I SHOULD not be the one writing this but it behooves upon me to do so. As a community journalist who witnessed and survived the vicious cycles of martial law era, the reign of terror of the CPP/NPA and its deadly “Sparrow” liquidation squads that ruled over Davao City with impunity I owe it to my young readers to write about certain events in the past that have something to do with the present. Add to this the issue about DDS. I will be brief as I can.
The New People’s Army lost its mass base in Davao City following a massive peoples uprising succinctly described as “alsa masa”. I cannot be exact with the time now.
The uprising was triggered by the public execution of three of its “tax collectors”, which unknown to the triggermen were close kin of their top urban commander in Agdao known before as the Nicaragdao of the Philippines.
Barely in their teens when they joined the NPA, they were assigned to collect taxes from the already over-burdened mass base (most of the rich families have left Davao).
The executioners had wanted to instill fear on the squatters enclaves to squeeze more from their own mass base. They were executed in broad daylight in the Gotamco basketball court. The death of the three, however, only ignited anger and overnight, the NPA and its Sparrows were hunted by their own men.
By nightfall on that day, only the staccato of gunfire and the wailing of dying men were heard. The eerie calmness in Davao City followed by daybreak.
Alsa Masa was not a vigilante group, it was a spontaneous uprising of the people against the NPAs. For some quarters to claim that they organized Alsa Masa which led to the overthrow of the CPP/NPA is a blatant lie. But because of the popularity of the alsa masa uprising, which became a byword, a number of those who joined the movement against the CPP/NPA organized themselves into groups and called themselves Alsa Masa.
They were allowed to keep their firearms to protect themselves from reprisals because the communist military fronts waged a bloody purged of its ranks dubbed “operation ajos” and “operation zombies”. They had just rejoined the folds of the law and to survive they went about selling door mats and brooms. They do not fall under the definition of “vigilantes” which pan-handling human rights watch groups want to portray them.
Senator Leila De Lima’s repeated attribution of the Davao Death Squad (DDS) to President Rodrigo Duterte is nothing but her stoic belief that the then Davao City Mayor organized DDS.
DDS was actually a ghost squad conceptualized by then INP Regional Commander Dionisio Tan-Gatue Jr. to counter the offensive of the dreaded NPA Sparrows. He used a very popular NPA propagandist, the late Juan “Jun” Pala who turned anti-communist radio commentator to spread the existence of this phantom which somehow reduced executions perpetrated by the Sparrows.
In those times, Duterte had just passed the bar and was a Tanodbayan investigator and later became Assistant City Fiscal. Politics was never in the wish list of Digong who at the height of insurgency was prosecuting both policemen, military and suspected NPAs over the so many deaths, at least eight victims on a daily basis, taking place in the city. (To be continued tomorrow)