text and video clips
by Julius D. Mariveles

FORMER TAGUM MAYOR Rey Uy says the primary witness of Human Rights Watch who accused him of forming a local death squad is merely a disgruntled former employee who has been linked to several murder cases in the city.

Uy said that Romnick Minta, who claims to be a former member of the mayor’s alleged death squad, was earlier fired by the city’s Civil Security Unit. Minta is one of several witnesses cited by the New York-based Human Rights Watch in its report titled “One Shot to the Head,” exposing the alleged existence of a vigilante-style death squad in Tagum that had supposedly killed almost 300 people. The group said the witnesses had tagged Uy, the former city mayor, as the one who created the death squad to go after those he allegedly called “weeds” of society.

Uy blasted the report and called it “malicious,” saying he was not furnished a copy nor was he sought for clarification before it was released by HRW. HRW said that it had provided Uy and several other public officials copies of its report before the report was made public last week.

In a phone interview with the PCIJ, Uy even broke out into song, singing Freddie Aguilar’s Estudyante Blues. Just like the student in the song, Uy said he felt that he was just being blamed for everything happening in Tagum.

Minta claimed he was a former member of the Tagum death squad and acted as a lookout in the slay of businessman Roberto T. Onlos last October 28, 2011, a killing allegedly ordered by Conrado “Rading” Palen and Victor “Kulot” Cuaresma, close aides of then Mayor Uy, the report said.

“He is cooking lies, he just wants to take revenge,” Uy said.

The former mayor admitted that Minta was an employee of the CSU but he ordered him fired after he was involved in a series of robberies and at least seven murder cases in Tagum City that were linked to him after the .45 caliber handgun allegedly used in the killings was traced to Minta.

Curiously. Uy said he did not learn about these allegations against Minta through the local police; rather, Uy said he got the information from “other sources.”

“There was no formal report, I learned about it through the police but through other sources,” he said.

Uy said the weapon was not a government-issued firearm.

Uy also could not provide any details on Minta’s alleged murder cases, or whether the local police had ever filed a formal murder complaint against him.

The HRW report described the Tagum death squad as “an unlawful outgrowth of (the CSU)” that was part of Uy’s effort during his 15 years as mayor to “transform Tagum from a sleepy agricultural town into a modern city” that included a campaign to “rid the city of indigents and street people, many of them children.”

The report also pointed out that the killings committed allegedly by the vigilante hit squad coincided during the latter part of Uy’s campaign with corruption allegations linked to the former mayor and a time when he was making “politically unpopular moves, such as raising taxes to finance the construction of a sprawling and modern city hall.”

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