The tale of EJK

The Mindanao Examiner Regional Newspaper - - First Page - By Jun Ledesma

PRESIDENT DUTERTE’S critics are having a fiesta over his jocose statement that his only fault is the beaten-to-the-pulp issue of extra-judicial-killing. It all started when the New York-based Human Rights Watch published a book entitled “You Can Die Anytime” prompting the Commission on Human Rights chaired by Leila De Lima to conduct a probe on alleged EJK victims in Davao City. This was in April 2009 a few months before elections. The undefeated Duterte and his daughter Inday Sara are emerging to be a strong political leader like his father.

Davao then was a bastion of drug syndicates that crept into the city after the CPP/NPA lost control of the urban center following a spontaneous peoples uprising dubbed “alsa masa”. Rodrigo Duterte a newly elected Mayor had to deal with the scourge of drugs, kidnap for ransom, carnapping and other vicious criminal syndicates. The most

tenacious criminals however are the members of drug syndicates that peddled drugs even in the confines of school campuses.

Duterte himself led a composite team that raided a suspected shabu laboratory resulting in the death on undocumented Chinese nationals that ran the joint. CHR and HRW accounts skirted this story in what I can only surmise as their apprehension that it would diminish the credibility of their assertion that the problems of illegal drugs was not that serious and that those killed were victims of police brutalities and the Davao Death Squad which they said was organized by the Mayor.

But to Davao City residents most especially, the drug syndicates had caused nightmares as crimes related to drug addiction was getting to be worse than the crimes perpetrated by the Communist hit squads – the “Sparrows”. The intensified police operation against drug dealers was intensified. The bloodiest event happened when PDEA assigned Col. Efren Alquizar in the region. In a bizarre strategy, he came up with a list of suspects which was made available to media during a press conference at downtown Mandaya Hotel.

What followed was a series of killings of drug suspects some by legitimate police operations and, as the intelligence community later bared, were the handiwork of drug lords themselves to clean the link that would lead to their identities. By some accounts about 250 plus suspected drug pushers were killed. All these were accounted for by the police and PDEA Chief Colonel Alquizar who himself was later killed by a sniper’s bullet believed to be from the drug syndicates.

Davao City was a crime capital in the country when it was under the communist control in the early 1980’s and when criminal syndicates supplanted them. This was the scenario that Duterte was confronted with when he became Mayor. Many prominent families had left Davao and opted to live in Manila or abroad. Duterte scored big against organised crime – robbery with rape, kidnap-forransom and carnapping.

The campaign against drugs syndicates, however proved to be daunting. Shabu supplies were brought to Davao City without let-up. The source was later discovered to have come from Lanao and somewhere in Maguindanao towns adjacent to Lanao. Duterte personally brought his war against drugs all the way to one of the towns there following a big catch of shabu shipment loaded on board an ambulance traced later to the said municipality. From what I learned he warned the town mayor to stop the illicit activity otherwise something more serious could happen.

Hot on the trail of criminals, Duterte, figured too, in the assault of the police detention center where the notorious Pogoy gang were detained, but later raped a visiting Australian missionary. Earlier the Mayor, who was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as Chairman of the Regional Development Council, offered himself as hostage to the Pogoy gang which bolted the Davao Penal Colony in lieu of members of the visiting families which they held captive during their attempted escape. The Mayor then sweet-talked them to proceed to Davao City Hall for him to negotiate their demands with higher authorities. The gang agreed ending the tense situation with their incarceration at the Davao City Police detention center.

Weeks after the gang was committed to the detention center, Pogoy attempted another escape try again holding hostage and raping visiting Australian missionary and her companions. They had grabbed several weapons from the prison guards and later engaged responding policemen to a firefight. Mayor Duterte rushed to the scene and joined the police force to neutralise the armed convicts.

The accounts of the incidents involving the bloody shabu laboratory raid and the assault of the police detention cell that wiped out the members of Pogoy’s gang were widely publicised and the Mayor Duterte himself openly admitted his participation in these operations.

In another celebrated case, several members of a kidnap-for-ransom syndicate who victimised a businesswoman from Quezon City, were all killed in an exchange of gunfire with police operatives led by then Davao City Police Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. In an on-the-spot interview with Bato, he told the media: “The order of the Mayor (Duterte) was shoot-to-kill if they will fight it out with the law”.

Years had elapsed CHR Chair De Lima became Secretary of Justice, and was replaced by Etta Rosales. De Lima had spent over four months digging for what she claimed were common graves of EJK victims in Davao City. She found nothing except for badly deteriorated and incomplete skeletal remains and three pairs of car license plates which were not even corroded. She presented her “evidence” before the Manila Trial Court Branch 34 which threw this out being inadmissible in court.

Later De Lima became Secretary of Justice, but in her stint failed to indict Duterte. As Senator, she continued with her consuming desire to charge Djuterte on the issue of EJK. This time she and her new-found ally Sen. Antonio Trillanes presented as witnesses Matobato and Laranas. Both alleged that they buried more than 1,200 EJK victims in an abandoned Laud quarry. It’s the same refrain told all over again only the figures had ballooned exponentially.

Speaking of Etta Rosales I remembered her screaming “this is murder!” when shown by ABS-CBN the video clip of the dead KFR members in that shootout with Bato’s men. She dubbed it as another case of EJK. Etta conveniently rehearsed what her predecessor Leila charged Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and this goes on with the incumbent Chair Chito Gaston who faults Duterte of EJK in every turn in domestic and international forums. After over a decade had elapsed when all the instrumentalities were virtually under their control, not a single complaint was filed against Duterte. Etta Rosales is back in the streets denouncing Duterte and cursing Marcos Martial law for what she went through in those days. In a reversal of fortune, De Lima is detained and facing trial in court confronted by witnesses too many to be ignored. Duterte’s critics dub her detention as political persecution. In the meantime her perjured witnesses have gone hiding abroad and I cannot help but wonder how they manage to survive. They are not legitimate OFWS but selfconfessed guns-for-hire.

Any which way you look at these chronicle of events there is absolutely no doubt these sprung from dubious political agenda. President Duterte is correct in that the only crime he is being held accountable for is EJK. That had always been what he was and is being charged with by the Commission on Human Rights a repetition of unfounded allegations that had been compounded by an ignoramus Agnes Callamard who swallowed the EJK story conjured by De Lima and her ilk as biblical truth.

Indeed over a decade had elapsed. The EJK story is as farcical as the Davao Death Squad and the more than 1,200 EJK victims buried in the fertile minds of Duterte’s critics. Haven’t you noticed? The President is “Very Good” to the Filipino people according to the Social Weather Station.

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