OVER a decade ago, PCIJ started to document reports of alleged vigilante killings in Davao City under then Mayor Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
In this two-part report by PCIJ fellow Carlos H. Conde published on Dec. 9 and 10, 2003, PCIJ found that, according to the child-rights group Tambayan, “a significant number of those killed have been minors who had been in conflict with the law… at least 104 people, most of them male, have been victims of such extra-judicial killings since August 1998.”
“Of the 41 cases documented by the group from March 1999 to November this year, 20 involved boys who were 18 years old and below,” noted the report titled “Teenagers Perish in Davao’s Killing Fields.”
Tambayan added: “Not one of these cases has been solved, even if the killers said to range from gang members, to ex-rebels, to policemen are known in the local community.”
Part 2 of Conde’s report looked at how poverty has driven a growing number of Davao City’s children to the streets at the time. “The Davao City Local Development Plan for Children (2003-2007) says that in 2000, Davao had 1,505 street children. This figure more than doubled the following year to 3,213,” the report said.
Also in the same year, PCIJ Fellow and MindaNews Editor Carolyn O. Arguillas wrote about Juan “Jun” Pala, the blocktimer-anchor of radio dxGO of the Manila Broadcasting Corp. who was shot dead on Sept. 6, 2003 in Davao City by unidentified gunmen.
In “The Saga of Jun Pala,” Arguillas recounted the life, career, and internecine quarrels on air of the radio anchor with then Mayor Duterte. This story came out in the October-December 2003 issue of PCIJ’s i magazine.
On June 30, 2016, PCIJ published “Duterte Revisited: What he said in 2011” about drugs, vigilantes, and the so-called “Davao Death Squads.” This report was based on a series of interviews that Arguillas had conducted with the Davao City mayor who was installed as the 16th President of the Philippines that same day.
On Sept. 23, 2016, PCIJ ran a report, “SC rules on DDS case; PNP can search quarry for bodies,” about a 2014 decision of the Supreme Court that confirmed and documented in court dockets the existence of the “Davao Death Squads.”
In its decision issued on Nov. 9, 2014, on “Retired SPO4 Bienvenido Laud vs People of the Philippines.G.R. No. 199032, November 19, 2014,” the high court’s First Division upheld the grant of a search warrant to uncover the bones of six victims who, on the testimony of a first-hand witness, the DDS had killed and buried at the Laud Quarry in Davao City in 2005.
The high court’s ruling has seemingly offered a new window of opportunity for the police and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to now resume their investigation into the DDS, on strength of a valid search warrant that has been upheld by the high court no less.
The application for a search warrant had been filed by no other than the Philippine National Police (PNP) itself, through Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo, then head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in the National Capital Region, and who in 2014 would become chief of the PNP-Anti-Kidnapping Group.
In the latest revamp at the police force last July, PNP chief Director General Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa named Fajardo acting deputy director of the Northern Police District.
Curiously, among the lawyers of petitioner Laud in the case was Vitaliano Aguirre II, who is now the justice secretary.
Just weeks earlier, however, Aguirre, still sounding like a defense lawyer for Laud, commented on what had been found in the Laud property years ago, saying, “The bodies did not prove anything. In fact, there were statements that they were bodies of people who were executed during the Japanese occupation.” Some of the skeletons, he added, were probably that of animals.— PCIJ February 2017