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By Jun Ledesma
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
MIDNIGHT experts and some grim statistics
Remember Philip Alston? He is the United Nations Human Right Commission rapporteur who came to Davao years back to conduct a probe on the allegation that there were extra-judicial killings in the City.
Obviously, he came to Davao in response to local human rights watch cabal who along with the political adversaries of then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte reported that state-sponsored summary killings were happening unabated. They attributed the executions to Davao Death Squads which is actually a phantom created by the Philippine National Police to counter the incursion of the dreaded CPP/NPA hit men known as ?The Sparrows?.
Alston came Davao City, conducted a few inquiries from kin of alleged victims of EJK in the 4-star hotel lobby and left on the first flight back to Manila and on to New York the next day. “Safe” in his office in the Big Apple, he issued a lurid report that indeed summary killings are being carried out not only in Davao City but in the adjacent cities as well.
Alston’s fairy tale ironically came at a time when Davao City was enjoying a peaceful ambiance which was an envy of many cities in the country that have been distressed by all sorts of crimes. In fact, after being proclaimed the most livable place in the Philippines and 19th in all Asia, the city was also proclaimed the most child-friendly. Alston story therefore was contradictory. Not that I would deny the absence of killings like what happened in Agdao, which was then known as Nicaragdao, and then later the execution of drug pushers and drug lords, but the attribution these politicians and HRW contrived were just absurd.
But of course everything was politically-initiated. Duterte was the man of the hour; his political adversaries were out to demolish him, extinguish his clout and to ultimately put him behind bars. The New York Human Rights Watch, obviously working with their local counterparts who have their own political agenda, even came out with a book entitled “You Can Die Any Time” in obvious attribution to Duterte’s classic expletives uttered in Cebuano but interpreted to English in a twisted fashion by HRW advocate to suit their agenda.
But even that failed to diminish the popularity and clout of Duterte. His enemies urged Congress to conduct a probe into what UNCHR rapporteur reported. Leila Delima, fresh from being appointed by Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo as Chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights was out to prove her mettle. She took the challenge from then House Majority Floor Leader Prospero Nograles to conduct the probe. With tongs and hammer, she worked the length to uncover the mystery of EKJ in Davao City and recover the remains of the victims which were alleged to be dumped in common graves.
Delima had to have her way. Not being able to obtain orders from the local court to issue search warrants after the first failed, she succeeded by getting one from a Manila-based Regional Trial Court. She went back digging for common graves. She even went to the extent of organizing a Task Force who ferreted out an inmate from Panabo City Jail to confess to where the EKJ victims were buried.
The poor inmate was yanked out of jail without authority from the Panabo trial judge. (I still am in a quandary why nobody went to jail for this brazen act.) The Delima investigation was sort of open-ended. The last time we heard of the probe, they were able to unearth a lone human skeleton which was so badly deteriorated. The gravesite also yielded vehicle license plates which were not even corroded suggesting that the skeletal remains were even (freshly) planted. The Manila RTC declared the skeletal remains inadmissible as evidence.
So what is the truth behind all those brouhaha? During the reign of the communists in Davao City, the Sparrows went on a killing spree; many of the victims were criminals, hoodlums, abusive barangay leaders. They were looked upon as champions of the poor and the down-trodden. As their organizations grew to so many fronts, they were forced to source out funds not only from the wealthy but later also from the poor families in Davao ghettos. A number of the city partisans whose families have also to fork out from their meager resources started to complain. The NPAs started to purge their ranks even executing in public their own comrades. The death tolls were beyond imagination especially when city partisans move in quick fashion to organize themselves and then ran after their kin’s and comrades-in-arms executioners. Both sides buried their victims in common graves which in 1987 were unearthed.
When the sparrows disappeared, drug syndicates slowly crept into the city. Quite a number of young students became victims and hooked to drugs became pushers themselves. Drugs were peddled in school campuses and in every nook and corner including even the squatters’ area. Recruitment in these impoverished sectors was even easily done by the syndicates and many of those who engaged in the illegal trade were out-of-school youth wanting to make a quick buck as they were destitute.
Towards the mid-1980s then Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency Director Efren Alcuizar, came out with a list of suspects in the illicit drug trade. What followed after that was the series of killings obviously done to erase the paths that would lead to the identities of the leaders of the drug ring. This “clearing” operation was also executed in the same fashion but in a much larger scale in Thailand where, in a span of two months after the authorities under then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra published names of suspected drug pushers, over 3,000 suspects were summarily executed. This has to be repeated in Mexico where the casualties exceeded those who died in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan for even shorter sequential periods. In Davao City, local HRW reported death statistics which included those which were legitimate targets of authorities and victims of drug syndicates themselves and other common crimes. More or less 486 victims were tallied by HRW for a period of 10 years and three months. And yet, Philips Alston was so disturbed he has to come and see what is happening in Davao City. The UN rapporteur and the HRW of New York pick up on Davao to flagellate forgetting the thousands of those who died in Mexico where drug trade flourishes because America cannot control their mania for barbiturates which their citizens have to pay to the tune of $56-billion annually. With characters like Alston one cannot fathom whether foreign observers like him are working for the enemy or for our country and the people’s security.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on February 02, 2012.