DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 28 January ) — While the nation was fast asleep at 1 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, 2016, Rodrigo Roa Duterte, the nocturnal President of the Republic of the Philippines, read from a supposed “validated” list, 163 names of persons allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade, giving them all 24 hours to report to their respective superiors or they will be hunted down by the police and military.
With the flag-draped white caskets of four slain soldiers behind him and the officers of the Eastern Mindanao Command flanking him at the covered court of the camp in Panacan, Duterte read his list before an audience of grief-stricken, sleep-deprived families and friends, troops assembled, and the media.
The President, also Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), stepped inside the covered court at 12:08 a.m. that Sunday, nine hours after his expected 3 p.m. Saturday arrival, paid his respects to the four soldiers killed by the New People’s Army (NPA), condoled with their families, and at 12:40 a.m. took the podium where he spoke for 53 minutes – nine minutes on his warning to the National Democratic Front (NDF) to stop using landmines or there would be no peace talks, and 44 minutes on his war on drugs, including his reading of the names. A 48-minute press conference followed.
By then, several relatives, particularly the children, had fallen asleep on folding beds earlier brought in, or on their seats.
As he read each name in those wee hours, the backdrop provided for a surreal, if not subliminal way of reiterating his message during his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on July 25, 2016. “We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier, and the last pusher have surrendered or put behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish.”
Duterte left the podium at 2:21 a.m. and proceeded to the Camp Panacan Station Hospital to visit the 12 injured soldiers until around 3 a.m.
By daybreak, when the nocturnal President slept, the nation woke up to find someone’s father, mother, wife, husband, daughter, son, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, friend, enemy, neighbor, townmate, classmate — on Duterte’s “validated” list of 163 judges, mayors, vice mayors, representatives, police officers and soldiers.
Many of those on the list denied involvement in the illegal drugs trade but presented themselves to the nearest police chief, apparently afraid they’d end up dead.
Some of those on the list were, in fact, long dead, one of them Benhajar Tulawie, listed as Benahar Tulawie, a former mayor of Talipao town in Sulu, who passed away at the St. Lukes’ hospital in Taguig City in April 2014.
Two mayors in Mindanao would end up dead within the year since he read the list: Datu Saudi Ampatuan Mayor Samsodin Dimaukom on October 28, 2016 and Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog on July 30, 2017.
Dimaukom was killed along with nine escorts along the highway in Makilala, North Cotabato at around 4:30 a.m. while Parojinog was killed along with his wife, brother and nine others during simultaneous police raids on their homes at around 2:30 a.m. Number 1 councilor Ricardo Parojinog, the mayor’s brother, managed to escape while
the mayor’s daughter, Nova, the vice mayor, was arrested. Nova was on Duterte’s list as well.
In both instances, the police said the victims fought back.
A “legitimate anti-drug operation but the subjects opened fire on our troops,” was how the police explained Dimaukom’s death.
As for the Parojinogs, the police said: “there was gunfire coming from the security of Parojinogs forcing the policemen to retaliate.”
A number of the names on the supposed “validated” list read by Duterte on August 7, 2016 had no first names and no designations. One was identified to be a mayor of Kolambugan in Davao del Norte (Kolambugan is in Lanao del Norte) — Bobby Alingan – who is not even from Kolambugan but was former mayor of Pantar, Lanao del Norte.
This wasn’t the first time Dabawenyos saw and heard Duterte read a list of people allegedly involved in the drugs trade.
As mayor of Davao City, Duterte read from a list of 500 persons whom he said could help the city in its fight against drugs, during his regular Sunday television program, ‘Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa’ in October 2001. At least four of those on the list were killed or ended up dead within a month.
Asked why he made the list public, Duterte told MindaNews in a sit-down interview a month later that he was “appealing to the patriotism, the civic spirit I might rekindle in the minds, hearts of these people. (Also) to put them on guard (that) we know something about you (so) you stop it. Second, the community must know. For example, neighbor mo..”
It was no witchhunting, he said. “I laid the predicate in my announcement. I said I’d like to mention the names of persons here in the city… who can be of help to us if they would just be patriotic enough to help government and try to save the generations from being devastated by drugs.”
By November 2001, at least 150 persons had been reported to have been felled by the so-called “Davao Death Squad” (DDS) since 1995. When the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) then chaired by Leila de Lima, conducted an investigation on the Davao killings in late March 2009, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Davao City chapter had reported 890 cases of alleged summary killings from 1998 to March 27, 2009.
Duterte was mayor from 1988 to 1998, 2001 to 2010 and 2013 to 2016. Benjamin de Guzman was mayor of the city from 1998 to 2001.
At the height of the Presidential campaign in 2016, the Coalition Against Summary Executions (CASE), a Davao-based group set up at the height of the killings in the early 2000s, reported a total of 1,424 persons killed by the DDS from 1998 to 2015, 132 of them children aged 17 and below.
Duterte the mayor had repeatedly denied he was behind the killings, repeatedly said there were no state-sanctioned killings in the city but did not care if he was being referred to as the “Godfather of the DDS.”
“Because it’s not true. So if the truth will set you free, I am free because there is no such thing as a government-sponsored killing in the city,” he said in 2001.
Duterte was not prosecuted for his alleged involvement in the DDS killings.
But the Davao killings would hound him during his Presidential campaign and well into his Presidency.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)
Tomorrow: THE MAYOR AS PRESIDENT (3): Duterte: “we were able to improve law and order in this country”