Posts Tagged ‘Death Squad’

Asia’s newest drug war leaves more than 90 people dead in less than two weeks

May 28, 2018

Bangladesh: A sweeping crackdown on alleged drug dealers has left at least 91 people dead in less than two weeks

By SHASHANK BENGALI
MAY 27, 2018 | 11:00 AM
| DHAKA, BANGLADESH

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A May 18, 2018, photo shows the bodies of alleged drug dealers killed in a shooting by law enforcement officers in Chittagong, Bangladesh. (AFP/Getty Images)

A sweeping crackdown on alleged drug dealers has left at least 91 people dead in less than two weeks in Bangladesh, sparking fears of a Philippines-style “drug war” marked by extrajudicial killings.

Most of the deaths have occurred in what the Bangladeshi news media have referred to as shootouts or gunfights, although the families of several people killed have said they were arrested by police and died while in custody.

Since the operation began May 15, the death toll has ticked higher every day, the names and whereabouts of those killed filling newspaper columns but with few details of the evidence against them. Odhikar, a human rights advocacy group, said Sunday that it had counted 91 people killed in 13 days.

“There seems to be no end in sight,” began a front-page story in the Daily Star, a leading English-language paper.

Many of the dead appear from news accounts to be small-time addicts and peddlers killed in cities and far corners of the country, sometimes accused of carrying small stashes of drugs and light weapons.

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Bangladesh’s Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) soldiers stand guard during a raid on suspected drug dealers at Geneva Camp in Dhaka on May 26, 2018. (Mehedi Hasan / Associated Press)

One was 35-year-old Kamrul Islam, described by his wife as a former drug seller who left the trade 10 years ago and was earning a meager living running a food stall at a bus station in Dhaka.

His wife, Taslima Begum, who lives with her parents while Islam worked in the capital, said in an interview that his phone had been switched off since Wednesday. When relatives went to look for him at the food stall, they were told he’d been picked up by plainclothes officers.

On Friday, Begum learned from television news that Islam had been killed in what was described as a shootout with members of the Rapid Action Battalion, or RAB, the elite counterterrorism squad leading the operation.

“After we got married, my husband left his previous lifestyle. I know that he is completely innocent now,” she said.

The drug war is the latest severe move by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s increasingly authoritarian government, which has faced criticism for stifling journalists, jailing political opponents and allowing law enforcement agencies to detain, torture and kill suspected Islamist militants.

By denying drug suspects due process, it has drawn comparisons to President Rodrigo Duterte’s notorious drug war in the Philippines, a shoot-to-kill campaign that has left more than 12,000 people dead in two years. Bangladeshi authorities have denied carrying out extrajudicial killings.

In launching the crackdown this month, Hasina invoked her anti-terrorism policies – the toughest of which were implemented after a 2016 attack on a Dhaka cafe that killed 23 people – and said that no offender would be spared.

“We will rescue the country from the clutches of drugs just as we did in clamping down on militancy,” she said.

Although Hasina’s government has not echoed some of Duterte’s most violent rhetoric – the Philippine leader once said, “Shoot [the drug dealer] and I’ll give you a medal” — some officials have called for a zero-tolerance policy.

One police official wrote on his Facebook page that authorities should “take the law into our own hands” and suggested punishing drug peddlers by pouring feces on their heads. (He later clarified that he wasn’t speaking literally.)

Bangladeshi police estimate that 7 million of the country’s 160 million people are addicted to drugs, most commonly yaba, a pill that contains caffeine and methamphetamine. Although the drug is not produced in Bangladesh, authorities say that more than $40 million worth of yaba pills enters the country every year from neighboring Myanmar.

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A Bangladesh border police officer displays bags of the drug yaba recovered from a passenger bus near the Myanmar border in April 2018. (Munir Uz Zaman / AFP/Getty Images)

Bangladesh has adopted a tougher stance against yaba since last summer, when hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees began streaming into the country to escape deadly attacks by Myanmar security forces. Officials have arrested hundreds of refugees, or traffickers posing as refugees, on drug-related offenses.

Domestic and international human rights groups say the government is sweeping up minor offenders while ignoring the leaders of smuggling networks, including government and security officials believed to be involved in the trade.

“Instead of taking effective measures to clean up law enforcement and patronage networks and go after the kingpins, they have suddenly started this war against the little ones,” said Badiul Alam Majumdar, a human rights activist and co-founder of Shujan, a civil society organization.

“Anybody could be picked up tomorrow and branded a drug pusher. No one is safe if there is no rule of law.”

Media reports say that thousands have been arrested. On Saturday morning, hundreds of RAB personnel raided the Geneva Camp neighborhood in Dhaka, a cramped warren of concrete tenements and shops, going house-to-house with drug-sniffing dogs.

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Bangladeshi authorities arrested more than 100 people from Dhaka’s Geneva camp neighborhood on May 26, 2018. (A.M. Ahad / Associated Press)

Mohammad Saeed, a 42-year-old cook, was standing outside a public bathroom when he was arrested, he said Sunday. He was released a few hours later without being questioned, but only after he was made to sign two blank sheets of paper.

“Who knows if that will be used against me in the future,” Saeed said. “People are scared.”

Mohammad Raju, 25, said his older brother Tajun was arrested in the sweep and within hours sentenced to six months in prison by a “mobile court,” a fast-track legal process that affords defendants few protections. He said that Tajun, a 30-year-old electrician with a wife and two kids, was not a drug user.

“We support getting rid of drugs,” Raju said. “But the government should be careful that innocent people don’t suffer.”

Hasina’s government came to power in 2009 pledging to end Bangladesh’s long history of human rights abuses by law enforcement, but advocacy groups say the violations have increased. From January 2009 through last month, Odhikar recorded 429 cases of enforced disappearances and 1,528 extrajudicial killings.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has described RAB, in particular, as a “death squad” and called for it to be disbanded.

“So terrible is the record of security forces like RAB and others that ‘crossfire’ has become a widely accepted euphemism for extrajudicial killings,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch’s South Asia director. “Bangladesh authorities, regardless of the party in power, have denied such violations and refused to ensure accountability. There should be an impartial investigation into the recent killings, and if there is a violation by a member of the security forces, they should be held to account.”

Special correspondent Syed Zainul Abedin contributed to this report.

shashank.bengali@latimes.com

Shashank Bengali is South Asia correspondent for The Times. Follow him on Twitter at @SBengali

http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-bangladesh-drug-war-20180527-story.html

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Duterte announces Philippines’ withdrawal from International Court’s Rome Statute — This is Not An Attempt To Avoid Prosecution — ICC is “being utilized as a political tool against the Philippines.”

March 14, 2018
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Audrey MoralloAlexis Romero (philstar.com) – March 14, 2018 – 2:35pm

MANILA, Philippines — Citing “outrageous” attacks on him and his administration and the supposedly illegal attempt by an International Criminal Court prosecutor to place him under its jurisdiction, President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday announced that he is withdrawing the Philippines from its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately.

Early in February, International Criminal Court special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, announced that she was initiating a preliminary examination into allegations of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines to see if these fall into the court’s jurisdiction and if a full-blown investigation is needed.

President Rodrigo Duterte (left photo) delivers a speech during the 120th founding anniversary of the Department of Justice at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Sept. 26, 2017. International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (right photo) has been hailed by The Guardian as the “woman who hunts tyrants.” She is seen in this February 2013 photo.

PPD/Ace Morandante and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Stephan Röhl

Duterte since then has lambasted several United Nations officials and stressed that the ICC would not have jurisdiction over him. The Palace was quick to point out then that the examination was not the same as an investigation. Bensouda’s office has yet to determine whether it does have jurisdiciton.

The Rome Statute is the international treaty that established the International Criminal Court and was adopted in 1998. The Philippines ratified the treaty in 2011.

‘ICC being used vs Philippines’

Duterte said it was apparent that the ICC is “being utilized as a political tool against the Philippines.”

“The very considerations upon which the Philippines agreed to be a signatory to the Rome Statute have not been observed, not complied with, hence the rescission of such agreement or the withdrawal of our country’s ratification of the Rome Statute is in order,” Duterte said in a statement.

“Given the baseless, unprecedented and outrageous attacks on my person as well as against my administration, engineered by officials of the United Nations as well as an attempt by the International Criminal Court special prosecutor to place my person within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court…I therefore declare and forthwith give notice. as president of the Republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome Statute effective immediately.”

Duterte previously said that the ICC would “never never never” have jurisdiction over him and maintained that his controversial crackdown on narcotics would continue until he steps down.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/03/14/1796688/duterte-announces-philippines-withdrawal-rome-statute#aOUvhJxfGrGp6Xuo.99

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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions

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Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

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© AFP/File | President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has stoked controversy in the Philippines and abroad

Philippine President “Shoot Women in the Vagina” Duterte Wants To Cross Examine International Court Prosecutor Called “The Woman Who Hunts Tyrants”

February 13, 2018

 

President Rodrigo Duterte (left photo) delivers a speech during the 120th founding anniversary of the Department of Justice at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Sept. 26, 2017. International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda (right photo) has been hailed by The Guardian as the “woman who hunts tyrants.” She is seen in this February 2013 photo.

PPD/Ace Morandante and Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung/Stephan Röhl
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Alexis Romero (philstar.com) – February 13, 2018 – 4:40pm

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MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte wants to cross examine International Criminal Court chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda if she decides to pursue a case against him in connection with his bloody campaign against illegal drugs.
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Duterte, a former prosecutor, said Bensouda would realize that “she is doing it wrong” if he is allowed to ask her questions before the International Court of Justice.

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“I’m waiting. Tingnan ko kung gaano siya… (I’ll see how good she is) A few questions, ‘yan kaming dalawa lang (just the two of us). If she decides to file a case… I will cross-examine her there in the International Court of Justice,” Duterte said during a meeting with local government officials in Cebu City Monday night.
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“She (Bensouda) will find out that she’s doing it wrong,” he added.
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The ICC is about to start its preliminary examination on the killings tied to Duterte’s anti-illegal drugs campaign, which has earned criticism for allegedly encouraging human rights violations.
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The court acted on a communication sent by Jude Sabio, lawyer of Edgar Matobato, who previously claimed to be a hit man of a death squad formed by Duterte when he was still mayor of Davao City. Sabio has accused Duterte of ordering the killing of about 1,400 people in Davao City and 7,000 others who were accused of having links with narcotics syndicates.
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The opposition welcomed the ICC announcement, saying the preliminary examination is a step closer to attaining justice for victims of extrajudicial killings. But Malacañang belittled the development, believing the complaint against Duterte would fail because the crackdown against illegal drugs do not constitute a crime against humanity.
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Duterte has said he is ready to face a death sentence for launching a campaign against the drug menace, which he claimed, has contaminated four million Filipinos.
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The president reiterated that he would not stop his controversial war on illegal drugs until he steps down from the presidency.
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“I told the police and the military, ‘work on it.’ I take full responsibility of the consequences of the drug campaign…whether intended or not. It will be my sole, singular responsibility, and I will answer alone,” the President said.
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“If I do not move, let’s be frank, 40 percent of the total barangays in the Philippines are contaminated with shabu. They’re about 9,000 barangay captains into drugs. How can I control? I will run out of time,” he added.
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Duterte said he is ready to face the consequences of his actions, which he claimed, were intended to preserve the country and its youth,
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“If I die, I don’t mind. I am old. I have completed all of my dreams. All my dreams, all the accolades, all the applause, I’m done with all of them. I do not need it really,” he added.
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RELATED VIDEO:

ANTI-DRUG WARINTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT (ICC)

https://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/13/1787471/probe-begins-duterte-says-he-wants-grill-icc-prosecutor

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Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions

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Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, Netherlands.

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© AFP/File | President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drugs has stoked controversy in the Philippines and abroad

Philippines: International Criminal Court to review killings tied to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs

February 8, 2018

“As a sovereign state, the Philippines’ has the inherent responsibility to protect its current and future generations by effectively addressing threats of the safety and well-being of its citizens such as proliferation of illegal drugs. Because the war against drugs is a lawful, legitimate police operation, it cannot be characterized as an attack against civilian populations because they are civilians,” Presidential spokesman Harry Roque siad. Philstar.com/File Photo

Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) – February 9, 2018 – 12:01am

MANILA, Philippines — The International Criminal Court (ICC) is set to start a “preliminary examination” of killings tied to the Duterte administration’s war on drugs – a move welcomed by Malacañang, which said the President’s detractors would fail.

The action stemmed from communication filed last year by Jude Sabio, lawyer of Edgar Matobato, who claims to be a former member of a death squad allegedly organized by Duterte in Davao City where he was mayor for 23 years.

Sabio is asking the ICC to probe Duterte and other officials and indict them for crimes against humanity for what he described as the “mass murder” of drug suspects.

He claimed that the death squad in Davao City killed about 1,400 people while the current anti-drug war has left about 7,000 persons dead.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque downplayed the ICC’s move, which he himself disclosed yesterday, saying the claim that Duterte had committed crimes against humanity lacked merit.

“No one should claim victory because only in the stage of preliminary examination,” Roque said.

“As a sovereign state, the Philippines’ has the inherent responsibility to protect its current and future generations by effectively addressing threats of the safety and well-being of its citizens such as proliferation of illegal drugs. Because the war against drugs is a lawful, legitimate police operation, it cannot be characterized as an attack against civilian populations because they are civilians,” he added.

Roque, a former professor of international law, explained that preliminary examination is different from preliminary investigation. A preliminary examination seeks to determine if there is reasonable basis to proceed to a preliminary investigation.

More than 19,000 “homicide” cases have been recorded by police since Duterte began his war on drugs in 2016. Only about 2,000 of the cases were drug-related, according to officials.

The Philippine National Police has conducted more than 64,000 anti-drug operations, which resulted in the arrest of more than 102,000 drug personalities.

Roque said Duterte welcomed the preliminary examination because he is “sick and tired” of being accused of committing crimes against humanity. He claimed the ICC has no jurisdiction over the drug war because Philippine courts are still functioning.

“This is an opportunity for him to prove that this is not subject to the court’s jurisdiction because of both complementarity that domestic courts and the fact that we have a domestic international humanitarian law statute in our jurisdiction, are reasons enough for the Court not to exercise jurisdiction,” Roque said.

“After a preliminary investigation, the prosecutor would have to go to the pre-trial chamber of the Court for confirmation of charges before the charges can even be filed in the court,” the spokesman said.

Roque claimed the allegations against Duterte are part of a “concerted public relations initiative” by “domestic enemies of the state.”

“Obviously this is intended to embarrass the President but the President is a lawyer, he knows what the procedures are, they will fail. The President has said that if need be he will argue his case personally before the International Criminal Court,” he said.

“He said he wants to be in Court and put the prosecutor on the stand. To ask who prodded you to proceed to preliminary examination, because it is the suspicion of the President that it is of course the domestic enemies of the state behind this,” Roque pointed out.

He maintained that Sabio, Matobato and opposition lawmakers Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano are just wasting the resources of the ICC as their efforts are doomed to fail. “In our case, they will not go beyond preliminary examination,” he said.

In June 2017, Trillanes and Alejano filed a supplemental complaint before the ICC, where they affirmed and provided updates to the complaint filed by Sabio.

“I am confident that, based on my communication, as well as that of Sen. Trillanes’ and Rep. Alejano’s, we will hurdle this first big step, and hopefully a warrant of arrest will be issued soon by the ICC against Duterte and his cohorts,” Sabio said in a statement.

“His (Duterte) system of death squad killings, which started through the Davao Death Squad and was continued on a national scale through the war on drugs, will now be investigated by the ICC and justice will be done,” he added.

Not above the law

Reacting to the development, Trillanes said the preliminary examination being readied by the ICC is a “first step for the families’ quest for justice” for their slain loved ones. The ICC move “should jolt Duterte into realizing that he is not above the law,” he added.

Alejano said he hopes the ICC examination “will be allowed to carry on unhindered and with full cooperation from concerned authorities, organizations and personalities.”

He stressed that President Duterte and those who perpetuate and defend his alleged policy of killing should be held accountable.

“This initial step of the ICC is also the first step towards bringing justice to the families and all the victims of the war on drugs. The ICC stepping in is a ray of hope amid the compromised rule of law under this administration,” he said.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Tom Villarin said even “enablers” of extrajudicial killings including Roque should be made to account for the anti-drug deaths.

He said a possible case against Duterte “will be damning and damaging to his administration in the eyes of our people and the international community.”

“I am hopeful that people will now realize the truth and demand accountability from him with all constitutional options available,” he added.

Leftist party-list group Kabataan said the ICC probe “is a challenge for both domestic and other international organizations to actively participate and to lend their findings for a thorough and objective investigation.”

“This is, however, reflective of the dismal state of our justice system. 13,000 deaths and still counting, yet the Duterte administration remains determined in pursuing the drug war – to the point of re-launching it three times with revised but still problematic guidelines,” it said.

“We hope that the ICC will welcome the investigation not only of drug-related killings but also other blatant state-sponsored human rights violations that have assisted and tolerated the prevailing culture of impunity,” the group said.

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), for its part, urged the Duterte administration to cooperate with the ICC.

“The government, as a party to the Rome Statute, is duty bound to fully cooperate with the ICC,” CHR chairman Chito Gascon said, referring to the 1998 treaty that established the ICC. He admitted they have not received yet official communication from the ICC.

“In particular, we hope the authorities of our police and justice department will provide all relevant information for the successful conduct of its preliminary examination,” he added. Jess Diaz, Marvin Sy, Janvic Mateo

Read more at https://beta.philstar.com/headlines/2018/02/09/1785975/international-court-sets-review-dutertes-drug-war#v4yBlQpbPLLwkbDq.99

Philippine President Declares Martial Law in Mindanao: Spokesman

May 23, 2017

(Reuters) – Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday declared martial law in southern Mindanao province after fighting raged in southern Marawi City between the army and militants linked to Islamic state.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella made the announcement in Moscow, where the president is on a visit.

A meeting with Dmitry Medvedev will be canceled on Wednesday but Duterte will remain in Russia, Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano said in a televised news conference.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Philippine President Duterte talks About a “Junta.” He’s just joking, right?

May 22, 2017
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/ 12:09 AM May 22, 2017
OPINION

Just before leaving for Cambodia last May 10, President Duterte announced the appointments of Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano as secretary of foreign affairs and Gen. Eduardo Año as secretary of the interior and local government. Earlier, the President named Gen. Roy Cimatu, a former AFP chief of staff, as environment and natural resources secretary.

Año is scheduled to assume his new post on June 2. Although up for compulsory retirement in October yet, Año will take early leave from the service to allow for his move to the Department of the Interior and Local Government. That makes four former military officers in President Duterte’s Cabinet which already has retired generals Delfin Lorenzana and Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

All four are graduates of the Philippine Military Academy and served continuously in the military organization throughout their professional careers. None of them are lawyers. But what they bring to the table are the old-fashioned values of discipline, a capacity for hard work, a willingness to place community interests above self, and most of all, a love of country. They also have their share of critics. Upon leaving the service, they automatically became civilians bringing with them their military background and experience.

In the Duterte Cabinet, there are two key groups that oversee and control government operations. One is the triad of economic managers made up of Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, Socioeconomic Secretary Ernesto Pernia, and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno. The other group is the other triad of former military officers that include Lorenzana, Esperon, and incoming Interior Secretary Año.

When the President jokingly announced that Año’s appointment completes his “junta,” perhaps he was not joking. With Año taking over the DILG, a key Cabinet position will be in the hands of a professional soldier with no political attachments and a reputation for getting the job done while instilling discipline in the organization. You will note that in Año’s short stint as AFP chief of staff, a more effective offensive was waged against the Abu Sayyaf and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, resulting in greater casualties inflicted on those terror groups.

General Año’s unusually early appointment also closes the door to interested parties who would have used the office for political advantage.

This move of the President reveals an aspect of his character that has escaped earlier notice. When we speak of a “junta,” the image it conjures is that of a military group controlling government operations, especially after a revolutionary seizure of power. The best example of such a group would be the Egyptian military led by Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. After overthrowing the civilian government of President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, the junta called for elections with El-Sisi running for president. He won with 96 percent of the vote in an election international observers described as rigged.

Closer to home is the Thai military junta known as the National Council for Peace and Order that overthrew Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2014. After a few years, elections were held with the junta leader Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha being appointed prime minister by a military-dominated legislature with the blessings of the Royal Palace.

A junta can also be civilian in composition and can come about in a peaceful setting. The word “junta” is derived from the Latin “jungere” meaning “to join.”

In theory the three branches of our government serve as a system of checks and balances to make sure no one branch becomes too powerful. But the reality in the Philippines is that the legislative branch is practically an adjunct of the executive. After every presidential election, most elected representatives, regardless of original party affiliation, move over to the administration party or the party in power, citing all kinds of reasons. This provides the administration party with a supermajority to ensure that what the president wants the president gets. Even the official House minority bloc is often referred to as a company union. This supermajority also provides insurance against any impeachment complaints filed against the president.

The other branch, the judiciary, has often been described as “dysfunctional” with all pillars of the criminal justice system in disarray. Justice moves in painfully slow steps with cases often requiring many years before decisions are made. It is a system that favors the moneyed and the influential. And so our detention facilities are overcrowded with mostly the poor and marginalized; and often they are not even facing charges, but unfortunately they have no access to legal help for the paperwork that would get them released.

It is a system where the word “temporary” as in “temporary restraining order” (TRO) can sometimes mean eternity. Even the President has expressed alarm and displeasure with the issuance of TROs that delay the speedy implementation of infrastructure projects. It is a system crying out for reforms.

In truth, we do not have a working system of checks and balances. Whether we like it or not, what we do have is a powerful junta within the executive branch composed of six civilians under the President. This is the body that will make and implement the most important decisions affecting the nation and the lives of our people.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/104192/was-it-a-joke-or-the-reality#ixzz4hp1bTrMG
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Citing lack of proof, Philippine senators end Duterte ‘death squad’ inquiry

March 6, 2017

Reuters

By Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato | MANILA

Philippine senators abruptly ended a hearing on Monday into allegations by a retired policeman that a “death squad” operated under President Rodrigo Duterte when he was mayor of Davao City, citing no proof that it even existed.

Arturo Lascanas admitted to lying in October during another Senate inquiry into alleged extrajudicial killings by a hit squad linked to Duterte, but said he did so for his family’s safety and because police had warned him to “deny everything”.

He said on Monday he had personally killed 300 people, about 200 as a member of a “Davao death squad” of which Duterte had full knowledge.

But few fresh claims emerged in Monday’s proceedings and the senators, several of whom are Duterte loyalists, challenged his credibility and demanded proof.

“We don’t see any point of pursuing the investigation,” Senator Panfilo Lacson, head of the Senate panel, told reporters.

“There’s no independent evidence other than what he had already testified on.”

Lascanas broke down when he told his story to reporters two weeks ago and is the second person to testify before lawmakers on Duterte’s alleged links to a clandestine hit squad.

The hearing was much anticipated after Lascanas had written in the final line of his sworn affidavit that his allegations were just “the tip of a bloody iceberg”.

But little more came during Monday’s inquiry. Lascanas cited one time when Duterte had personally instructed him to kill and said the death squad’s instructions were usually relayed by senior policemen, or Duterte’s bodyguard.

Lascanas said he shot dead nine of 11 arrested Chinese drug suspects on orders that came indirectly from Duterte. He also alleged Duterte’s son and current Davao vice mayor, Paulo Duterte, had links to the drug trade.

The president’s allies say the testimony is part of a broader plot to discredit him. His chief lawyer, Salvadore Panelo, said Duterte’s alleged involvement in extrajudicial killings was “a fabrication”.

TORMENTED BY KILLINGS

Lascanas had in October denied the death squad existed. On Monday he said he was tormented by what he had done and wanted the truth to set him free. He said he spoke out because of “the fear of God”.

“I wanted to clear my conscience,” he added

Duterte denies ordering summary executions, either as president or during his 22 years as Davao mayor. His top police commander, Ronald dela Rosa, a former Davao police chief, calls the death squad “fiction” created by the media.

Human rights groups documented about 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao while Duterte was mayor and critics say the war on drugs he unleashed as president has the same hallmarks.

More than 8,000 people have been killed since Duterte took office eight months ago, mostly drug users killed by mysterious gunmen in incidents authorities attribute to vigilantes, gang members silencing informants, or unrelated murders.

Police reject activists’ allegations that they are behind most killings and say they are responsible for 2,555 of the deaths, when suspects had resisted arrest.

On Monday, dela Rosa announced the re-launch of police anti-narcotics operations after a month-long suspension of police involvement in the campaign.

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Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte could be impeached if murder, death squad allegations can be proven — “Betrayal of public trust.”

February 20, 2017
By  – Reporter / @MAgerINQ
/ 07:45 PM February 20, 2017

JANUARY 31, 2017 Sen. Dick Gordon presiding over the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations' second public hearing on the Jack Lam alleged bribery scandal. INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

INQUIRER PHOTO/LYN RILLON

It would be betrayal of public trust, a ground for impeachment, if the allegations were indeed true that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the killings of criminals in Davao City when he was still its mayor, Senator Richard Gordon said on Monday.

Gordon, who is part of the Senate majority bloc, said Duterte’s accusers could bring the issue before either the Office of the Ombudsman or the House of Representatives.

“Ang advice ko, kung talagang meron kaso yung nagpapadala nyan, file nyo na sa Ombudsman. Kasi ang Ombudsman pwede pa ring imbestigahan ang Pangulo pero ipa-file nya sa Kongreso kung gustong i-impeach. Kung gustong i-impeach nasa Ombudsman yun,” he said in a phone patched interview.

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The senator was reacting to SPO3 Arthur Lascañas allegations that the so-called Davao Death Squad (DDS) existed and that then Mayor Duterte had ordered them to kill criminals in Davao City.

This was contrary to Lascañas’ earlier testimony before the Senate committee on justice and human rights chaired by Gordon when he first denied the existence of DDS.

READ: Davao cops says Duterte ordered killings

Asked if Lascañas’ expose was a ground for impeachment against Duterte, Gordon said: “Well yeah. Betrayal of public trust yan e, kung totoo.”

He said the issue could still be used in an impeachment case against the President even if the alleged offenses were committed when he was still mayor.

“(Yes, because) it goes into character e. It goes into betrayal of public trust,” he said.

But Gordon doubts whether an impeachment case against Duterte would succeed in the House since he said it has always been dominated by administration allies.

“Palagay ko hindi kasi hawak nila yung lower house. Yan ang problema lagi nang nagpa-file ng impeachment e,” he said.

(I don’t think so because they control the lower house. That has always been the problem when you file an impeachment case.)

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte could be impeached if murder, death squad allegations can be proven

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Retired Philippine policeman says current Philippine President Duterte ordered killings by death squads during his 22 years as Davao mayor

February 20, 2017

Reuters

Mon Feb 20, 2017 | 6:02am EST

By Karen Lema and Neil Jerome Morales | MANILA

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte operated a “death squad” while mayor of Davao city, giving cash and orders for police and assassins to murder criminals, according to a former policeman who said he was involved in the clandestine killings.

In remarks contradicting his denial under oath last year of the existence of such a “death squad”, Arturo Lascanas said he was one of the ringleaders of the group that began operating when Duterte became mayor of the southern city in 1988.

Duterte has repeatedly denied involvement in vigilantism or summary executions, either as president or during his 22 years as Davao mayor. His police chief has denied there was ever a death squad in Davao, describing it as fiction created by the media.

On Monday, Lascanas asserted that the Davao death squad was no myth and he was one of those who carried out secret killings of drug dealers and criminals at Duterte’s behest.

“It is true, the Davao death squad, or DDS, really exists,” Lascanas told reporters at the Senate in Manila.

Arturo Lascanas, a retired Davao policeman, speaks during a news conference at the Senate headquarters in metro Manila, Philippines February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco

“When Mayor Duterte sat down as mayor for the first time, we started what is called ‘salvaging’ of people, these people are suspects committing crime in Davao.”

“We implemented the personal orders of Mayor Duterte to us.”

Duterte’s legal counsel, Salvadore Panelo, said Lascanas’ allegations were a “continuing fabrication” and “another false narration”.

Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said allegations that Duterte was linked to extrajudicial killings had been proved false by numerous independent agencies.

“Our people are aware that this character assassination is nothing but vicious politics,” he told CNN Philippines.

Lascanas said he had decided his “obedience and loyalty” to Duterte must end and had promised God that he would confess.

He is the second man to go public with claims of involvement in murders allegedly ordered by Duterte, the hugely popular president nicknamed “the Punisher”, whose ruthless approach to tackling crime has won public approval.

Image may contain: 1 person, sunglasses and closeup

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte

‘EXPLOSIVE’

The account given by Lascanas was similar to that of hit man Edgar Matobato, who testified in September he had also been a death squad member in Davao and he had seen Duterte shoot a man dead and give orders for police to kill criminals.

Senator Antonio Trillanes, a critic of Duterte who appeared at the same news conference as Lascanes, said he would file a motion for a Senate investigation into the so-called Davao death squad.

Another anti-Duterte Senator, Leila de Lima, who led a Senate investigation last year into the Davao killings, described Lascanas’ account as “a very, very explosive development”.

Human rights groups have documented about 1,400 suspicious killings in Davao while Duterte was mayor and critics say the war on drugs he unleashed as president has the same hallmarks.

More than 7,700 people have been killed in the latest crackdown, some 2,500 in what police say are shootouts during raids and sting operations.

Most of the rest are under investigation and activists believe many were extrajudicial killings.

Lascanas said death squad members in Davao got 20,000 to 100,000 pesos ($398 to $1,990) per hit, depending on the target’s value. Some members, he said, were former Communist rebels.

He confessed to the unsolved murder of a Davao radio show host who was staunchly critical of Duterte.

Lascanas detailed his involvement in the bombing of a mosque and the killing of the family of a suspected kidnapper. The victims included a pregnant woman, a small boy and an elderly person.

Both attacks were ordered by Duterte, he said.

“This is how it began, all the killings we did in Davao, whether we bury or we throw in the sea, we are being paid by Mayor Duterte,” he said.

(Writing by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Witness: Philippine president ordered us to kill opponents

September 15, 2016

The Associated Press

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte gestures during a labor day campaign rally on May 1, 2016 in Manila, Philippines. GETTY

MANILA, Philippines — A former Filipino militiaman testified before the country’s Senate on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte, when he was still a city mayor, ordered him and other members of a liquidation squad to kill criminals and opponents in gangland-style assaults that left about 1,000 dead.

Edgar Matobato, 57, told the nationally televised Senate committee hearing that he heard Duterte order some of the killings and acknowledged he himself carried out about 50 of the abductions and deadly assaults, including a suspected kidnapper who they fed to a crocodile in 2007 in southern Davao del Sur province.

The Senate committee inquiry was being led by Sen. Leila de Lima, a staunch critic of Duterte’s anti-drug campaign that has left more than 3,000 suspected drug users and dealers dead since he assumed the presidency in June. Duterte has accused de Lima of involvement in illegal drugs, alleging that she used to have a driver who took money from detained drug lords. She has denied the allegations.

The killings of the suspected drug dealers have sparked concerns in the Philippines and among U.N.and U.S. officials, including President Barack Obama, who have urged Duterte’s government to stop the killings and ensure his anti-drug war complies with human rights laws and the rule of law.

Duterte has rejected the criticisms, questioning the right of the U.N., the U.S. and Obama to raise human rights issues, when U.S. forces, for example, had massacred Muslims in the country’s south in the early 1900s as part of a pacification campaign.

“Our job was to kill criminals like drug pushers, rapists, snatchers,” Matobato said under oath, adding some of the targets were not criminals but opponents of Duterte and one of his sons in Davao city.

The killings he said he has knowledge of happened starting in 1988, when Duterte first became mayor, to 2013, when he expressed his desire to leave the death squad, prompting his colleagues to implicate him criminally in one killing.

Presidential spokesman Martin Andanar rejected the allegations, saying government investigations into Duterte’s time as mayor of Davao had already gone nowhere because of a lack of real evidence and witnesses.

De Lima and Philippine human rights officials and advocates have previously said that potential witnesses refused to testify against Duterte when he was still mayor because they were afraid they would be killed.

In this picture taken on July 8, 2016, police officers investigate the dead body of an alleged drug dealer, his face covered with packing tape and a placard reading “I’m a pusher”, on a street in Manila. Getty Images

 

There was no immediate reaction from Duterte, who has denied any role in extra-judicial killings when he was the longtime mayor of Davao and after he assumed the presidency in June.

Matobato said the victims in Davao allegedly ranged from petty criminals to people associated with Duterte’s opponents, including a wealthy businessman from central Cebu province who was killed in 2014 by a gunman in his office in Davao city allegedly because of a feud with Duterte’s son over a woman.

Other victims were a suspected foreign terrorist, who Matobato said he strangled then chopped into pieces and buried in a quarry in 2002. Another was a radio commentator, Jun Pala, who was critical of Duterte and was killed by motorcycle-riding gunmen while walking home in 2003.

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Edgar Matobato appears before the a Philippines senate committee

Edgar Matobato made the comments before a Senate committee. AP

After a 1993 bombing of a Roman Catholic cathedral, Matobato said Duterte ordered him and his colleagues to launch attacks on mosques in Davao city. He testified he hurled a grenade at one mosque but there were no casualties because the attacks were carried out when no one was praying.

Some of the victims were shot and dumped on Davao streets or buried in three unmarked graves, he said, adding some were disposed of in the sea with their stomachs cut open and their bodies tied to concrete blocks so they would not float.

“They were killed like chickens,” said Matobato, who added he backed away from the killings after feeling guilty and entered a government witness-protection program.

Former death squad member Edgar Matobato gestures as he testifies during a senate hearing in Manila on Sept. 15, 2016. Getty Images

 

He left the protection program when Duterte became president, fearing he would be killed. He said he decided to surface now because “I wanted the people to know so the killings will stop.”

Matobato’s testimony set off a tense exchange between senators allied with Duterte and those critical of him.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, who ran unsuccessfully for vice president in May’s elections, accused Matobato of being part of a plot to unseat Duterte.

“I’m testing to see if you were brought here to bring down this government,” Cayetano said.

De Lima eventually declared Cayetano, who was not a member of the committee, “out of order” and ordered Senate security personnel to restrain him.

Another senator, former national police chief Panfilo Lacson, warned Matobato that his admissions that he was involved in killings could land him in jail.

“You can be jailed with your revelations,” Lacson said. “You have no immunity.”

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