A CONFIDENTIAL diplomatic cable unearthed by classified information publisher Wikileaks has reportedly revealed Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s admission to his alleged complicity in vigilante killings during his time as Davao City mayor.
The cable dated May 8, 2009, was written by then-US ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, and quoted statements from Alberto Sipaco Jr, then the Regional Director of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). The CHR was at the time conducting public hearings in its investigation of the spate of extrajudicial killings in the city.
Writing under the headline, “Mayor admitted complicity”, Kenney said that Sipaco had at a private meeting “affirmed that Mayor Duterte knows about the killings and permits them”.
“Recounting a conversation he once had with Duterte, who is his close friend and former fraternity brother, Sipaco said he pleaded with the Mayor to stop vigilante killings and support other methods to reduce crime, like rehabilitation programs for offenders.
“According to Sipaco, the Mayor responded, “I’m not done yet.” Sipaco said he repeatedly attempted to reason with Duterte that the killings were unlawful and detrimental to society, but Duterte refused to broach the issue,” the envoy wrote.
He added that Sipaco also expressed a “sense of helplessness” over the killings, as well as concern for his personal safety, although he added that the CHR was taking its mission in Davao very seriously.
Kenney explained in the cable that the commission headed by Sipaco was at the time working to locate witnesses, was retrieving them in private unmarked cars, and collecting their testimonies in undisclosed and protected locations, apart from seeking their agreement to testify.
Quoting Sipaco, Kenney wrote: “These intense security measures were necessary to protect witnesses from the police, Sipaco said, who could seek to intimidate or silence witnesses before they had a chance to appear in court.”
Meanwhile, GMA news reported that the presidential palace Malacañang on Sunday said it will look into “leaked information” that Duterte knew and permitted vigilante killings in Davao during his term as mayor of the city.
“We will look into [it] first,” Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar was quoted as saying in a text message.
The Wikileaks revelation, however, appears to lend credence to recent claims by self-confessed former hitman Edgar Matobato that Duterte had ordered over a thousand murders during his time as mayor.
Matobato, who was testifying earlier this month during the Senate hearing on the recent spate of drug killings during Duterte’s presidency, had alleged that the latter had ordered the deaths of his rival supporters, the bombing of a mosque and the killing of Muslims.
Matobato also claimed to be a former member of the Davao Death Squad (DDS), a notorious vigilante group that he claimed Duterte had established to carry out the crimes.
Duterte is currently facing international heat for his nationwide crackdown on drugs, a campaign that has led to the deaths of over 3,000 suspected drug dealers and users since his ascension to presidency in June. Some 600,000 others have also surrendered for fear of being killed in the crackdown.
Despite growing alarm, however, Duterte says he won’t stop the campaign.