Davao ‘Death Squad’ strikes again
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—Vigilantes shot dead two robbery suspects while they were being transported in a patrol car to the city prosecutor’s office, police said Thursday.
The fresh attack by suspected members of the Davao Death Squad occurred on Wednesday, barely two days after Amnesty International decried the lack of progress in the government’s investigation into summary executions carried out by the vigilante group.
In a report to the Davao City police headquarters, the police unit in the Tugbok district said Antonio Pichenco, 28, and Januard Quimala, 27, died instantly from gunshots to the head.
Both suspects were arrested on Tuesday.
According to an initial report, the patrol car carrying the suspects was cruising on the highway in Barangay Sto. Niño in the Tugbok District en route to the Hall of Justice in Ecoland Subdivision when men in a gray van fired shots in its direction.
The report said the three policemen escorting the suspects returned fire but missed the gunmen or their van. None of the officers were hit by the shots fired from the van.
“The victims were immediately brought to the Davao Adventist Hospital for medical attention but were declared dead on arrival by the attending physician,” the report added.
Ritz Lee Santos of AI Philippines said it was obvious the investigation the government started a few years ago into the activities of the so-called Davao Death Squad was leading nowhere as no one has been prosecuted.
More than 1,000 people have been killed since the Davao Death Squad, a shadowy group of vigilantes allegedly protected by government officials, started operating here in the late 1990s.
Rodrigo Duterte, the city’s long-time mayor, has repeatedly denied any involvement in the operation of the squad although he made several public pronouncements how his city was a dangerous place for criminals.
Duterte said criminals should get out of the city and do their thing elsewhere if they wanted to live longer.
Two years ago, the Department of Justice started a probe into the killings of suspected criminals but the results of the investigation have never been made public.
Police authorities maintained the killings were the result of rivalry among criminal gangs and flatly denied the existence of the death squad.
The activities of the death squad, Santos said, were the main reason why AI picked Davao City as one of the areas covered by the Amnesty International Report 2013, which assesses the human rights situation in 159 countries.
Santos said the organization saw Davao City as a major city in Mindanao and gave it the opportunity to see how the local government, military and police work together toward the full respect, protection and fulfillment of every individual’s human rights in the region.
Santos said another concern that AI has was 206 cases of extra judicial killings in Mindanao.
“We are also disappointed as until now we have yet to see progress in the investigation of these EJKs in Davao City,” Santos said told reporters here.
Among the so-called EJK victims based on AI records are Italian priest Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, who was killed in North Cotabato by suspected anti-communist gunmen in 2011; Jordan Manda, son of anti-commercial mining Subanen leader Timuay Lucenio Manda; and Juvy Capion and her two children who were allegedly executed by soldiers who failed to find her anti-mining husband Daguil Capion.
“Impunity reigns but the local government has not shown enough diligence to end this culture here in Mindanao,” Santos said.
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