Yesterday, the Commission on Human Rights headed by Chairperson Leila de Lima listened to the testimonies of witnesses who claimed direct knowledge of the activities of the so-called Davao Death Squad. What they revealed confirmed the report of the Human Rights Watch which was released more than a week ago. What is clear in the testimonies is that there is indeed a death squad operating in Davao with the alleged support of some police and government officials at the city and barangay level. The witnesses are not yet ready to come out in the open and testify publicly out of fear that they could be targeted by the death squad. Besides, there is no adequate witness protection program in the country. Once they testify, they will have to go into hiding, leave their family and work behind, and live an abnormal life.
In the afternoon the Commission on Human Rights held a public inquiry at the Waterfront Hotel. The barangay captains attended. All of them denied the existence of the Davao Death Squad and insisted that the killings that took place in their respective barangay were just part of gang war. Incredible! What they said was similar to the testimony of the local government and police officials during the CHR public inquiry more than two weeks ago. They came to this conclusion even without a thorough investigation.
So this is where we are now. Everyone in Davao believes in the existence of the DDS except the local government and police officials. So how can the problem of the summary killings be solved when the authorities do not even admit that there is a problem? Perhaps, the killings are not a problem but a solution - the solution to the problem of criminality.
While they deny that there is a death squad responsible for the killings, they also justify these killings. They deserve to die because they are criminals - they are drug addicts, pushers, cell-phone snatchers and gang members. They are fair targets of assassination. It is necessary to kill them to deter them from committing more crimes. This is necessary to protect the people of Davao and to make Davao safe. This is necessary for peace and order. (Sadly, these justifications are echoed by newspaper columnists, radio commentators and city councilors. Many people accept these justifications).
What kind of peace and order is it when there are killings almost every day? The peace of the cemetery? Rest in Peace (R.I.P.)? They claim that the crime rates are low. But according the HRW report, the crime rate has gone up by 219% within a period of 10 years. This includes 890 unsolved killings - or serial mass murder.
Is it necessary to commit crimes to fight criminality?
Is it necessary to become criminals to fight criminals?