Philippine ‘death squads’

For Rodrigo Duterte, the brutal Davao death squads (DDS) that have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people during his tenure as mayor of Davao City in the Philippines’ main southern island of Mindanao are not a problem.

He said in a speech on May 15, 2015, that his approach to crime fighting depended on the killing of suspected criminals. “We’re the ninth safest city. How do you think I did it? How did I reach that title among the world’s safest cities? Kill them all [criminals].”

Duterte became mayor in 1988.

Duterte publicly admitted his direct links to the Davao death squad during a May 24 live broadcast of his weekly television talk show. “Am I the death squad? True. That is true,” Duterte said on-air while discussing his accomplishments as Davao’s chief executive. He then pledged that if he became president of the Philippines he would execute 100,000 more criminals and dump their bodies in Manila Bay.

Duterte has a long history of inflammatory public statements that would seem to encourage the extrajudicial killing of suspected criminals. He has commanded his police officers to “shoot to kill” people ranging from suspected criminals to rice smugglers.

Philippine authorities have yet to successfully prosecute anyone for any of these murders. In the meantime, the killings continue and copycat death squad operations have emerged in other cities.

The pattern of death squads targeting criminals has reached other cities in Mindanao and Visayas. “United States State Department cables released by WikiLeaks in 2011 noted the apparent rise of municipal government-sanctioned death squads in cities including Cebu City, Toledo, and Carcar,”

August 2015 – One was a peasant leader. Another was a newspaper publisher. Both were shot and killed by men on motorcycles on the same day, underscoring a continuing legacy of violence and impunity in the Philippines.

Joel Gulmatico, chairman of the Arakan Progressive Peasant Organization in North Cotabato province, died after a gunman shot him near his house in Arakan town, in the southern Philippines. Gregorio Ybañez, publisher of the newspaper Kabuhayan News Services in Tagum City, also in the south, was shot in the evening of the same day as he was entering his house and died Wednesday at a hospital. In both cases, gunmen were riding motorcycles, a familiar modus operandi for shootings in the Philippines.

The Aquino administration’s record in ensuring accountability for the killers of activists and journalists has been dismal

The two killings underscore continuing impunity for extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. It is just not criminals getting killed. Somehow people don’t want to see the difference.

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