Tag Archive: duterte


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

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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

A presidential candidate who quips about wishing he’d been first to rape a murder victim can’t usually expect to have a good shot at winning the election.

This is no usual year in politics.

Rodrigo Duterte, who has been likened to Donald Trump for his brash manner, is running ahead of his four opponents in the Philippines in spite of a slew of outrageous comments. Voters in America’s important ally in the Pacific will go to the ballot box on May 9.

The 71-year-old longtime mayor of Davao City in the south of the Philippines has declared that if he were elected president he would pardon himself for mass murder and kill any of his children if they were involved with drugs.

This trademark tough-guy statements — he revels in the nicknames “The Punisher” and “Dirty Harry” — followed a remark that he would have liked to be the first to rape a 36-year-old Australian missionary who was later killed in a 1989 prison riot.

“What a pity they raped her — she looked like a beautiful American actress,” the self-confessed womanizer said in local dialect at a rally in Manila. “I thought the mayor should have been first.”

A video of his April 12 comments posted on YouTube sparked an uproar.

Instead of letting the issue drop, the trained lawyer then told reporters his daughter was a “drama queen” for raising her own alleged rape — even as she defended her father’s remarks.

And when his comments prompted protests from the Australian and American ambassadors to the Philippines, Duterte responded by telling them to “shut your mouth” and threatened to sever ties with their countries if elected.

Source: Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines’ ‘Trump,’ Runs on Rape Jokes, Violent Promises – NBC News

A controversial city mayor’s tightening grip on the Philippine presidential race has made the nation’s currency Asia’s worst performer this month.

The peso slumped 1.6 percent in April as opinion polls showed Rodrigo Duterte, the crime-busting leader of Davao city — who made inflammatory comments about rape and extra-judicial killing — extended his lead before the May 9 vote. He spent 22 years running the city of 1.5 million people and trailed his two closest rivals in a Bloomberg survey of economists on which candidate would best steer economic policy.

“We could see the peso hitting 48 per dollar before heading back to 46.50 by the end of the year,” said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila. “It’s driven by fear and the normal reaction of local investors is to buy the dollar.”

‘Business as Usual’

Duterte’s spokesman sought to calm market jitters by saying uncertainty usually arises in the weeks before an election, and it will be “business as usual” should the mayor be elected president. The front-runner will provide businesses the “right and proper atmosphere” to prosper without sacrificing the welfare of the people, Peter Lavina said in a statement Tuesday.

The latest poll conducted by Social Weather Stations showed Senator Grace Poe in second place, while Mar Roxas, the candidate backed by Aquino, was third and Vice President Jejomar Binay fourth. While all the contenders are championing reforms started by the outgoing president to boost infrastructure and create more jobs, Poe and Roxas are viewed by economists as the most capable of delivering on their promises.

Duterte has won support from locals by transforming Davao from a city battling crime and gangs in the 1980s to what his campaign calls one of the nation’s safest. A controversial figure, the 71 year-old former lawyer and prosecutor is facing a backlash for comments he made April 12 about the rape of an Australian missionary in a 1989 prison riot. He told the U.S. and Australian ambassadors not to meddle in Philippine politics after they condemned the remarks.

Source: Philippine Peso Sinks as Mayor Likened to Trump Leads Election Race – Bloomberg

Here’s the full text, translated by Rappler:

“All the women were raped so during the first assault, because they retreated, the bodies they used as a cover, one of them was the corpse of the Australian woman layminister. Tsk, this is a problem. When the bodies were brought out, they were wrapped. I looked at her face, son of a bitch, she looks like a beautiful American actress. Son of a bitch, what a waste. What came to mind was, they raped her, they lined up. I was angry because she was raped, that’s one thing. But she was so beautiful, the mayor should have been first. What a waste. “

In a Facebook post Monday, the Australian Embassy in the Philippines wrote, “Rape and murder should never be joked about or trivialised. Violence against women and girls is unacceptable anytime, anywhere.”

The Australians were not the only ones with strong words for Duterte.

In response, one of the opposing presidential candidates in the May 9 election, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, said, “Anyone who laughs at the ultimate assault on the dignity of women should not be allowed to wield power,” CNN Philippines reported.

Sen. Grace Poe, another candidate quoted by CNN Philippines, said: “It is distasteful and unacceptable, and reflects his disrespect for women. No one, whoever she is and whatever her looks may be, deserves to be raped and abused. Rape is a crime and no laughing matter. We should all be outraged at abuses against women.”

Robin Haines Merrill, who worked with Hamill in the country as a missionary, posted a statement on Facebook:

“ON BEHALF OF MY SISTER IN CHRIST, MISSIONARY JACQUELINE HAMILL, I PUBLICALLY DENOUNCE THE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY OF DUTERTE, IN THE PHILIPPINES. Jacqueline was raped and had her throat slit while ministering in the jails in southern Philippines in a 1989 hostage taking. Duterte was recorded this week saying in his political rally that while he ordered the killing of the hostage takers while he was mayor, he wished he could have raped her first, since she was so beautiful. Looking back on this photo, I realize ministering in jails as a woman is very risky and looks outright naive, like the ‘you got what was coming to you’ mentality that is prevalent today. But all ministry and everyday LIFE is a big risk, and we must be obedient to the voice of the spirit of God, even if it leads us to death.”

Philippine Vice President Jejomar Binay took to Twitter to unabashedly state his discontent with Duterte.

Source: The dark, cruel joke about rape that derailed a presidential campaign | Asia | News | The Independent

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