Amnesty International Philippine Section (AIPh) welcomed the Philippine Commission on Human Right’s (CHR) inquiry into the killings in Davao City and probe into the existence of the Davao Death Squad.
“The inquiry into the killings in Davao and into the Davao Death Squad is long overdue. These unlawful killings have been reported by Amnesty International since 2006, by Special Rapporteur Philip Alston in 2007 and other national human rights organizations but no concrete measures have been done. We want an impartial an effective investigation by the CHR that will bring the perpetrators of unlawful killings to trial in accordance with international standards of fairness. We do not want another inquiry that will just end with documents and papers. Impunity must be broken or the killings will continue.” Said Dr. Aurora A. Parong, Section Director of AIPh.
In AI’s report entitled “Philippines: Sharp rise in “vigilante” killings as human rights activist’s death remains unsolved” in 2005, more than 320 people were killed from 1998 to 2006. The majority of whom are suspected of involvement in crimes such as drug pushing, solvent abuse and petty theft. To Amnesty International’s knowledge 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. The rate of killings has risen each year since 2000 with the first few weeks of 2005 seeing a further sharp rise. Local human rights groups have repeatedly voiced fears that government agents may be responsible for the killings, or may have incited or colluded with private “vigilante” gangs. The authorities have denied this.
According to Amnesty International Report 2005, a Davao City Mayor made statements at that time suggesting that extra-judicial executions were an effective means to combat criminality. Responding to Amnesty International’s expressions of concern he has said “we will solve it my way”. Amnesty International fears that his statements encourage “vigilante” attacks not only in Davao but in nearby provinces in Digos and Cebu.
“Government officials must officially condemn all kinds of extra-judicial executions. Official condemnation of killings must by done by the highest official of the land and those in areas where unlawful killings have been rampant. It is also important for the chain of command to stop the superior officers or public officers in authorizing, inciting or tacitly encouraging other persons to carry out unlawful killings. Criminality must be fought within the rule of law and within the frame of human rights.” Parong concluded.