Mayor Rodrigo Duterte And The Davao Death Squads
Is the long-time lawyer-mayor of Davao City really involved in “targeted assassinations” widely suspected to be the handiwork of the motorcycle-riding members of the dreaded Davao Death Squads?
Far more than a rhetorical question, the answer seems to be YES, if we are to believe the testimonial evidence and other circumstantial information gathered by human rights advocates.
Aside from it over-all report on the Philippines, US-based Human Rights Watch’s accusing finger is pointed directly at Duterte:
The words and actions of long-time Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, some of which were quoted at the start of this report, indicate his support for targeted killings of criminal suspects. Over the years, he has made numerous statements attempting to justify the killing of suspected criminals. In 2001-2002, Duterte would announce the names of “criminals” on
local television and radio—and some of those he named would later become victims of death squad killings.
Duterte claims that Davao City has achieved peace and order under his rule. But with killers roaming the streets with the comfort of state-protected impunity, the city remains a very unsafe place. Available information points to an increasing number of death squad killings, including of persons such as Jaypee Larosa who appeared to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Duterte and other local officials continue to deny the existence of any death squad. But in recent years, mayors and officials of other cities have made statements attempting to justify similar killings in their own cities. Sadly, Davao City is seen by some as a model for fighting crime.
Just as disappointing, there is an almost complete lack of political will by the government at both local and national levels to address targeted killings and take action against the perpetrators. Based on consistent, detailed, and compelling accounts from families and friends of victims, eyewitnesses of targeted killings, barangay officials, journalists,community activists, and the “insiders,” Human Rights Watch has concluded that a death squad and lists of people targeted for killings exist in Davao City. We also conclude that at
least some police officers and barangay officials are either involved or complicit in death squad killings. Human Rights Watch believes that such killings continue and the perpetrators enjoy impunity largely because of the tolerance of, and in some cases, outright support from local authorities.
The failure to dismantle the Davao Death Squad and other similar groups, prosecute those responsible, and bring justice to the families of victims lies not only with local authorities.
The administration of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has largely turned a blind eye to the killing spree in Davao City and elsewhere. The Philippine National Police have not sought to confront the problem. And the inaction of the national institutions responsible for accountability, namely the Department of Justice, the Ombudsman’s Office,and the Commission on Human Rights, has fueled widespread impunity.
For Duterte there appears to be no way to escape the accusation even as he has resigned from the Davao Task Force in charge of the peace and order situation and even gave up supervisory control of the Davao City Police Department.
Ultimately it will not just be Rodrigo Duterte in the dock but the national government itself.
Directly responsible for Duterte as his superior officer is Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, the presidential alter ego.
Will they, individually or collectively, simply act blind and deaf to the public outcry her at home and beyond our borders???