Death Squads Terrorize Davao


(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.) 

The men in black rode their motor cycles up to the corner of the  Davao City market, people fled in all directions, they calmly walked  up to the two sleeping street boys, then drew big revolvers and shot  them dead at point blank range. Young brains and blood were  splattered on the pavement yet this horrific murder would not be  repudiated by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who denies any involvement. He  told the media recently, "If you are doing an illegal activity in my  city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the  innocent people of this city, for as long as I am the Mayor, you are  a legitimate target of assassination."

Not even the so called "war on terror" cannot justify the violation  of human rights and the abandonment of the principles that protect the fundamental dignity of the person and their inalienable rights to  justice. A panel of eminent international jurists and distinguished  legal experts led by the former Irish President Mary Robinson spent the past three years studying the practices and methods by which the leading democracies waged a counter-terrorism war and reached such a conclusion.

In a 199 page report, they have clearly stated that the methods used  are counter-productive, and they had seriously damaged and undermined respect for human rights around the world. "The United States, one of the world's leading democracies, has adopted measures to counter  terrorism that are inconsistent with established principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law," the report said.

The international panel of eminent jurists, that includes supreme court judges, U.N. human rights experts and law professors, said in effect, that the use of abduction, torture, detention without trial, and assassination are to be repudiated. We urge every head of state to repudiate such violations.

The Philippines is known for its admiration and mimicry for American everything, especially military techniques and weapons, and is a major recipient of US sponsored counter-terrorism training. Hundreds of officers and men have been to the United States for training. The  assassination of hundreds of Filipino social activists journalists and even pastors in recent years is ample evidence that the respect for human rights in the Philippines is at an all time low.

Perhaps no other place has such a sordid reputation for assassination  than Davao City, in Mindanao. Hoteliers wonder why tourists are not flocking to its tourist attractions considering the death squad is supposed to make it safe. No one is safe without the strict implementation of the rule of law. It has taken ten years of death-squad activity and graveyards full of bodies to get the  attention of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (PCHR). Now, under the new leadership of Commissioner Leila De Lima, the ten-year killing spree will be investigated by a public inquiry slated for the last week of March this year. They have reached a "glaring and  alarming" proportion, she said. While the assassination of suspects is widespread in the Philippines, Davao has the highest number of victims, 814 according to media reports. This February 2009, there has been 33 killings alone done by the Davao Death Squad.

Street children and youth have been singled out and 73 of them have been stabbed or shot to death on the street, some in a shocking open manner, the killers acting brutally with total confidence and impunity. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte himself rides around on a big motor  bike but says thats no evidence of his involvement despite his statements allegedly approving the killings as widely reported in the media.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted Mayor Duterte last February 15, 2009 saying that all the 814 people deserved to die because they were smeared with criminality. "What I want is to instill fear...if it will send the wrong signals what wrong did I commit? The problem  comes if we get the wrong people", Duterte told journalists. If the suspect showed the slightest sign of resistance, he would order the police to "shoot you and aim for your head" to make sure that you are dead.

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