CHR is beating the dead horse-A A +A
By Jun Ledesma
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
THE Commission on Human Rights (CHR) has this uncanny predilection for investigating and reviving probes, even of resolved cases during the advent of elections. Over three years ago, when election fever started to simmer in Davao City, CHR on the prodding of the previous congress then headed by Speaker Boy Nograles, conducted an investigation of alleged extra-judicial killings in Davao City. The probe started on the heels of elections putting then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte on the chopping board. They started with a public hearing at a posh downtown hotel to generate public awareness on the case and then link the mayor and the military to the murder of over 500 cases of alleged extra-judicial-killing. Across the Pacific Ocean, a pan-handling organization based in New York City – Human Rights Watch – was contriving the same issues giving rise to the suspicion that they either merely copied the recitation of the Philippine CHR or that somebody from Davao City who is plotting to put Duterte in the bad light had fed them the fable.
Then CHR Chairperson Leila Delima practically used all the investigation and intelligence agencies including the Courts available in the Arroyo government to unearth the remains of what they were so sure were victims of EKJ. After what seemed like eternity in the probe they produced nothing except one badly deteriorated skeletal remains which must be that of a Japanese soldier. To top it all, an inmate from Panabo City jail was forcibly taken by CHR investigators to point at the burial ground of EKJ victims. The poor guy, even as he was being threatened cannot point at anything he obviously had no knowledge about! What was mysterious was that a pair of car license plates which were not even corroded were also unearthed.
Any which way you look at it, it was apparent that the skeletal remains and the license plates were planted. One incomplete and frayed human skeleton does not an extra-judicial killings burial ground make. Not wanting to be part of tomfoolery, the Quezon City-based Regional Trial Court threw out the evidence. The case never prospered and therefore terminated. The inmate filed a complaint before the city fiscal of Panabo against his tormentors but even that seemed to have just fizzled out in thin air. After all, during the Arroyo regime, it so easy to just sweep the dirt under the rug.
And now comes CHR anew asserting that it will reopen the alleged EKJ in Davao City. Am not a lawyer, but isn’t this a case of double jeopardy? Why should they resurrect a dead horse and timed it again on the advent of elections? The next time they dig for pieces of evidence, they might exhume the remains of victims of NPA sparrows. Or who knows, they can do a short cut and just gather bones from a public cemetery.
Nearly two years of probe is enough to prove anything. I recalled that then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who was being linked by the investigators to that probe even took a leave of absence to give CHR a free hand. To give the Delima committee all the liberty it needed, he even gave up his supervisory power over the police. Still, the investigators were never able to gather even just one piece of viable evidence to pin the mayor. Why? Because in those years the index of heinous crime was at its highest. Drug syndicates operated with impunity. When the authorities ordered a massive manhunt for the drug lords, the heads of the syndicates did their own cleansing of their pushers to hide their identity.
Some politicians wanted to paint Duterte black to project their clean image. They even went on to deny the existence of drug syndicates and drug laboratories and unabashedly reported these to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the New York-based Human Rights Watch. The later even went further by publishing a book which contained the same recitation of complaints of kin of victims of drug menace and other syndicated crime. Consider this. The UN special rapporteur Philip Alston arrived in Davao City, stayed at the posh Marco Polo Hotel, interviewed some grieving relatives of so-called victims of EKJ as paraded around by local human rights watch, and then left the following day. Had he asked people around, he should have known that up to mid-1980s members of the New People’s Army were after each other’s neck in what is known then as “Operation Zombies”.
It was and still is stupefying that some political adversaries of Vice Mayor Duterte would allude to him as behind the so-called “Davao Death Squads” which they claimed are the ones behind the summary killings in Davao. It’s stupidity and grand ignorance of the truth. The truth is that DDS was a creation of a police general and mouthed on the air lanes by an anti-communist commentator Juan “Jun” Pala. It was a phantom to counter the NPA Sparrows. Unlike the sparrows however, it has no warm bodies. Pala had other creations among them “Christian Soldiers for Democracy” and “Contra Force”. But like DDS both have no warm bodies.
But if Duterte was to be accountable for the fabled DDS and EKJ as what his political adversaries and tormentors pictured him to be, then how come Davaowenyos gave him and Inday Sara such a mind-boggling majority and making those who ran against him so puny and irrelevant? The answer is simple. There is peace and security in the city, and compared to the massive corruption in congress Davao City government then and now is still lily-white.
You can accuse the Dutertes for slapping and browbeating cops, erring drivers and too-eager court sheriff and other indiscretions but never on the issue of corruption and extra-judicial killings. Admittedly, some city councilors manage to squeeze their bit of shady decisions but as they say it you can’t win them all.
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on July 10, 2012.