Rep. Casiño stresses need for a wider investigation of extrajudicial killings in the country
The House leadership on Tuesday sought a parallel investigation on the series of unsolved summary killings in Davao City purportedly committed by the so-called Davao Death Squad as it expressed support to the ongoing Commission on Human Rights (CHR) investigation on the killings.
House Speaker Prospero Nograles, a former human rights lawyer and the representative of the First District of Davao City, said the House human rights committee led by Rep. Erin Tañada of Quezon should also serve as a venue to help the CHR find a resolution to the reported killings in Davao.
He lamented that “the serial executions in Davao City is an international embarrassment because it was even the subject of a report in the United Nations through Philip Alston, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions.”
“I fully support the CHR probe and the House will do its part to get into the bottom of these cold-blooded executions and assassinations. There should be no white wash,” Nograles said.
“The House will give top priority to this issue when Congress resumes its session and summon all those involved to appear under penalty of law. We should put an end to these shameful acts of unbridled human rights abuses, not only in Davao City but in other parts of our country as well,” the Speaker said.
The House human rights committee is set to conduct a probe on the abduction and the brutal murder of Rebelyn Pitao, daughter of New People’s Army Kumander Leocio Pitao. Rebelyn’s body was found in an irrigation ditch in the town of Carmen, Davao del Norte after she was snatched in Davao City.
Nograles said that the Tañada committee should not only focus on Pitao’s case and expand its investigation to include other high-profile executions in Davao City. The inquiry should also cover the apparent negligence by law enforcement agencies in their investigation on the serial killings in the city.
The House Speaker stressed that Tañada’s committee will be given a free and independent hand in conducting the probe on the serial killings in order to avoid suspicions that the House investigation is a mere case of political intramurals in Davao City.
“Let’s be very clear that this is not a political issue. The House is stepping in since it now appears that the brutal murder of Rebelyn is intertwined with the other killings in Davao City. We have to expand the investigation to cover other alleged summary executions,” Nograles said.
A party-list legislator on Wednesday said that the move of Speaker Prospero Nograles to investigate the Davao Death Squad and that of media killings alongside with the probe being conducted by the Commission on Human Rights, has not only long been overdue, but also has a very limited scope.
Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna said that if the House probe would be limited to the Davao extrajudicial killings, the Speaker’s intent, though noble, might be put in question as he and the city mayor, Rodrigo Duterte are said to be political adversaries.
“Merong ibang aspeto ang extrajudicial killings in Davao dahil ang Davao ay subject ng labanan between Speaker Prospero Nograles and Mayor Duterte,” Casiòo told reporters.
He said that while the issue for investigating the Davao killings is legitimate, the reality of Nograles and Duterte being politically at odds could lend the investigation a political color.
This after Nograles instructed House Human Rights Committee chair, Rep. Erin Taòada of Quezon to conduct a probe on the Davao killings allegedly perpetrated by the shadowy Davao Death Squad.
“But in fairness to Congressman Taòada, he has already made rounds all over the country where reports of extrajudicial killings are prevalent,” he pointed out.
Casino said that unless Nograles can exude the same level of concern in investigating other extrajudicial killings all over the country, people might suspect the Davao investigation is tainted with personal interests.
The government should wait for the result of the ongoing investigation of the Commission on Human Rights before doing appropriate action against Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.
“We shouldn’t be dragging the mayor because he’s an elected official and he’s just doing his job. We couldn’t act on something not based on actual facts on the ground. We have to respect his position now,” Ermita said.
“I don’t see why there is a basis to investigate Mayor Duterte,” Ermita added. “It’s very easy to come out with figures, I hope we are not going into a wild goose chase.”
The Task Force Usig and Task Force 211 will also help to determine if there was basis for the CHR to investigate Duterte regarding the summary executions in his city.
Duterte has been linked to the reported 800 vigilante killings in Davao City but he has denied the allegations linking him to the so-called Davao Death Squad.
The CHR has conducted a public inquiry into the killings of more than 800 civilians allegedly by a shadowy group of assassins called the Davao Death Squad
Recently, Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Party-list vowed support for the Davao City mayor.
“The Mayor deserves our support. Those from outside the city cannot appreciate what the Mayor has done to maintain the order that we enjoy,” Ilagan was quoted as saying.
She said Duterte’s brand of leadership has kept us safe and secure,” added the lawmaker who also hails from Davao City.
Meanwhile, in an effort to erase doubts he has his own personal agenda on the investigation of the Davao killings, Nograles assured everyone he will not interfere “even as taxpayer of Davao City” into the looming probe led by Rep. Tañada on the series of execution-style killings in Davao City to ensure that the investigation is free from any political color and the only objective is to craft a legislation that will reinforce existing laws against human rights abuses.
— Frank Lloyd Tiongson and Sammy Martin, Reporters with Angelo S. Samonte, Manila Times