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_Davao City, Philippines Saturday | January 28, 2006

Letters to the Editor
Bulletin Board
Bloody February

By Daisy C. Gonzales
Published: Jan. 28, 2006

DAVAO CITY -- Two bomb explosions ripped through the city's main bus terminal, just a few meters away from the headquarters of the elite anti-terrorism force, the Task Force Davao. This happened almost simultaneously with the bombings the same day, February 14, in General Santos City and Manila. In Davao and General Santos City, four were killed while 48 were wounded.

Persons believed to be connected to the big-time illegal drug trade went missing. The vigilante killings allegedly perpetrated by the Davao Death Squad continued. The war in Sulu and the violence in the Diwalwal gold-rush mountains erupted. Some US troops were also in the city to train local drug enforcers in a training exercise dubbed “Baker Piston 05-01.”

Progressive groups staged protest actions to demand legislated pay increases for public school teachers. The same groups, particularly women’s organizations, gave the thumbs down to the proposed tax code in Davao City and the government's expanded value added tax. This came on the heels of proposals to increase, by 60 percent, the city's water rates. Environment groups also protested the alleged plunder by mining and plantation companies.

Inside the City Council, councilors Victorio Advincula and Diosdado Mahipus pushed for a two-million peso budget to train women and the elderly on how to cook. Meanwhile, Mahipus, chair of the council's powerful Finance, Ways and Means Committee, said a reorganization in the council committees was about to happen. The reorganization was said to be due to the "squabbling" among members of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte's party, the Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod.

Vice Mayor Luis Bonguyan told the media that criticisms of the construction of the seven-million pesos roof deck of the City Council building, which was deemed structurally unsound, was baseless and unfair.

Duterte, meanwhile, warned internet cafes for allegedly tolerating cybersex. Rep. Prospero Nograles took the witness stand in his libel case against Bombo Radyo related to the so-called Burlesque King issue. (In 2001, Nograles was reported in the newspapers to have been caught in what reports indicated was a “compromising situation” with a TV host inside a five star hotel in Manila.)

In the first week of February, the death toll in the summary killings here, 36 days into the year 2005, rose to 50, according to the local chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, a lawyers’ group. The spate of killings that also involved Chinese nationals allegedly into illegal drugs made the city's Filipino-Chinese community worried, with some saying that the killings could "affect their image as a group."

The IBP, in a strongly worded statement dated Feb. 6 last year condemned the killings. One of their colleagues, lawyer Reuel Dalguntas and his driver and brother-in-law Garry Hofileña, were killed allegedly by the Davao Death Squad on Feb. 5.

Dalguntas, the IBP said, was a victim in the "string of senseless killings" happening in the city. "This is no longer just a matter of concern, this is already appalling. These killers are becoming more daring every day, doubtless emboldened by what appeared to be a continued failure, if not sheer ineptness, of the law enforcement authorities to put a stop to this murderous rampage," the IBP statement said.

Dalguntas's death, the IBP added, is the "clearest manifestation that the rule of law has already been supplanted by anarchy that is now ruling the streets of Davao City."

Meanwhile, Chinese businessmen named Philip Lam, Jimmy Yap and Dr. Farouk Lu went missing on Jan. 24. Duterte had ordered the police, as well as the Philippine Anti-Crime Emergency Response, to look into the said incident. Allan Sy, a suspected big-time drug lord and who owned the warehouses that were raided allegedly for illegal drugs earlier, had also gone missing since the Dec 31. drug bust.

Barely a week into February, two Chinese businessmen were killed. Ronald Lim, who operated a Caltex gasoline station in Toril, was gunned down on Feb. 3. Joey Co, owner of Dayrit Enterprises, was shot dead on Monteverde Street on Feb. 5. Co was a trader of onion, garlic and plastic containers.

Duterte later confirmed that Co had been into shabu manufacturing; authorities called him a "level one" druglord. In his radio and cable program, Duterte said Co was "one of the big-time" drug lords in the city.

The missing Philip Lam, said Duterte, was the "operator for Southeast Asia" in the drug trade while Allan Sy was "one of the biggest" druglords. Sys’s operations allegedly included Visayas and the whole of Mindanao. On the other hand, Duterte said Lim, the Caltex station owner, was not into drugs and that "he was part of a Filipino-Chinese group very supportive of the government."

Senator Panfilo Lacson had also confirmed that Lam was on the wanted list of persons involved in illegal drugs, based on the records of the police and drug enforcers. Lacson used to head former President Joseph Estrada's Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force (PAOCTF) and the Philippine National Police.

Co had also been named earlier by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) as one of the 13 Chinese drug lords in the Philippines. "They chose to stay here even for a while and even set up a laboratory," Duterte had said. "I've been clear with my position: if you enter my city, you cannot get out alive.

A "turf war" among the drug syndicates in the city had been floated as one of the reasons for the many extrajudicial killings here. The IBP found this ironic. In its statement, it said “it is an implied admission of the prevalence of drug syndicates in a city that prides itself as being rabidly anti-drugs.”

On the largely accepted view that the nebulous Davao Death Squad was behind the killings, the IBP asked: “If the killings are done by the DDS, are the law enforcement officers supposed to look the other way? This proposition is all the more disturbing since it appears that a substantial number of these killings have been committed near the vicinity of police stations, or, just after the victims were released from police custody. Is the citizenry of Davao supposed to put two and two together and read between the lines?”

The lawyers’ group pointed out that "the biggest fallacy of all is the proposition of conventional wisdom in Davao that only those who are involved in the drug trade and other crimes fear for their lives.”

In its statement, the IBP called on the national government and concerned agencies to look into the killings. It asked both houses of Congress and the National Bureau of Investigation “to finally step in and put an end to this murderous rampage.”

But a week before the bloody month of February ended, motorcycle-riding assailants struck again, killing another resident, this time in Agdao.

The Davao City Police Office was recognized as the country’s best police unit in 2004 despite the fact that most of the summary killings were unsolved. (Daisy C. Gonzales/



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