Duterte at the hearing. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas
If he flinched, Duterte, who sat in front of the presidential table, did not show it as he rested the right side of his face on his palm and closed his eyes for the most part of De Lima’s 27-minute opening statement, most of it critical of him, and the city’s prosecutors, police and military officials.
At the “consultation/public inquiry” on extralegal killings at the Lantawan Room of the Royal Madaya Hotel here, De Lima opened with the question, “is there a Davao Death Squad?” and asked if it was a “function of criminal audacity, government lethargy or both.”
De Lima said city officials take pride in the city’s “peace and order” situation and claim that investment and tourism have flourished and criminals from other regions and countries dare not set shop here but asked, what kind of peace, what kind of order?
“If it were so peaceful and orderly, had it not occurred to anyone how paradoxical it is to make such a claim while killings remain rampant? It is completely incongruous to say it is peaceful and orderly when vigilantism is so commonplace, so pedestrian, it is almost a way of life around here. I dare say, and warn everyone who wishes to visit this city, that peace and order is NOT a quality of Davao City,” she said.
De Lima also asked if, indeed the crime rate is low, “is there proof that illegal drugs do not circulate in Davao City? What about thievery? What about corruption? What about bribery? What about dereliction of public duty? And the worst of these, what about murder? Is Davao City, then, truly peaceful and orderly?”
Why, she asked, have the killings remained unsolved?
“If it were a case of ineptitude infecting the Davao City LGU, being unable to catch criminals in its own backyard, then at least admit that you need the help of the National Government. But here is the rub – no one here, from the police, the prosecutors, and the local government officials, will admit ineptitude. No one CAN admit being inept especially since Davao City public officials openly announce how peaceful and orderly the city is. No one can admit ineptitude in spite of the fact that the modus operandi of these vigilantes is serial and the same, where killers do not even cover their faces. No one can admit ineptitude considering that the local government has so thoroughly dominated the city, that entire genres of criminal gangs have been wiped out, except vigilantes,” De Lima said.
“So if it is not ineptitude, what then accounts for the predominantly unsolved vigilante-style killings in this city? We need to know. We must know. You must tell us,” she said.
The CHR is conducting the public inquiry following reports that at least 800 persons have been summarily executed in the city since 1998, by a band referred to as “Davao Death Squad” and their later copycats.
“Does it not shock you when suspected enemies of the State are punished without due process, without trial? Does it not shock you when they are executed, considering that any form of execution no longer remains lawful in the country? Does it not shock you that on mere allegation or suspicion, even if it were true, that the undesirables or misguided elements of your society are captured, judged and executed in one full swipe? That the persons who corner suspects are allowed to judge whether another human being deserves to live or die?” De Lima asked but added a question that was obviously referring to Duterte’s “peace and order” campaign.
“If it does not shock you, because the price is peace and order, what peace, what order does the local government gift to the people of Davao City at the expense of the same rights that are granted to law-abiding persons?” de Lima asked.
De Lima said that law-abiding citizens in the city, apparently think they and their children will not be executed.
“If you think these suspected drug-pushers, vagrants, gang members, or juvenile offenders do not deserve the same rights you or your children enjoy, then imagine a situation where someone rightfully or wrongfully alleges that you or your child is a criminal. Don't you think your child deserves the right to due process before a duly constituted and impartial court? Do you think some hired assassin should have the power to decide if your child should have a right to due process, to live or die? Does a mother, like Nanay Clarita Alia, deserve to lose four sons – who, being minors, actually needed redemption from their waylaid juvenile lives, instead of their lives summarily snuffed out?” De Lima asked.
< span style="font-size: 10pt; font-family: Verdana">She called the extralegal killings in the city “shockingly intolerable.”
“What peace, what order, do we gift to the people of Davao City if no one is free to speak their intolerance for vigilante killings for fear for their own lives?” she asked.
“Can we not have bona fide peace and order without extralegal killings? Can we not assume a hardline stance against criminality and still respect the right to life and due process? Can we not face off with criminal elements without stooping to their lawlessness,” she asked.
Duterte in his opening statement said he will submit to De Lima “my resignation as city mayor” if there is an iota of evidence that he, the military or police are behind the killings.
“Before you leave for Manila, you will have my resignation as mayor of Davao City,” he said.
De Lima replied, “thank you for that commitment” before interrogating Duterte.
Duterte said he made a promise when he assumed as mayor in 1988 “to make the city the most dangerous place for criminals.”
Duterte, a lawyer and former prosecutor, said there are killings in the city, “yes, but summary? I don’t know.”
He repeated there are no state-sponsored killings in the city.
He said he takes full responsibility for the failure to stop the killings. “I take full responsibility for it.”
Asked what crimes have been significantly reduced in the city aside from murder, Duterte said theft, kidnappings and drugs-related crimes.
Duterte could not cite the number of solved murder or homicide cases. But he said, without citing statistics, that drug-pushing is very low. Theft is very low. Kidnapping, too. Alhough there was one kidnapping last week, that was ‘kidnap me.’”
De Lima noted that Duterte had been issuing bold statements, including expletives.
“We are simly simply appalled by the boldness of your statements. Unbelievable especially because you are a lawyer,” she said.
“I am I. Ganon talaga bunganga ko. (That’s the way I speak). I am a lawyer. I am also a prosecutor. I am I,” he said.
De Lima replied: “That’s you. That’s persona but don’t you care about the wrong messages or wrong signals?”
Duterte said he maintains a hardline stance only against criminals.
Told that witnesses were willing to testify but not in a public hearing, Duterte said he would wait for them up to 12 midnight as he has to leave tomorrow.
He said he had already warned the killers that if he catches them, “p…ina, papatayin ko kayo” (I will kill you) “
“It’s been long eating into my system. I get to answer for all of these things. Pag nahuli ko kayo, papatayin ko kayo in public para tapos na. (If I catch you, I will kill you in public). Then the police will come and arrest men. Then I go to jail,” he said. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)