Monday, March 30, 2009

Commission on Human Rights' Public Inquiry on the Summary Killings in Davao (DDS)

The Commission on Human Rights CHR) in here in Davao conducting a public inquiry on the extrajudicial killings carried out by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS). I attended the hearing today which was held at the Royal Mandaya Hotel (I came later in the afternoon). I had received an invitation signed by CHR chair Leila de Lima to be present in this inquiry and to submit data or analysis that can be shed light on these killings.

The city mayor, Rodrigo Duterte and several police & government officials were around to share their views and recommendations about the DDS. Most of them denied that summary killings are going on and they also deny the existence of the DDS. During the lunch break, the CHR also had an executive session with some witnesses and families of the victims. Clarita Alia, a mother whose 4 sons were killed by the DDS, on the other hand confirmed the existence of the DDS and the involvement of a policeman.

I wrote an analysis of the summary killings which I submitted to the CHR:

Summary Executions in Davao: An Analysis

For over 10 years, the number of victims of the so-called “Davao Death Squad” (DDS) has reached 890 (from 1998 to March 2009). In other countries this would be considered as serial-mass murder.”

There is a widespread belief among the residents of Davao, the media and the civil society groups that these killings have the support or blessing of the mayor (Rodrigo Duterte) and with the complicity of section of the police personnel.

The police and the mayor deny that there have been any summary executions. They deny the existence of the DDS. They deny involvement in these killings or with the DDS which they claim do not exist.

That there are summary killings carried out by a vigilante group known as DDS is obvious and can be proven. However, witnesses are not willing to testify because they believe that the mayor and members of the police force are coddling the DDS.

So far, there are no evidence or witnesses that would link the mayor to the summary killings and to the DDS.

If we examine the statements of the mayor, these statements are warnings to criminals and justification for the killing of suspected criminals. The least that one can conclude from these statements are that the Mayor tolerate these killings, support these and provide for their justification.

How are these killings justified?

-Those killed are criminals (thieves, drug pushers and addicts, gang members) and they all deserve to die. “They are all fair targets for assassination.” “The death penalty has not been lifted in Davao.”
-It is a means of defending ordinary citizens from criminals (especially from drug menace).
-It is part of the war against crime and a means for cleansing evil from society
-It serves as a deterrent and will bring down the crime rate.
-It keeps the city safe and this is good for business.

These justifications can explain why many residents of Davao support these killings.

Whether these killings are perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad or any other group what is clear is that these murder are perpetrated with the same modus operandi (men in motorcycle, using .45 or knives) and with specific targets (suspected criminals – drug addicts, pushers, thieves, etc.). Most of the victims are on the list or “order of battle” compiled by the PDEA.

These killings have not been condemned by the local authorities. There has been no systematic investigation carried out. Yet they are quick to deny that that there are summary killings and to deny the existence of the DDS. They are either engaged in cover-up or they are incompetent. Thus, the killings continue with impunity.

The summary executions cannot be morally justified. It is murder – an intrinsically evil act. It is gravely immoral. It is a crime and a grave sin. It cannot be considered as a legitimate self-defense. Even if it claims to have a good intention or end, the means used cannot be justified. Those who sponsor and carry out summary executions, in their effort to stamp out criminality, become criminals themselves.

There is a need to address the problem of criminality, especially drug addiction, which is part of the culture of death. Summary execution is not the solution. It contributes to the rise of criminality by being a criminal act and further promotes the culture of death. As part of our prophetic mission, it is our task as clergy and religious to denounce and oppose summary execution and to proclaim the Gospel of life.

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