‘DAVAO DEATH SQUAD’
Mayor organized DDS. In those trying and gory times, Duterte had just passed the bar and was one of the two Tanodbayan investigators assigned in Mindanao. He later became Assistant City Fiscal of Davao. Politics was never in the wish list of Digong who, at the height of insurgency, was prosecuting policemen, military and suspected NPAS over the so many deaths taking place in the city.
Interviewed long after his retirement, General Tangatue best described Duterte as somebody “we could depend on for legal advice” during his tour of duty as Metrodiscom Commander of Davao City and later as Regional Commander of the INP. He said that he knew more of his mother, Soledad, because of her comments. “She was our critic”, he added.
He said “we all hold prosecutors and judges in high esteem”. He said that he only met Duterte because of cases involving policemen which the fiscal was investigating. Tan-gatue shrugged off the senate investigation of extra-judicial killings where Senators De Lima and Antonio Trillanes alleged that Duterte organized the DDS.
When asked about witnesses Edgar Matobato, a hitman-for-hire, and Arturo Lascanas, who were dubbed by De Lima as whistle blowers and who claimed to be members of DDS, Tangatue raised his eyebrows and with a smirk answered with a question: “How can that possibly be?” After NPAS KFR, drug and crime syndicates
Fast forward in the unraveling of events, as quickly as the NPAS disappeared in urban center of Davao City, kidnap for ransom (KFR) and drug syndicates crept in coupled with “Akyat-bahay” gangs and robbery with rape. Tan-gatue had left Davao and requested to be transferred. Rumors had it that he was displeased with Gen. Fabian Ver putting another level of authority called Regional Unified Command on top of the INP and the military. There were arrests order emanating from RUC and the PNP were made custodians of those detained which were against his policy.
The Marcos dictatorship exited in 1986 after the EDSA revolt. The Cory revolutionary government shut down the Batasan Pambansa and started the purged of all duly elected officials unfriendly to her regime and replaced them with people of the regime’s choice. Duterte’s entry in politics
Fiscal Duterte was pushed into politics because his mother, the venerable Soledad R. Duterte whom everybody calls “Nanay Soling”, refused to accept the appointment as vice mayor as a prize for her role as among the original pillars of the Yellow Friday Movement. The revgov of Cory Aquino had a solid organization in Davao led by the late businessman Jesus V. Ayala who was the prime mover of the YFM. When Nanay Soling turned down the offer, JVA had her name crossed-out and put the name Rodrigo instead.
The ever reluctant politician, Digong was thrown into the fray by politicians identified with Cory Aquino and the opposition who had long been supportive of the late Gov. Vicente Duterte, whose unblemished career made him an icon in Davao. The Vice Mayor ran against the Cory’s anointed candidate Zafirorespicio, the OIC Mayor. In that same electoral derby, Jun Pala who was in the apex of his popularity, also ran. It was a close fight among the three but Pala formally conceded defeat in favor of Duterte to discourage Respicio from entertaining the idea of protesting the results. I should know for I wrote his two paragraph speech in a yellow pad paper conceding defeat. The late Odillon Mallari, a lawyer who volunteered free legal assistance to Pala was so mad he conceded defeat. Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte
Duterte’s initial term as Mayor was not a walk in the park. He was to confront the growing menace of drugs, KFR and all other forms of crime. This was dangerous time as terrorism was also on the rise. The San Pedro Cathedral was bombed in the early 1980’s and then later the Davao Airport and the Sea Ports. Duterte was able to address the threats of terrorism by organizing tripping points in porous areas in the city with the help of the local Muslim residents and leaders of the Lumads. Kidnaps for ransom were also cut down effectively.
Drugs, moreover, remained to be the most tenacious crime for even the school campuses became lucrative market places for drug pushers. Duterte him- self led the relentless campaign against drug lords. When a new Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency head, Col. Efren Alcuizar, was assigned in the region, they held a summit against drug menace in Mandaya Hotel where the media was invited. In the press briefing Alcuizar came out with a list of some 250 plus suspected drug pushers that operate in Davao City. Mysterious killings What followed about two weeks after that meeting was a systematic killings of many of those in the list. The summary killings were very much like what happened in Thailand when in February 2003 then Prime Minister Thaksinshinawatra declared war on drugs. Thai police came out with the list of names and what followed after was that over 2,800 suspects were neutralized by what police authorities claimed as the handiwork of the drug lords to keep their identity from police authorities.
The war on drugs needs a complex strategy and solutions. Duterte led a composite team that raided of a shabu laboratory in Daliao, Toril, operated by unregistered aliens. Not one of the suspects who fought it out with law survived that assault. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights meantime condemned Thailand and later Mayor Duterte for what they dubbed as EJK in their campaign against the proliferation of drugs. But Thailand was not cowed by the warnings of the UNCHR. To date, even as Thaksinshinawatra had been exiled, police sustained their war against drugs.
But the UN need not go far. Right next to the US of A are Columbia and Mexico where the menace of drugs can only be equaled by the insane war the US wage in Syria, Libya and Iraq that decimated their populations.the American government extended billions of aid and military hardware to help their neighbors wage war against drug cartels. The victims of its sponsored wars are dubbed as collateral damage. The UNCHR has become inured to the human casualties of its war in foreign shores but elsewhere across the Pacific where Philippines and Thailand are waging their own campaign against the tentacles of drug syndicates it is ironic that the UNCHR condemns and warns the leaders of both nations for committing violence in the course of their drug problems.
When Duterte became President, he took his successful battle against drug syndicates in Davao to the national level. He promised he would eradicate drugs in three to six months but discovered later when confronted with statistics that the campaign will not be that easy. Police generals, judges and local government officials were involved in drug syndicates. When he launched the drug war and other criminal syndicates the Commission on Human Rights was there to tally every member of the syndicates killed as victim of Extra-judicial Killing.
De Lima, who once was Chairperson of CHR and then Justice Secretary, condemned every move by the government to eradicate drug menace that had victimized millions of Filipino youths. In the meantime Pres. Duterte was riding high in the unprecedented trust and popularity ratings. The economy likewise enjoys an “investment grade and stable”.
Duterte never said that fighting the drug syndicates will be bloodless. His order to the law enforcers was to deal with those who would opt to fight it out with the law by not giving them any quarters, but, assist those who wish to surrender and place them in rehabilitation centers.
The casualties on the syndicate side ran to anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 depending on which political spectrum or media establishments make the estimate. Rappler, an online media outfit that is funded by the notorious Omidyar Network, placed 13,000 EJK victim in their recent scorecard. The more significant and positive development in Duterte’s war against drugs moreover is that close to a million drug pushers who surrendered are undergoing rehabilitation. Drugs and Steamy Affair
The drug campaign neutralized a number of syndicates that operate in Luzon, Metro Manila, Visayas and Mindanao. It also led to the discovery of shabu laboratories that operated clandestinely within urban centers, remote jungles and even marooned vessels off the coast of Zambales.
In the government war against MAUTE-ISIS in Marawi City last year, it was discovered that illegal drugs helped sustain and expand the tentacles of the terrorist group. But the most startling discovery was that the country’s sophisticated distribution network of illicit drugs was right in the national state penitentiary. Right in the heart of the penitentiary, are high profile inmates who turned out to be heads of drug cartels. They control the delivery of billions worth of shabu from various sources to various points in the country.
The druglords enjoy what had been described by De Lima’s fellow senators and congressmen as “fours t a r accommodations”called “kubols” some kind of special quarters outside the confines of the prison cells. Under her watch as Secretary of Justice, the New Bilibid Penitentiary was veritably the center of drug trade. But she was unmindful the national leadership then was as conveniently nonchalant of the impact of that discovery. What can be more incriminating than the special treatment which she continued to tolerate under her watch? Indeed she conducted raids now and then but the special treatment that the inmates, the ones convicted for drug crime specially, was never stopped. We have seen it all. As if high in drugs herself sung in duets with the likes of Colangco and other lifetermers in an elaborate karaoke bar inside the penitentiary!
But why was De Lima so consumed with raising the issue of extra-judicial killing which she do each time a drug suspect is killed? And each time she indicts Duterte and cannot escape from that frame of mind that the former Mayor was the godfather of the DDS. Tale that CHR and HRW
conjured The Human Rights Watch along with Amnesty International had extrapolated death statistics surrounding the bloody internal purge in the ranks of the New People’s Army, drug-related casualties and other criminal elements that sow terror in Davao region. Long before Duterte entered the political arena, Davao City was already dubbed as the “killing field” of the Philippines in obvious attribution to the mass slaughter in Cambodia in that decade.
In 2009, when the threeyear term of Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was coming to an end, then Congressman Prospero Nograles passed a resolution urging the Commission of Human Rights, then chaired by De Lima, to conduct a probe of alleged extrajudicial killings in the City. De Lima herself led the investigation. She tucked along a probe team made up of National Bureau of Investigation agents and investigators from the Philippine National Police. None of the members of the probe team was recruited from the regional NBI and PNP headquarters. Warrants and summons were obtained from the Regional Trial Courts in Metro Manila based on her flimsy claims that members of the judiciary in Davao City were scared of DDS and Duterte.
Mayor Duterte took a leave of absence and surrendered his supervisory power of the local PNP during the probe. He told the media that he is giving CHR Chair De Lima and her probe team the freedom to investigate. The mayor himself was grilled by De Lima in a series of public hearing which lasted for about six months.
Six months of grilling, diggings of suspected burial ground of EJK victims buried in an abandoned quarry and looking for the lair of DDS, but the probe team failed to produce any suspect, witness or piece of evidence to pin Duterte. The last attempt was to abduct and intimidate a murder suspect detained in nearby Panabo City jail which the team tried to “persuade” as among the DDS triggermen and to point at a graveyard of EJK victims. The inmate was clueless. In time the probers were able to exhume bits of skeletal remains alright, but the bones were so badly deteriorated these crumbled to pieces. What was strange was that they also unearthed three pairs of license plates in the same grave which have not even rusted.
Desperate for any piece of viable evidence, De Lima and her team brought their find to Manila and presented the same to the court. They also asked the court to summon Laud, the owner of the quarry. This did not however prosper because the RTC judge assigned to the case ruled that the pieces of evidence presented by De Lima were inadmissible. The corroborating lawyer on record for Laud is the current Secretary of Justice Vitaliano Aguirre I was told.
It must be pointed out at this point that at the height of the investigation even the United Nations Commission on Human Rights surreptitiously sent a special rapporteur, Philip Alston, to conduct a parallel investigation. But he left as quickly as he came. He did interview parents of suspected victims of drug campaign who were brought to him by members of local human rights foundation in the lobby of Marco Polo Hotel.
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CHR Probe Team led by Leila De Lima unearthed badly deteriorated skeletal remains and three pairs of license plates which did not show any corrosion. These were the evidence they had to prove there were extra-judicial killings and that DDS carried out...
A spectacled Asst. City Fiscal Rodrigo Duterte supervises the exhumation of remains of NPA victims.