In 2009, then Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte found himself in the middle of a Commission on Human Rights inquiry into a spate of vigilante-style killings in his turf that had claimed over 800 victims since 1998.
Many of the victims purportedly had criminal records, giving rise to suspicions that the so-called Davao Death Squad were behind their deaths. That the killers appeared to move with impunity led some to accuse Duterte of being behind the vigilante group.
Duterte was the Davao City congressman when the killings started in 1998. He was elected mayor in 2001 and reelected to the post in 2004 and 2007.
“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,” Duterte was quoted as saying at the height of the controversy.
But Duterte denied that a death squad was operating in the city and blamed the killings on gang wars, rivalries in the illegal drugs trade and personal grudges.
In 2010, he was elected vice mayor while his daughter, Sara, became mayor. Inquirer Research