Tagum killings: NBI files murder raps vs ex-mayor, 28 others

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – How do you rid a city of “weeds” – that is, thieves, snatchers, drug pushers, and other undesirables?

For former Mayor Rey Uy, it would be by forming the Tagum Death Squad (TDS) and paying its hired guns P5,000 for every criminal they killed, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) discovered.

Based on this, the NBI filed multiple murder and frustrated murder complaints against Uy and 28 others before the justice department on Wednesday, March 4. 

NBI Director Virgilio Mendez said the death squad created by Uy killed more than 80 persons over a period of 4 years. Uy was Tagum mayor from 2004 to 2013. (READ: Ex-mayor behind death squad in Tagum)

“He (Uy) provided payment and equipment for the operations, using the Civil Security Unit (CSU) as cover to lawfully issue guns and motorcycles used in the killings. TDS members received salaries as employees of CSU doing nothing but just pass the time until instructions are given to kill somebody,” Mendez said.

“The extra-judicial killings were made purposely to convey a strong message to criminals or would-be criminals that Tagum City was not a place for them,” the NBI chief added in the transmittal letter for the complaint.

Uy was named in the complaint as principal or co-conspirator for allegedly ordering the killing of the victims.

The following were also named in the NBI complaint:

Members in various capacities of the TDS, composed of a police officer, ex-convicts, gangsters, and former members of the New People's Army:

Head and supervisors of the civil security unit:

Tagum city police officers who conspired and cooperated with the death squad:

Other individuals who either sought the killings, participated in the planning or acted as assets or look-outs:

The complaint was based on the findings of the Task Force Tagum Death Squad (TFTDS), which looked into 82 murder incidents in the following areas from 2008 to 2012: Tagum City and Dujali town, both in Davao del Norte; Maco and Wahab towns in Compostela Valley; and Butuan City in Agusan del Norte.

 

Mendez said the Tagum Death Squad was formed to get rid of criminals in Tagum, but its members were later hired by private parties to eliminate business competitiors, enemies, and even police officers who were not on their side.

Two former members of the death squad – Romnick Minta and Jomari Abayon – executed affidavits detailing the group's operations. They said members who wanted to quit or refused to take part in an operation were also eliminated. The two survived attempts on their lives.

It was the Human Rights Watch (HRW) which brought the issue of extra-judicial killings to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who used to chair the Commission on Human Rights.

They told De Lima in 2014 that it was possible the death squad killed more than 200, the oldest being 62 and the youngest being 9. The boy was reportedly killed after being accused of stealing money and phones from a Tagum Center store.

The NBI invited Uy for questioning but did not show up. – Rappler.com