MANILA - The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in 2009 failed to prove that President Rodrigo Duterte allegedly orchestrated vigilante killings by the Davao Death Squad because his constituents were "under the spell of a ruthless King," Senator Leila De Lima claimed.
De Lima, a former CHR commissioner and a staunch Duterte critic, said investigators were treated with hostility when they sought to uncover leads on thousands of suspicious murders in Davao City, where Duterte ruled as mayor for 22 years.
"The city of Davao was then and perhaps still is under the spell of a ruthless King," De Lima said in a handwritten note dated Feb. 7, Tuesday.
"We (the investigators) were regarded as 'enemies' and 'intruders' into their kingdom engulfed by a false sense of peace and order."
De Lima added that nothing concrete came out of the probe because no DDS member outed Duterte as their alleged leader, in sharp contrast to recent developments wherein professed hitmen Edgar Matobato and Arturo Lascañas accused the President of ordering and paying for assassinations.
A CHR report in 2009 confirmed the "systematic practice of extrajudicial killings" by the Davao Death Squad.
The report prompted Office of the Ombudsman to investigate whether Duterte was criminally liable for inaction in the face of evidence of numerous killings.
The Ombudsman, however, failed to connect Duterte to the DDS, charging instead 21 policemen with neglect of duty and fining them a month's worth of salary.
Duterte has repeatedly denied alleged links to DDS.
The CHR announced Wednesday the formation of a new team that will look into new claims linking Duterte to the DDS.
With the revival of the CHR probe, De Lima asked, "Is the entire country, even after hearing the harrowing testimonies of Matobato and Lascañas, be just like Davao City?"
De Lima is currently detained at the national police headquarters for drug trafficking charges, an accusation she said was politically motivated.
-- With Reuters; Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News