Davao mayor denies the existence of a death squad blamed for more than 800 murders

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It’s appalling to learn that since 1998, there are about 800 deaths which the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) attributes to death squads in Davao City. Leila de Lima, chairman of CHR says the unsolved killings are the most audacious violations of human rights prompting an inquiry over the “Davao Death Squad” aka DDS.

There have been reports that killers aren’t afraid of being identified for no one responsible for the hundreds who were killed have been prosecuted. The CHR chief is met with a challenge from Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who denies that death squad exists in his jurisdiction. He blames the deaths to drug traders and gang wars. The mayor ostensibly challenges the CHR to come up with evidence that his government is involved in vigilante killings.

“The Coalition Against Extrajudicial Summary Executions (CASE), composed of rights groups, and religious and concerned individuals, has tallied 814 vigilante-style executions from 1998 to February this year. More killings happened in the city this month. Many of the victims were reported to have had criminal records.”—-Inquirer (03/31/09, Tupas, JM)

Judge Isaac Robillo, the executive judge of the Regional Trial Court of Davao believes DDS exists and is condoned by a “bigger person,” —otherwise, the killings wouldn’t go on for such a long time with unrestrained brazenness.

The Rape & Slay of Rebelyn Pitao

It is said 185 and 45 of the victims are young adults and children respectively—an ignominious record for a place that prides itself of peace and order. The most recent is the brutal slaying of 20-year old teacher Rebelyn Pitao, the daughter of a communist New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao.

Unidentified men snatched Rebelyn earlier this month while she was on her way home. The following day, she was found dead. Her body disclosed signs of torture and rape. Her father and Duterte tagged the military as responsible for her death.

The huge number of unsolved deaths is mind-boggling. Since 1998, only one case of summary execution has been filed and the public seems comfortable with such an astounding record. By death squad or not, if truly murders happen in the city how nothing has been done for 20 years to stop the lawless killings? De Lima rightfully asks the public to speak out against the immoral practice of taking the life of human beings without judicial process. About 16% of those killed in Davao are between 13 to 17 years old.

The defensive Mayor Duterte is reputedly overbearing in dealing with petty criminals in Davao. If he has nothing to do with the murders, why doesn’t he take the lead to probe the deaths so that justice can be served? Instead of showing lack of cooperation, isn’t it good to work with the CHR to get into the bottom of the crimes? Vigilante killings destroy the public reliance to the rule of law. (Photo Credits: Keith Bacongco; Barryohaylan)=0=

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