Judging, however, from Duterte’s characteristic response to accusations that the vigilante-style killings bore his imprimatur, the challenge wasn’t just denial of personal or police/military involvement. By not showing remorse over what have appeared to be serial murders with purported hoodlums as victims, he refused to acknowledge that the killings were a blot on Davao City’s peace and order image. Not even CHR Chair Leila de Lima’s cutting “What peace? What order?” message could change his attitude. Not even when she reminded the mayor of his lawyerly duty to see to it that due process was upheld in dealing with suspects.
And while it may be hard to produce direct evidence linking Duterte to the summary executions, only the most naïve would think that he’s completely guiltless. He is at least guilty of encouraging lawlessness in the name of peace and order by allowing vigilantism to flourish while the police simply watch either helplessly or in silent approval. That he did not lift a finger to end the mayhem and even endorsed it in less than subtle ways shows where he stands on the issue.
Sensible members of the police organization know the executions are an insult to them as law enforcers. Nothing can be more hurting than being perceived as inutile in solving crimes, including those committed by faceless though daring killers collectively known as the Davao Death Squad. But what can they do when the city’s highest official has repeatedly implied his approval of vigilantism as the main antidote to criminality? Worse, ordinary citizens of Davao City like that taxi driver I talked to months ago would hail the mayor’s unorthodox manner of maintaining “peace and order” as a necessary evil. Thus aside from church officials only a few have sounded an alarm at the growing number and impunity of the killings.
Besides the general apathy groups and people who raise an outcry over things like the summary killings in Davao City are often accused of being interested more in protecting the rights of suspects not those of the victims, although a good number of Filipinos – and high-ranking officials – sided with convicted rapist Daniel Smith and spat on his victim “Nicole”. What is glossed over is the fact that being deprived of due process is also a form of victimization. In fact, it is a high crime in that the perpetrators are those that are tasked to uphold the supremacy of the law.
But Duterte, in his letter of resignation as deputized representative of the National Police Commission, said the PNP “can best handle the peace and order situation of my city.” Maybe this is where the crux of the problem lies – the mayor seems to view Davao as his own real estate. My city. My city. It could not just be slip of the tongue.
(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno received in 1987 the Jose W. Diokno Award for winning in a national editorial writing contest sponsored by Ang Pahayagang Malaya and the family of the late senator.)