By CHERYLL D. FIEL
DAVAO CITY (davaotoday.com)–Towards the end of March this year, at the start of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) public hearing on extrajudicial killings in Davao City, CHR chairperson Leila De Lima read this part of an excerpt from the davaotoday interview with mayor Rodrigo Duterte in 2006:
�I remember the case of (human-rights worker Rashid) Manahan,� De Lima read what Duterte was quoted to have said. �He had received death threats in Cotabato. When he was killed in my city, they say I ordered the killing. Putang ina! Why would I kill a poor guy who was just working for an NGO? If you want, I�ll line up all the human-rights commissioners and kill them all.�
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte parries the questions of Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chairperson Leila De Lima during the first leg of the public inquiry on the Davao summary killings. (davaotoday.com photo)
“We are simply appalled by the boldness of your statement,� De Lima said, facing Duterte who took the hot seat inside the Lantawan Hall of the Royal Mandaya Hotel to answer why extrajudicial killings are happening in the city.
�Unbelievable!� said De Lima, �Especially that you are a man of the law.”
“Oh yes,� Duterte retorted, �But I am I. When it comes to criminals, I said, I am a hardliner.”
“Don�t you care about the wrong message or wrong signal that you give?” De Lima asked.
At this point, the crowd held its breath. It was the first time the mayor was ever put on a hot seat on the issue of summary killings.
But if there was one telling sign in that March exchange between De Lima and Mayor Duterte about how things would turn out, it was that the CHR investigations on the extrajudicial killings in Davao City was not going to be easy.
Six months into the probe, and three public inquiries so far, the CHR is nowhere near proving the existence of the DDS, let alone, establish a connection with the mayor. By extrajudicial killing (EJK), De Lima meant that the killings, which had claimed more than 900 lives in the city in over a decade, has a pattern and is perpetrated by the state.
Although the mayor denied the existence of a shadowy group known as the Davao Death Squad, dismissing it as a term coined by the media, the killings were mostly carried out by motorcycle-riding assassins who use .45 caliber pistols on their targets, which established a pattern. De Lima had also pointed out the seeming �inaction� of the city government over the killings and the mayor’s statements showing �tolerance.�
De Lima earlier targeted to present the results of the CHR inquiry in October this year but admitted at the conclusion of the September 25 public inquiry that she might no longer be able beat this deadline.
A pending resolution at the higher court might prevent CHR�s access to the evidence that will shed light on the killings.
Two separate diggings conducted in July at a firing range in the city�s Maa village reportedly yielded human bones. According to De Lima, the diggings were made based on the information from self-confessed �DDS hitmen.�
But the owner of the property filed a motion to quash the search warrant used as basis to conduct the first digging in the first week of July. While awaiting decision from a higher court, the CHR had to stop its subsequent diggings after the court granted the motion to quash CHR�s search warrant filed by the property owners, citing among other reasons, lack of jurisdiction.
“I don’t think I can beat my timetable because of these cases,” De Lima said, explaining that it was the police, upon the CHR�s prodding, that secured the search warrants from the Manila courts.
The three public inquiries held in the city since March only rallied supporters behind the mayor.
“It was confrontational,� Davao City Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang said, criticising De Lima�s manner of questioning the mayor on the first day of the public inquiry. �It was not anymore a fact finding.” Dayanghirang, the Davao City Council majority floorleader, was also the mayor’s political party mate.rodrigo duterte