New Davao police chief vows renewed firght vs summary killings on

Chief Supt. Jaime Morente said they are beefing up efforts to intensify the campaign against "vigilante killings" in the city.

"I am as interested to minimize if not, stop the killings," he said.

Morente said he has already called the attention his station commanders to intensify their intelligence efforts for the success of their investigations. The commanders, in turn, promised to do their part, he added.

Morente, however, said that one stumbling block in the campaign is the lack of witnesses to press charges against any suspect even if the police is willing to provide witness protection program.

Morente denied there was evidence that the summary executions were done in a pattern, which could have helped solve the cases. "We cannot categorically say there is a pattern," he said.

He clarified that the renewed effort does not mean the police has been complacent. He only meant to remind the police personnel to intensity efforts to counter summary executions.

At least 10 cases of summary killings by stabbing were reported by the media last week when Morente was installed as the new police chief.

In December, the Commission on Human Rights released data showing summary execution on top of their serious concerns.

CHR regional director Alberto Sipaco confirmed that extrajudicial killings in Davao City still turned out the top human rights violation with at least 140 cases filed in 2006.

The Davao City “killing fields” has extended to neighboring Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental provinces, CHR reported.

The human rights group Amnesty International has estimated more than 320 people who were reported killed in the city from 1998 to 2005. Majority of the victims, AI reported, were suspected of involvement in crimes such as drug pushing, solvent abuse and petty theft.

According to AI in February 2005, no one has been brought to justice for any of these killings and investigations have failed to identify the perpetrators. Most of the victims, who include street children and youth gang members from the city's poorest communities, were shot dead by unidentified gunmen on motorcycles.

AI reported that the rate of killings has risen each year since 2000, with the first few weeks of 2005 seeing a further sharp rise. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)