Omission of Human Rights-A A +A
By Jun Ledesma
Thursday, August 23, 2012
THE Commission on Human Rights under its new Chair, Etta Rosales, is recycling an old issue of alleged extra-judicial killings in Davao City which had long been investigated months before the May 10, 2010 elections. Then CHR Chairperson Leila Delima personally led a group of sleuths that include a combined team of special composite force from the Philippine National Police, National Bureau of Investigation, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and other agencies of the government that have anything to do with investigating. The probe was in reaction to a hurriedly assembled report of Philip Alston, a special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. Alston claimed he was invited by Philippine government officials and this we were not surprised because the House of Representatives on the prodding of then Speaker Prospero Nograles had urged for the investigation of the EJK in Davao City. Indeed there were killings in the city but there was malicious imputations that these were carried out by Davao Death Squads which some politically-motivated quarters in the so-called “civil society” were the handiwork of then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Buried deep are the screaming facts, which were ignored by Alston and the local CHR that upon following the publication of the names of the suspects in the drug syndicates by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency local drug lords went on a systematic liquidation of their pushers to hide their identity. Alston and CHR along with the Davao City-based Human Rights Watch reported that there were 206 EJK victims for the period of 2002 to 2006. That is about 52 victims annually. That is actually a miserable drop in the bucket compared to the number of persons killed monthly in New York City where Alston and the United Nations are based or the thousands of victims killed in drug-related crimes in just a week in Mexico which has a common border with the United States. Not far from the Philippines, is Thailand’s experience which was similar to that of Davao City where more than 2,000 members of the drug syndicates were wiped out in less than a week as the drug lords tried to silence the members of their rings to keep their identities from the authorities. The time of the incidents and the nature by which the crime was carried were not any different from each other except that what happened in Davao was too insignificant compared to what took place elsewhere.
For Alston and CHR to ignore these manslaughters and to focus mainly on what happened in Davao City is suspect. Alston did his investigation in less than four hours while holding fort in the lobby of the five star Marco Polo Hotel. How can he come out with such numbers after talking to a handful of grieving mothers whose children, young as they were were lured into drugs and drug pushing because their parents themselves failed to provide them even just the basic necessities in life?
Is Chairperson Etta Rosales ignorant of the fact that her predecessor, now DOJ Sec. Leila Delima, already conducted a series of probe on the very same issues brought out by Alston and Nograles on the alleged extra-judicial killings in Davao?
Delima went beyond her normal task as she herself conducted the investigation, supervised the exhumation of the remains of what she was so cocksure were those of 206 victims of EJK buried in common burial grounds. She obtained Court Orders from Regional Trial Courts based in the National Capital Region suspecting that Davao-based RTCs were not cooperative. Her special task force ferreted out an inmate from Panabo City jail without permission from the court. They too were certain that the inmate, Jonathan Balo, will be able to point at the exact location of the common graves.
They succeeded in landing stories in the front pages of national dailies as they were building up the case, but failed to produce any viable evidence of extra-judicial killings. What they dug was a badly deteriorated skeletal remain of what maybe that of a Japanese soldier and mysteriously a couple of license plates which were not even corroded!
To make the story short, the Courts threw away the complaints along with their “precious piece of evidence” because their proof is not even admissible in court.
The problem then was that Alston and our own CHR swallowed the report of the local Human Rights Watch that those who died in that long period of four years were victims of DDS. But DDS was just a phantom created by a regional police general at the height of communist insurgency to counter the New People’s Army Sparrows. DDS has no warm bodies unlike the NPA Sparrows liquidation squads. Neither Delima nor Rosales would comprehend or understand this as they have never known how and what is it to be under the communist regime. The members of the local HRW knew this iniquity and some of them might even know how and where, at the height of the purge of the communist rank, their own wayward members were executed and buried. The transition of the vicious rule of the NPAs to the stealthy foray of drug syndicates was just like a will-o’-the-wisp that emerge so suddenly and but sinister as they quickly infiltrate school campuses, parties, bar joints and overtly the streets.
Many youngsters were lured into drugs by pushers and because they do not have enough money to sustain their needs for drugs they too later became couriers and drug pushers. There was a celebrated murder of a young girl in the 1990s. It was believed the girl was executed on suspicion that she had become a double agent. It was sad that even the truth had been twisted because some of those who have insatiable greed for money and power perverted the truth to promote their financial and political agenda.
It is very much akin to the probe of CHR on the alleged EJK. Now, Rosales wants to burn the ashes that are all the remains of the Delima probe. How can I not suspect the motive to revive the probe. It came exactly on the heels of an election just as when Delima conducted her probe. The issues are exactly the same. Etta Rosales still refers to UNCHR rapporteur Philip Alston.
What an irony. While the city government is doing what it can to promote a good image for the City of Davao by investing on the promotion of Kadayawan sa Dabaw, the CHR timed its news story about a decade-old tale of drug pushers, drug lords and members of kidnap-for-ransom syndicates who were silenced by their own masters or killed by law enforcers in legitimate operations. The CHR and HRW referred to them as victims of extra-judicial killings. I wonder what name the CHR and HRW gave to the victims of these syndicated crime? What name have they given to victims of the Maguindanao massacre? What actions have they on those cases? Are they that scared to tread on the fiefdom of the warlords they cannot even drop a word of condemnation against Andal Ampatuan?
Davao City is their favorite menu because they feel safe here. They can recycle the worn out issues including their spurious evidence and they still can land news stories to assert their relevance. Never mind if the oft-repeated story will destroy the image of Davao City and render the Tourism slogan that “It’s more fun in the Philippines” utterly ridiculous!
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 23, 2012.