Archive for the ‘Davao’ Category

Davao mayor denies the existence of a death squad blamed for more than 800 murders

March 31, 2009

It’s appalling to learn that since 1998, there are about 800 deaths which the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) attributes to death squads in Davao City. Leila de Lima, chairman of CHR says the unsolved killings are the most audacious violations of human rights prompting an inquiry over the “Davao Death Squad” aka DDS.

There have been reports that killers aren’t afraid of being identified for no one responsible for the hundreds who were killed have been prosecuted. The CHR chief is met with a challenge from Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who denies that death squad exists in his jurisdiction. He blames the deaths to drug traders and gang wars. The mayor ostensibly challenges the CHR to come up with evidence that his government is involved in vigilante killings.

“The Coalition Against Extrajudicial Summary Executions (CASE), composed of rights groups, and religious and concerned individuals, has tallied 814 vigilante-style executions from 1998 to February this year. More killings happened in the city this month. Many of the victims were reported to have had criminal records.”—-Inquirer (03/31/09, Tupas, JM)

Judge Isaac Robillo, the executive judge of the Regional Trial Court of Davao believes DDS exists and is condoned by a “bigger person,” —otherwise, the killings wouldn’t go on for such a long time with unrestrained brazenness.

The Rape & Slay of Rebelyn Pitao

It is said 185 and 45 of the victims are young adults and children respectively—an ignominious record for a place that prides itself of peace and order. The most recent is the brutal slaying of 20-year old teacher Rebelyn Pitao, the daughter of a communist New People’s Army (NPA) commander Leoncio Pitao.

Unidentified men snatched Rebelyn earlier this month while she was on her way home. The following day, she was found dead. Her body disclosed signs of torture and rape. Her father and Duterte tagged the military as responsible for her death.

The huge number of unsolved deaths is mind-boggling. Since 1998, only one case of summary execution has been filed and the public seems comfortable with such an astounding record. By death squad or not, if truly murders happen in the city how nothing has been done for 20 years to stop the lawless killings? De Lima rightfully asks the public to speak out against the immoral practice of taking the life of human beings without judicial process. About 16% of those killed in Davao are between 13 to 17 years old.

The defensive Mayor Duterte is reputedly overbearing in dealing with petty criminals in Davao. If he has nothing to do with the murders, why doesn’t he take the lead to probe the deaths so that justice can be served? Instead of showing lack of cooperation, isn’t it good to work with the CHR to get into the bottom of the crimes? Vigilante killings destroy the public reliance to the rule of law. (Photo Credits: Keith Bacongco; Barryohaylan)=0=


New Year in Davao, a Firecracker Ban and a Nearby Explosion

January 1, 2009

As in the previous years, New Year came to Davao without a bang. Since 2001, when the city created an ordinance banning firecrackers, New Year has always been celebrated with mute revelry as only the traditional torotot and banging of pots and pans can be heard around the city (of course, there are also those who use their car horns to create noise).

It is not only firecrackers that are banned in the city. Pyrotechnics are also illegal so the glow and aura of those attractive things can only be seen on TV sets in this city.

There is no use in bucking the city government. Mere possession of firecrackers and pyrotechnics is illegal in Davao. If in other cities those things are just confiscated, here in Davao it will land you in jail (and there are no prosecutors and judges to attend to your case during the long holidays). This season the city’s mayor, Rody “Dirty Harry” Duterte, even included minors for arrest in case they are found in possession of minor fireworks (so you won’t even see here small luces and watusi the children play with in other areas). Davao is really nitrate-emission free.

One result of this is a zero injury rate in fireworks-related incidents. Hospitals treat New Year’s eve here like an holiday. Some people here say that reporting yourself to the hospital can get you arrested. I wonder if a mangled finger a proper evidence in court.

Maybe it is time for the country to ban fireworks. It is probably just an unnecessary expense that we can’t really afford. For a moment of pleasure injuries (and even death) can ensure, the environment is polluted (noise and nitrates), and altercations ensue from wrongly-thrown fireworks (the bane of commuters during New Year’s eve). And if the avowed purpose of using firecrackers is to weed out malas (bad luck), certainly, decades of experience will tell us that this isn’t effective. Otherwise, we would have been a prosperous country already.

If Davao’s New Year’s bash is relatively quiet, it is not so in our nearby city, General Santos City. On New Year’s eve, hours before the year-change, a big explosion ripped the Oval Plaza injuring 26 people including 2 policemen. This is on top of an explosion the previous day in a police outpost that injured another policeman. Instead of holiday joy, General Santos City experienced quiet brought about by terror (for how can be one sure that the next bang is not the real thing?).

There is a place near the river Pasig that needs a wake-up blast and not General Santos City. Maybe some real malas removal would then happen.

[Photo credit: toto lozano, sunstar davao]

Insight:Several Killed, Scores Injured In Iligan Bombings

December 18, 2008

Thinking of Davao and Iligan cities, I cannot help but be struck by the difference of the two cities in its attitudes regarding the separatist question. Davao, with a tough-talking, bravado-filled mayor in the mold of Dirty Harry treats this question gingerly. And to think that Davao City is known for “salvaging” (no, not the type related to recycling) that it even caught the attention of Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.

Iligan City, with a mayor with the looks that can be mistaken for a “sacristan” (sacrist) when he was younger is gung-ho with regards to this question notwithstanding that the city hosts a sizable Muslim population (resident and non-resident) and it just a doorstep away from Maranao-dominated areas.

Davao City, led by its mayor, treats Muslims with deference and respect. It continually build bridges of dialogue with its Moro brethren. Even though the city is built on conquered Moro territory, its inhabitants does not have the thinking and arrogance of conquerors.

Amazingly, it is the “first families of Davao” (those who accompanied Don Jose Oyanguren in the Spanish conquest of Davao in 1848) who are leaders in treating the Muslims of Davao properly. In fact,the highest award that can be bestowed by the city government, the Datu Bago Award, is named after the vanquished leader of the Moro tribes of Davao. In my life I have never heard of a thing like this and this show of magnanimity never cease to amaze me. Descendants of Datu Bago are still feted by the city government.

Talk to an Iliganon and one would usually hear talks that Muslims are always “interested” in “their” land (as if they were already there since time immemorial). Any development that favors Muslims will always be followed by “war talks” and “raising” of Christian “Ilaga” armies, the feared paramilitaries of the ’60s and ’70s whose most notorious members are the Manero brothers. “Ilaga” is feared because it targets civilians and desecrates its dead victims.

Intellectuals and academics of Iligan are not necessarily afflicted by this attitude. Mayor Lawrence Lluch Cruz once belonged to these sectors but it now seems he has to dance to the tune of the powers of Iligan who are always warlike against the Muslims (after all, the AFP will do the fighting for them and woe to the soldiers if the reaction is slow).

I recall a political dynasty that has always been anti-Moro, the Lobregats of Zamboanga. There is a joke that the more the Lobregats lash at the Moros the more bombings happen in Zamboanga City.

I do not know if this is the case of today’s bombing in Iligan. I also do not know if this is a sort of a “welcome” for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is set to visit Iligan tomorrow to inaugurate the new plant of “Suka Pinakurat” (Try it, it’s different, it’s bitey, a concoction Bicolanos and parabuyong will probably appreciate). Because a bomb also went off last week in Maguindanao which forced her to cancel her visit.

I find it even ironic that one of the shopping centers bombed, the Jerry’s Bargain Center (the other being UniCity) did not get bombed in its native place, Pagadian City. This city, which sits atop an old Muslim sultanate (Labangan) doesn’t get bombed as often as Zamboanga and Iligan cities, home of warlike leaders. And to think that Pagadian City is probably the murder capital of the Philippines.

They say that, in Mindanao, aerial bombings and artillery shellings of Muslim areas during flashes of war don’t pay. For next comes the urban bombings. Now I do not know if this is the case here. But a month ago, bombs also exploded in two Iligan hostels.

Will this cease? I don’t think so. From my experience, bombings in Mindanao never cease as long as there is a war going on.


Tropical Depression "Tonyo": A Rare Occurrence

November 14, 2008

It was raining in Davao since last night and it rained the whole day today. This is rare in this place where rains seldom last more than two hours. I was not aware early that a rare weather occurrence is happening, that we are under Typhoon Signal #1.

I do not know of the last time that the provinces of Davao del Sur, North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur were included in a typhoon signal since these areas never experiences typhoons and where people do not know what is a “bagyo”. To them “bagyo” is just plain heavy rain and they have no understanding that to us what we fear is not the rain but the winds.

At 10am this morning, November 14, PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration) said that Tropical Depression “Tonyo” is located 70 kilometers west of Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, a town in the southern portion of the elongated province. That means “Tonyo” is smack at the middle of Agusan del Sur this morning. This is the first time I heard that a typhoon passed Agusan del Sur, which lies beyond the typhoon belt.

I “hope” the current direction of the typhoon does not change and it does not dissipate soon. For maybe it will be the first in a long, long time that a typhoon will pass by Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Misamis Occidental and Zamboanga del Norte, if ever. Anyway at 45kph “Tonyo” is too weak to do structural damage.

I hope our own Mike Padua, “Mr. Supertyphoon” can clarify what typhoons in history passed by the aforementioned places. People would be interested for sure. Just moments ago a local TV announcer was saying that this is the first time in 30 years that Davao City was under Typhoon Signal #1.

I do remember that in the 70s and 80s two typhoons passed Celebes Sea and one reached Zamboanga City. They were not the typhoons that hook through the mainland Asia and Japan but wayward typhoons of the Southern Hemisphere which normally hooks through New Guinea, Indonesia and Australia.

I have not the time to check but I wonder where this typhoon came from. A rare “visitor” indeed.