DAVAO Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday "it's up to the people of Davao" to say whether there really is an alleged private army in the city.

Duterte, who is former Davao City mayor, lashed at allegations connecting him to the so-called vigilante group Davao Death Squad (DDS) following a report aired on national television on July 6 regarding a study made by the independent commission created to disarm private armies.

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The commission specifically emphasized that Duterte and Mayor Rey Uy of Tagum City have private armies of their own out of more than 117 private armies they monitored with around 5,000 members in the entire country.

In his television program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” Tuesday, Duterte said "it's all there to see" and that the best people to ask whether the city is home to a group of criminal-slayers are the residents of the city.

"It's there for all to see. Ang katawhan sa Dabaw lang bahala ana. Kamong taga-Dabaw mudaog kaha ko kung naa koy private army? Mudaog kaha ko ug mayorya ug 300,000 kung nag binuang ra ko diri sa Dabaw (It's up to the people of Davao. You people of Davao, would I win if I have a private army? Would I win by a margin of 300,000 if I'm only fooling around with the city?)," Duterte said.

The city-paid TV show was held at 1 p.m., an hour before the City Council session.

Commission Against Private Armies (Capa) member Ret. military Lieutenant General Edilberto Adan, in a television interview, said they have monitored more than 100 private armies through a cooperation with the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Adan said Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao has the most number of private armies, followed by Ilocos Region, Cagayan, central and southern Luzon, Masbate, and other areas in Mindanao.

"We found out that there are some police officers, some police personnel, who are under the influence of their political patrons meaning sinusunod nila ang kung ano ang dapat gawin na kung minsan naman ay labag na sa election code," Adan said.

Case vs cops

Duterte raised in his argument against Capa's report that the Court of Appeals (CA) recently nullified the order of the Office of the Ombudsman, which placed several police officers in the city under preventive suspension for failing to curb summary executions in the city.

In a 12-page decision penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez, the CA's Former Special 16th Division granted the petition filed by the police officers who had been suspended on the mere basis of a "raw" crime statistics made by a fact-finding team of the Ombudsman.

"Mga bugok man 'tong Commision. Ay puro bugok to'g mga utok. Kung unsay charge sa mga pulis mao man pud charge sa akoa. Tanawa, tanawa unsay nahitabo. Tanawa tong mga pulis nga ilang gisuspend for nothing (That Commission is rotten, their minds are rotten. What was charged against the police were also the allegations made against me. See what happened? Those policemen were suspended for nothing)," Duterte said.

The appellate court found grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Ombudsman in issuing its January 11 resolution without a clear set of standard of efficiency against which actual performance of government servants must be rated.

The appellate court also said that the Ombudsman failed to specifically indicate what action the police officers should have taken, or did not take, in connection with the summary executions. The CA further noted that the Davao City Police Office was even recognized as the Best City Police in the entire country in 2008, which contradicts the claim of negligence by the Ombudsman.

CHR

In an interview with City Mayor Sara Duterte on July 5, she said the city has never stopped efforts in investigating the so-called presence of a vigilante group in the city, especially during the term of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chief.

"Gitagaan man na ug opportunity ang Human Rights to come here and investigate pero wala man pud silay nahatag nga finding. (We gave the opportunity to the Commission on Human Rights to come here and investigate but they have not given findings)," she said.

As de Lima is now appointed as the justice secretary and speculations arise that she would come back strong on the allegations, the Vice Mayor said she is "ready to face her anytime."

"Di atobangon nako. Walay problema. Ako basta I said I can face her anytime, wala nay problema diha (Then I will face her. No problem. I have said it before, I can face her anytime there's no problem with that)." Duterte said.

Attack vs family name

More retaliation on the allegation of heading a private army, however, came from City Councilor Paolo Duterte later during session who delivered an address denying the existence of a vigilante group.

Councilor Duterte, specifically lashed at the national TV report, which placed the Dutertes on the spotlight. He emphasized that there is no need for private armies in the city because "this is a peace loving city."

"A prominent media organization again brought before their news about the Duterte's alleged maintaining of private armies and its involvement and link with the Davao Death Squad or commonly known as DDS. These issues are not of novelty values. These have been raised several times and to date, nothing has been proven to indeed charge us of the same," said Duterte, chair of the Association of Barangay Captains.

"The linking of our name to Davao Death Squad or to be branded as coddlers of labeled criminals is apparently absurd and ridiculous. How can we be so confident to put a hand into the group if there is any, when all we desire and work for is peace and order in out beloved city? These irresponsible statements do not only malign the character of my family. This tends to discredit the very moral fiber that we have built and lived on through the years.”

"Maluoy mo sa mga bata. Dili lamang kami nga naa sa politika and mga Duterte. Apil ang among mga anak (Have pity on the children. It's not just us, who are in politics, who bear the Duterte's name but also our children.) Such callous and heartless pronouncements will instigate stigma and labeling to my entire family...There is no summary killing and there is no DDS," Duterte said.

Councilor Duterte said that the city has been recognized as a relatively peaceful and has been noted as a growth area over the years through the leadership of Vice Mayor Duterte, who have served for the longest time as the city mayor.

"Dabawenyos is not a place for criminals. Only law-abiding people are welcome to stay and continue growing with the rest of the Dabawenyos. I urge the media to be more conscientious in their field of work. That the highest standards of responsible journalism shall be strongly observed at all times,” Duterte said. (Jade C. Zaldivar/Sunnex)