February 1, 2024
KARAPATAN urges the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the House of Representatives and Senate human rights committees to conduct thoroughgoing investigations in view of the revelations by whistleblowers Arturo Lascañas and Edgar Matobato that former president Rodrigo Duterte, his daughter Sara and cronies Ronald dela Rosa and Christopher “Bong” Go and others in Duterte’s inner circle were responsible for the extrajudicial executions of hundreds to thousands of drug personalities and other suspected criminals in Davao City through the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS).
Not only have the whistleblowers implicated Duterte’s group in the DDS killings. They have pinpointed Rodrigo Duterte as one of, if not the biggest, drug lord in the country who used his aggressive anti-drugs war as a convenient cover and an opportunity to eliminate rival drug kingpins.
It is high time that these revelations not only be seriously investigated through Philippine domestic mechanisms. For the sake of the victims, who number in the tens of thousands, the investigations must exact justice and accountability from the perpetrators. Duterte and his coterie of murderers and drug lords must be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.
It must be remembered that this is not the first time that revelations of this sort have been made.
As far back as 2005, when Leila de Lima chaired the Commission on Human Rights, former DDS operatives had come forward and executed sworn statements detailing the structure and workings of the death squad. The existence of the Laud quarry mass graves in Davao City for victims of DDS killings had already been exposed, and investigators had in fact unearthed human skeletal remains from the quarry. But nothing much came out of these investigations that stretched on until the term of the Chito Gascon-led CHR.
When he became president, Duterte lost no time in getting rid of De Lima by throwing her in jail on trumped-up drug charges. His former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II eventually hammered the final nail on the coffin of the DDS investigations when he dismissed the discovery of skeletal remains at the quarry, claiming without forensic evidence, that the bones were those of persons executed during the Japanese occupation.
Lascañas and Matobato, having been higher up in the DDS hierarchy, provided personal knowledge and information which deserve deeper scrutiny. KARAPATAN asserts that with these whistleblowers reiterating their revelations in a number of media interviews, the CHR and the congressional human rights committees must fulfill their mandates by finally getting to the bottom of the DDS and other drug war-related killings since Duterte was Davao City mayor up to the time he became president.
They owe this to the thousands of victims who have long been seeking justice and accountability.