nowhere. The remaining 2,035 deaths were extrajudicial killings pulled off by unknown assailants.
De Lima and Philippine human rights officials and advocates have previously said that potential witnesses refused to testify against Duterte when he was still mayor because they were afraid they would be killed.
Meanwhile, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) sought an independent investigation preferably by the United Nations on Duterte's alleged involvement in at least 1,000 killings when he was the mayor of Davao City for more than 20 years.
Duterte's office denies the claims.
Matobato added more color to Duterte's alleged history of supporting death squads.
Matobato also claimed to have overheard Duterte order the bombing of mosques in Davao as retaliation for an attack on a cathedral. "I'll supply the dead bodies", he said.
He also claimed that his group was involved in the killing of a local radio commentator, Jun Pala, who was a critic of Duterte when he was still a mayor.
Paolo Duterte issued a statement pouring water on Matobato's testimony, which he said was "all based on hearsays". Duterte corrected him: it was 1,700, he said.
Matobato said he personally killed about 50 people.
Alan Peter Cayetano as he grilled Matobato over the DDS' existence.
That self-imposed time of three to six months, well, I did not realize how severe and how serious the problem of drug menace in this Republic [is] until I became President.
"President Duterte publicly stated he would not pursue law enforcement officers and citizens who killed drug dealers who resisted arrest", they said.
She said the Senate committee's findings would be referred to the Philippine Ombudsman, although she acknowledged sitting presidents are immune from prosecution and could only be removed through impeachment.
In August, Duterte read aloud a list of 150 names of policemen, public officials, and soldiers that the Philippine National Police (PNP) had evidence of having participated in drug trafficking.
That congressional hearing is due to take place on Tuesday, coinciding with De Lima's plan to present more witnesses for her senate investigation. "They are now being subjected to undue emotion distress because of the vain desire of Sen.de Lima to discredit the President", said Roque in behalf of the family of the slain businessman.