Ombudsman suspends cops for ‘Davao Death Squad’ killings

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman punished 21 police officers over vigilante killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad.

In a statement, the Office said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved a decision finding the officers guilty of simple neglect of duty. They face a penalty ranging from 1 month suspension to fine equivalent to a month’s salary. 

An Ombudsman fact-finding team reported an “unusually high number of unsolved killings” from 2005 to 2008 in the areas of jurisdiction of the respondents’ precincts. In the 4 years, 720 persons were murdered: 97 in 2005; 165 in 2006; 199 in 2007 and 259 in 2008.

“From the foregoing figures, it is evident that respondents were remiss in their duty to significantly reduce the number of killings,” said the Ombudsman. “Also, the same shows that respondents failed to solve a substantial number, if not all, of the killings.”

Those punished were officers ranking police chief inspector to police senior superintendent. 

The Davao Death Squad (DDS) refers to a group behind extra-judicial killings in Davao City. In a 2009 report, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said the DDS is responsible for targeted killings of alleged drug dealers and petty criminals, and street children.

Human Rights Watch identified a pattern in the killings, with assailants usually arrriving in twos or threes on a motorcycle. They shoot or stab victims without warning, often in broad daylight. 

‘Govt, police involvement in killings' 

“The hundreds of targeted killings in Davao City in recent years are clearly not random events but the result of planned hits by a ‘death squad’ that involves police officers and local officials,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch.

“The police consistently fail to bring the perpetrators to justice, while the local government cheers from the sidelines.” 

Beyond the police, the man widely believed to be behind the Davao Death Squad is longtime city mayor-turned-vice mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte has justified the killing of suspected criminals as a means to ensure peace and order in the city. His daughter, Sara, is now city mayor.

In a 2002 interview with TIME Magazine, then mayor Duterte said, “The only reason there is peace and order in Davao is because of me.” 

Human Rights Watch also quoted Duterte as saying, “If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.” 

In its report, the human rights group said inaction of national agencies like the Ombudsman, the justice department, the Philippine National Police and until recently, the Commission on Human Rights "led the perpetrators to conclude that they will suffer no penalty for their actions.” - Rappler.com