The Davao Death Squad and Rodrigo Duterte

ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group

Posted at Sep 15 2016 09:46 PM | Updated as of Sep 15 2016 10:17 PM

Former Davao City mayor and current President Rodrigo Duterte. Erik De Castro, Reuters/File

In a report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, based on his mission to the Philippines from February 12-21, 2007, Alston reported that "(s)ince 1998, when civil society organizations began keeping careful records, over 500 people have been killed by the (Davao) death squad."

Data provided to Alston by the Davao City office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed that 1,069 individuals were killed in 1,013 homicide incidents from 2003 to 2006. 

Meanwhile, on June 17, 2009, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) headed by then Chairperson Leila de Lima issued Resolution CHR (IV) A2009-064 that created a multi-agency task force composed of representatives from Philippine National Police; National Bureau of Investigation; Department of Social Welfare and Development; Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency; Bureau of Jail Management and Penology; Department of Health; Department of Justice; Office of the Ombudsman; Department of the Interior and Local Government; Department of National Defense; Armed Forces of the Philippines; and chaired by the CHR.

The task force was tasked to assist in the investigation of extra-judicial or summary killings in Davao City attributed or attributable to the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS). 

In its 2012 annual report, the CHR, by then headed by Chairperson Loreta Ann Rosales, reported that it “recommended that the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) investigate the possible administrative and criminal liability of Mayor Duterte for his inaction in the face of evidence of numerous killings committed in Davao City and his toleration of the commission of those offenses.”

It also reported that the victims of the killings were usually involved or suspected to have been involved in some type of illegal activity while the assailants were usually motorcycle-riding gunmen. 

However, in March 2012, the Ombudsman did not impute to Duterte the unabated killings in Davao City attributed to the “Davao Death Squad (DDS)”. Only the 21 high-ranking officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were penalized for simple neglect of duty, for which they were fined an amount equivalent to one month’s salary.

Below are excerpts from a press release published by the Office of the Ombudsman on the decision:

“The case stemmed from a letter-complaint addressed to the Office of the Ombudsman sent by a person purporting to represent a group named Davao City Deserves Good Government Movement, claiming that a certain group known as the DDS was “responsible for the unsolved killings of more than 800 persons.” The same complaint alleged that high-ranking officers of the PNP were directly involved in the murders.

“The OMB-MOLEO (Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices) fact-finding team reported that in from 2005-2008, there were 720 persons murdered; 97 in 2005; 165 in 2006; 199 in 2007 and 259 in 2008. A mere 321 or less than 50% of the cases, however, were solved. The killings were repeatedly committed within the areas of jurisdiction of respondents’ precincts where they were assigned.

“From the foregoing figures, it is evident that respondents were remiss in their duty to significantly reduce the number of killings,” the Anti-Graft Office pointed out in its ruling. 

“Also, the same shows that respondents failed to solve a substantial number, if not all, of the killings. 

“The Decision added: “Under Executive Order No. 226 dated 17 February 1995, an officer of the Philippine National Police or that of any other law enforcement agency is held accountable for “Neglect of Duty” under the doctrine of “command responsibility” if he has knowledge that a crime or offense shall be committed, is being committed, or has been committed by his subordinates, or by others within his area of responsibility and, despite such knowledge, he did not take preventive or corrective action either before during, or immediately after its commission.”