CHR eyes another probe of EJKs in Davao City

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/24 January) — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) announced it would have to postpone releasing the results of its report on extrajudicial killings in the city and the possible involvement of some local officials and police as the agency still plans to conduct another set of public inquiry soon.

Lawyer Alberto B. Sipaco, Jr., regional director of CHR-XI, said their central office will schedule the hearing after the two-day public inquiry on the death of botanist Leonard Co in Tacloban City starting today.

“But the results of the report should be released for us to know what the actual status of the summary killings in the city is,” Sipaco said, adding he would send next week a request to the central office for a copy of the report.

The official said the CHR regional office was excluded from participating in the public inquiry “for our own protection,” although he admitted he was yet to see the resolution.

Sipaco said the elections last year caused the delay in the release of the findings. He said former CHR chair and now Justice Secretary Leila de Lima did not want the issue to be used as a political weapon during the campaign period.

“On summary killings, I left it to the CHR. As the public knew, we conducted hearings on the killings but its resolution was not yet done when I left the CHR. I think they are working on it,” De Lima said.

The report was based on the results of a public inquiry by the CHR in March 2009 that looked into allegations that the vigilante squad was supported by then mayor and now Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.

A fact-finding team earlier found that 720 cases of summary executions occurred from 2005 to 2008, at least 399 of which remained unsolved. United Nations Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said “such killings were almost a daily occurrence in Davao City, jumping from a reported 116 in 2007 to 269 in 2008.”

“Davao City continues to be a hotbed of extrajudicial killings, and the vigilante-style death squad killings in Davao have significantly worsened since 2007,” Alston said.

Then mayor Duterte admitted difficulty in solving the spate of killings in the city.

“True, we are struggling (in solving the killings) and I’m not denying there are killings in Davao City,” he said.

In July 2009, the CHR exhumed skeletal remains of persons believed to have been victims of vigilante killings after an alleged member of a suspected death squad aided the commission in locating the burial site. (MindaNews)