'Davao Death Squad victims neither smugglers nor drug lords'

- Delon Porcalla () - April 5, 2009 - 12:00am

The 800 or so victims of unexplained killings in Davao City committed by the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) are neither smugglers nor drug lords, but critics of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, according to Speaker Prospero Nograles.

“I’ve not heard of any drug lord or big time smuggler getting killed in Davao City. Many of the victims were either petty criminals or rabid critics of the mayor,” the House leader, who represents Davao City district, said in a statement.

Duterte told The STAR that Nograles’ statement was “sheer stupidity” but did not elaborate.

The Speaker said it is ironic that most Davaoeños “have accepted these killings as a necessary evil to keep the peace and order situation in Davao, but failed to realize that the victims of executions were either small-time criminals or mere critics of Duterte.”

In particular, Nograles cited the murder cases of hard-line anti-Duterte crusading journalists Juan Pala and Ferdie “Batman” Lintuan and former Davao City Councilor Rene Galope, all known critics of the local chief executive suspected to be behind the DDS.

Pala was killed in Sept. 2003, Lintuan in Dec. 2007 and Galope in Nov. 2004.

Nograles said the deaths of Pala, Lintuan and Galope “have one thing in common: they were all staunch critics of Duterte.”

Pala was a “feisty commentator” of radio dxGO who survived three attempts before he was finally killed. Lintuan exposed alleged misuse of funds in the construction of Davao City’s People’s Park, while Galope was vocal about his disgust of Duterte’s management style.

“It is my wish that the probe would also cover the unsolved murders of Pala and Lintuan, the two broadcasters who were known critics of Duterte. Up to now, despite the huge peace and order budget of the city, their cases are still in a state of limbo,” said Nograles.

“The media are being terrorized if they tend to criticize the people at City Hall. This excessive show of absolute disregard for human rights has no place in a civilized society like Davao,” he added.

The Speaker urged the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to expand its investigation not only on the case of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army leader Leoncio Pitao, but on the assassinations of the two broadcasters and the former city councilor.

“We are talking about orphaned children and wasted lives because some people think that they are capable of ending lives and can get away with it,” said Nograles, a former human rights lawyer. – Edith Regalado

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