Category: Philippines


Source: Philippine hitman says he heard Duterte order killings | Reuters

A self-confessed hitman testified on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte personally issued assassination orders while mayor of a city where activists say hundreds of summary executions took place.

The president made no comment on the allegations on Thursday but his political allies dismissed them as lies.

Speaking during a senate hearing investigating the Philippine president’s anti-crime crackdown, Edgar Matobato said he heard Duterte, as mayor of Davao city in the early 1990s, give instructions to carry out extrajudicial killings.

“Our job was to kill criminals like drug pushers, rapists, snatchers,” said the 57-year-old, adding he himself had killed more than 50 people while working for a “Davao Death Squad”.

“They were killed like chickens,” he told the televised hearing. Matobato also alleged that the president’s eldest son and Davao’s current vice mayor, Paolo Duterte, was a drug user who ordered the death of a hotel owner in 2014.

Rodrigo Duterte has repeatedly denied involvement in vigilantism as either mayor or president. In a speech on Thursday he made no mention of the senate hearing.

Rights groups have documented some 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao since the early 1990s and critics say the bloody war on drugs Duterte has unleashed since taking office on June 30 bears the hallmarks of similar methods.

More than 3,500 people, or about 47 per day, have been killed in the past 10 weeks, some 58 percent by unknown assailants and the rest in legitimate police operations, according to police.

Matobato said that in the 1990s he had overheard Rodrigo Duterte order the bombing of mosques in Davao as retaliation for an attack on a cathedral.

“He ordered us to kill Muslims,” Matobato said.

He told how Duterte had once rushed to the scene when the mayor’s men encountered a government agent. “Mayor Duterte was the one who finished him off,” Matobato said, saying Duterte emptied two magazines from an Uzi firearm into the man.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre described Matobato’s testimony as “lies, fabrications and a product of a fertile and a coached imagination”.

CRIMEBUSTER

Matobato told the hearing the body of one Davao victim was fed to a crocodile. Some were thrown into the sea, their stomachs slashed to prevent them floating to the surface. Most were cut into pieces and buried in a quarry.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said he did not believe Rodrigo Duterte was capable of ordering the killings and investigations proved him innocent.

The existence of the “Davao Death Squads” has never been proven, but the term is familiar in the Philippines and has played a part in Duterte’s meteoric rise to the presidency as a no-nonsense crimebuster.

The United Nations and United States have expressed concern about his latest crackdown. The president has told them not to interfere, using lurid language.

Paolo Duterte issued a statement dismissing Matobato’s testimony as “all based on hearsays”.

Prospero Nograles, a former congressman, denied Matobato’s account of the abduction and execution of his four former bodyguards in Davao. “My security detail are soldiers and are still alive,” he said.

Little is known about Matobato, who volunteered to give testimony in a senate investigation led by Leila de Lima, a former justice minister who has denounced Duterte’s crackdown.

De Lima has yet to say why she did not seek to prosecute Duterte over the Davao killings when she was justice minister in the previous administration, when the former hitman first came to her for protection.

Matobato told the hearing he had once served as a paramilitary who fought Maoist rebels. He said he decided to tell what he knew about the Davao death squads after being made a “fall guy” in the killing of a businessman in the city.

 

mr Rapey…

you are so funny.. good luck in the phillipines.. how many people dead this week?

On May 14, five days after voters in the Philippines chose Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as their next president, two masked gunmen cruised this southern city’s suburbs on a motorbike, looking for their kill.

Gil Gabrillo, 47, a drug user, was returning from a cockfight when the gunmen approached. One of them pumped four bullets into Gabrillo’s head and body, killing the small-time trader of goods instantly. Then the motorbike roared off.

VIDEO: Hope for cash-strapped cops in the Philippines

The murder made no headlines in Davao, where Duterte’s loud approval for hundreds of execution-style killings of drug users and criminals over nearly two decades helped propel him to the highest office of a crime-weary land.

Human rights groups have documented at least 1,400 killings in Davao that they allege had been carried out by death squads since 1998. Most of those murdered were drug users, petty criminals and street children.

READ MORE: Duterte to allow burial of Marcos at heroes’ cemetery

In a 2009 report, Human Rights Watch identified a consistent failure by police to seriously investigate targeted killings. It said acting and retired police officers worked as “handlers” for death-squad gunmen, giving them names and photos of targets – an allegation denied by Davao police.

But a four-year probe into such killings by the National Bureau of Investigation, the Philippines’ equivalent of the FBI, hasn’t led to a single prosecution, and one senior NBI agent told Reuters it will probably be shelved now that Duterte is set to become president. The nation’s Justice Secretary last week told reporters the probe may not be able to proceed.

Such impunity, and Duterte’s demands in recent weeks for more summary justice, could embolden death squads across the country, say human rights and church groups. Already there has been a spate of unsolved killings in nearby cities, with other mayors echoing Duterte’s support for vigilante justice.

“We’ve seen it happen in Davao and we’ve seen copycat practices,” Chito Gascon, chairman of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), an independent Philippine watchdog, told Reuters. “Now can you imagine he is president and the national model for crime-fighting is Davao?”

Ask Clarita Alia, 62, who still lives in the Davao slum where her four sons were murdered, and she gives a mirthless chuckle.

“Blood will flow like a river,” she says.

 

DENIES DIRECTING KILLINGS

Duterte, who has been Davao’s mayor or vice-mayor for most of the past 30 years, has denied any involvement in the murders. “I never did that,” he said on the campaign trail in April, responding to allegations he had directed the killings. An Office of the Ombudsman investigation also found there was no evidence connecting Duterte to the murders.

He has, though, repeatedly condoned them.

For example, in comments to reporters in 2009, he warned: “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

And more recently he has vowed to wipe out crime in six months across the country by killing criminals, drug pushers and “sons of bitches” after he takes office on June 30.

“Do not destroy my country, because I will kill you,” the 71-year-old former prosecutor told a news conference in Davao on May 15.

He has also promised to restore the death penalty in the Philippines, warning he will hang the most heinous criminals twice: once to kill them, then again to “completely sever the head from the body”.

People here remember pre-Duterte Davao as a lawless battleground for security forces and Communist rebels. The city’s Agdao district was so violent it was nicknamed “Nicaragdao” after the then war-torn Central American nation.

Today, thanks to Duterte’s campaigns against drugs and crime, Davao today feels much safer, say the locals. But it still ranks first among 15 Philippine cities for murder and second for rape, according to national police.

 

ON WATCH FOR ASSASSINS

Reuters interviews with the families of four Davao victims, one of whom was a 15-year-old, showed that murders continued even as Duterte campaigned for the presidency.

All four killings occurred in the past nine months and bore the hallmarks of a loose-knit group that the locals call the Davao Death Squad.

The victims were shot in daylight or at dusk, three of them on the same street in a riverside slum seething with people. The killers rode motorbikes with no license plates, their faces hidden by helmets and masks.

Reymar Tecson, 19, was executed last August while sleeping at the roadside. A week later, Romel Bantilan, 15, was shot dead while playing a computer game less than 30 paces away.

Tecson’s family said Reymar was a drug user, but Bantilan’s family insisted that Romel was clean.

Romel had a twin brother, and their father, Jun Bantilan, said he had heard “rumours” that the other boy would be next. Most days Jun sits at the end of the street, watching out for assassins.

Nearby, in her tumble-down shack, Norma Helardino still wondered why her husband Danilo, 53, was shot dead in January. He didn’t use drugs, she said, although “maybe his friends did.”

The police filed a report but Helardino said she saw no sign of an investigation: “No witnesses came forward.” When asked who her husband’s killers were, she pointed to her tin roof and said: “Only God knows.”

The three dead males in the slum were “noted drug dealers,” said Major Milgrace Driz, a Davao police spokeswoman.

“It is their destiny to be killed because they choose to be criminals,” she said. “The mayor has already said there is no place for criminals in the city.”

Driz described 15-year-old Bantilan as a “recidivist” with a “criminal attitude” who had been repeatedly warned to mend his ways. She said he had delivered drugs for a gang which had probably murdered him over a money dispute.

Lack of witnesses meant the three murders remained unsolved despite diligent efforts to investigate, Driz added.

Responding to the Human Rights Watch allegations that the police conspire with the death squads, Driz said the police get the names of local criminals through a public hotline but don’t kill them.

 

CLOSED AND TERMINATED

Human rights activists say official investigations of death-squad killings have been hampered by a lack of witnesses, bureaucratic apathy and political influence.

The Human Rights Watch report called on the CHR to investigate whether Duterte and other officials had been involved or complicit in the deaths.

A CHR report three years later confirmed the “systematic practice of extrajudicial killings” by the Davao Death Squad. It, in turn, was successful in getting the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate whether Duterte was criminally liable for inaction in the face of evidence of numerous killings.

But in a January 2016 letter seen by Reuters, the Ombudsman told the CHR its investigation was “closed and terminated” because it had found no evidence that Duterte or the police were involved in the killings. The letter also dismissed the death squad as a product of “rumours and other gossips”.

The CHR report also triggered a probe by the NBI. Four years later, it is still ongoing, an agency spokesman said.

However, Secretary of Justice Emmanuel Caparas, who oversees the NBI, told reporters on Friday that the status of the investigation was unclear because a key witness, a former gunman, had left protective custody. “It’s really just a question now if the witness will surface,” he said.

And another NBI source, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to talk to the media, said the probe was now likely to be halted.

“Who will investigate the president?” he said.

Source: Insight: Philippine death squads very much in business as Duterte set for presidency | Reuters

Philippines president-elect Rodrigo Duterte has told China’s ambassador to Manila that he is willing to improve ties with Beijing, as Chinese diplomats urged nations outside the region to be hands-off and respect the efforts of the countries involved to resolve the issue.

Duterte, who will be sworn in on June 30, met on Monday in Davao City with Zhao Jianhua, the Chinese ambassador to the Philippines. The meeting followed Duterte’s remark on Sunday that he is willing to have bilateral talks with China over the disputes in the South China Sea.

Zhao told reporters after the meeting that Duterte has expressed his willingness to improve and develop relations between China and the Philippines, and to strengthen bilateral cooperation to benefit the people of both countries.

Zhao, who was among the first ambassadors to meet with Duterte, said China and the Philippines are good neighbors and that China is looking forward to working with the new government to further enhance ties between the two countries.

Sino-Philippines relations worsened in 2013 after the Philippines unilaterally initiated a case against China in the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague over their disputes in the South China Sea.

Duterte said on Sunday that he wanted to cultivate friendly relations with China, and he confirmed that he was open to direct talks over the disputes in the South China Sea.

“If the ship of negotiations is in still waters and there is no wind to push the sail, I might just decide to talk bilaterally with China,” he said.

Jia Duqiang, a Southeast Asian studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said, “The good signs indicate that the new leadership of the Philippines may change its dispute-solving mentality and stance over the South China Sea.”

Source: Duterte ‘willing to improve ties’ with Beijing[1]|chinadaily.com.cn

Communist rebel leaders have welcome a possible offer from the Philippines’ presumptive president-elect of four cabinet posts.

The party said on Wednesday that an alliance would need to be based on principles such as social justice and national sovereignty, including an end to the presence of US troops.

Rodrigo Duterte, who won the May 9 presidential election by a landslide according to an unofficial count, has said he will probably offer the Communist Party of the Philippines cabinet positions in agrarian reform, environment, social welfare and labour.

Source: Philippine Communists welcome unofficial cabinet offer – AJE News

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