Extrajudicial killings tarnish Philippines’ imageBy Edwin Espejo May 23, 2014 9:37AM UTC
This time, the reports are not mere generalizations and allegations.
On Monday, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said they obtained confessions from at least three alleged hitmen who were reportedly organized and financed by a former Mindanao mayor to get rid of the city’s “weeds.”
Phelim Kline, HRW deputy director for Asia, said, “[Mayor Rey ‘Chiong’ Uy] and other city officials and police officers underwrote targeted killings as a perverse form of crime control.”
Uy was mayor of Tagum City during the period cited by the report.
Tagum is a mere 57 kilometers away from Davao City, which was also the subject of a similar report on extrajudicial killings six years ago.
Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte was likewise accused of abetting the killings but the report failed to produce witnesses to pin down the tough talking mayor.
Over a six-year period between 2008 and 2013, the most recent HRW report on human rights violations in the Philippines said some 298 killings were blamed on a ‘death squad’ in Tagum City, “for which no one has been prosecuted.”
Most of the victims were alleged drug dealers, petty criminals, and street children.
Former members of the dreaded death squad were reportedly paid P5,000 (US$110) per hit. At some point, the witnesses interviewed by HRW said, the former Tagum mayor reportedly paid them personally.
Another witness said there were as many as 14 of them serving as the mayor’s death squad.
There were no immediate reactions from Uy, although a Davao TV station reported him blaming people who do not want him to return to city hall as being behind the report. Current Tagum City Mayor Allan Rellon said he “abhorred the killings.”
The HRW report comes as the Philippines hosts the World Economic Forum in East Asia.
The Philippines is one of Asia’s best performing economies, with a recorded 7.2 percent GDP growth in 2013.
However, human rights violations, highlighted by unresolved summary killings in several urban centers throughout the country, continue to sour the image of the Philippines.
HRW said Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has failed to contain the killings.
“President Benigno Aquino III has largely ignored extrajudicial killings by death squads in Tagum City and other urban areas. He has failed to condemn local anti-crime campaigns that promote or encourage the unauthorized use of force to rid city streets of undesirables,” HRW said in a press statement releasing their latest findings.
HRW also earlier released a 103-page report on continuing summary executions in the Philippines and scored the government for its “failure to investigate the involvement of police and local government officials in targeted killings.”