American-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the government of the Philippines to investigate Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s role in summary executions by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) since he became mayor in 1988.
HRW says they believe that at least 1,000 people have been executed under the regime of the mayor – many involving illegal drug trade – saying he “continued to espouse the killing of criminal suspects.”
In a statement, HRW called out Duterte’s latest speech on how the city has become the ninth safest in the world – in the speech he said his secret was to “kill them all.”
Duterte also noted that he couldn’t care less if someone filed a case against him for his actions, saying: “Why should I be afraid to go to prison?
“When you start to be soft in this country and allow Western thoughts to seep in, that’s when you start to have problem,” he said, referring to the abolition of the death penalty and the concept of rehabilitation for criminals as ideas “imported” from the West. “They want to rehabilitate instead of just killing the idiots,” he said.
“The Philippine government should take a zero-tolerance approach to any public official who publicly endorses extrajudicial killings as an acceptable means of crime control,” Phelim Kine, HRW deputy Asia director, said.
Mr Kine added that the mayor’s long-standing support for extrajudicial killings of suspected criminals “should prompt a long overdue investigation.
HRW said it had documented the existence of the DDS and Duterte’s role in the killings as early as 2009. The Commission on Human Rights conducted a similar probe, which resulted in the implication of police officers. Duterte has never been charged and 21 police officers were found guilty by the Ombudsman of simple neglect of duty and fined the equivalent of a month’s salary. Later the court of appeals overturned the verdict.
Recently the Philippines has rounded up ex-Tagum City Mayor Rey Uy for his part is a massive killing spree closely aligned with Duterte’s DDS Squad. He is being charged with killing business competitors along with a large number of his employees, business associates and police officers.
Duterte has been lambasted for his part in making public statements which to many encourage the killing of suspected criminals – to date nobody has been charged for any crime associated with the DDS.