Time Line

by Juan L. Mercado

Mimicking  Davao’s   814  summary executions, Cebu  City  finds itself  necklaced  with  an  unsought  legacy:  183  “murders with a wink“. The time line is instructive.

Davao’s death  squad killings have spilled  into Cebu,  UN special  rapporteur  Philip  Alston wrote. His follow-up report to the UN Human Rights Council  also  pinpoints   killing fields in .General Santos, Digos and Tagum.
Killings  by   “esquadrones de la muerte”, in Davao,  bolted from 116 in 2007 to 269 in 2008,” he said.   Mayor  Rodrigo  Duterte  hasn’t solved  a  single case.

“As a result, death squad members operate with complete impunity,” he added. “Killing for hire is on the rise as death squad members become bold enough to sell their services…A killing  costs about P5,000 (roughly  US$100 ),” .

This  results  in  “impunity.”  Although  killings take place in broad daylight, “witnesses are not prepared to testify” ”(Impunity).encouraged death squad killings to sprout in other cities beyond Davao.”

Cebu  City mayor Osmena  enthusiastically embraced  the Davao example.  In December 2004, he  whipped up a so-called  “Hunters’ Team”. He announced cash-for scalp bounties: P20,000 for cops who’d “permanently disable” any criminal.

Taking of  life, whether by an abortionist or vigilante, is evil, Cardinal  Ricardo Vidal bluntly said. “ Utos ni  mayor” dislodges the Constitution with its guarantees of life and due process, the Integrated Bar cautioned.

“Will  Mayor  Osmena  copy-cat  the Davao’s death squads operating with impunity?,  asked  Viewpoint  “  The  1980  communist insurgency may have embedded a vigilante mindset in Davao.  But  Cebu  never had a tradition of  “esquadrones de la muerte.”  If  Osmena  goes down  this path,  blood will stain  his   already-checkered  legacy.”

Osmena   swears by Osmena. Yes-men  clog  his council. Did they  assent to murder by  cowed    silence?  In any case,  Osmena  parroted Duterte’s tough-guy talk.

‘Here in Davao, you can’t go out alive,” Mayor Duterte said of a   notorious  Manila  drug lord’s release. “You can go out, but inside a coffin. Is that what you call extrajudicial killing? Then,   I’ll will  bring a drug lord to a judge and kill him there. That  will  no longer be extrajudicial,   Such  statements suggest  “he is, in fact, supportive” of  the slayings, Alston noted..

“Experience should teach us to be most on guard when government’s purposes are beneficent,” Justice Louis Brandeis once warned

Osmena claims his purposes are  Brandeis  pure.  “We’ll respect human rights”, he said.. “We’ll go to the law’s  limit and whack them.  I’m more  interested in protecting citizens.” Wink. Wink..
He couldn’t be bothered with checking if  rules of engagement were kept. ”Such sentiments launched  serial killings. They  now  blot a  legacy that Cebuanos never sought…

“It’s been a year now since  His Honor launched his ‘murder with a wink” policy,” Cebu Daily News wrote in February 2006. “What has   he to show for bonneted killers who salvage with  impunity in a city primping for the Asean Summit.

“Some  117 unsolved  rubouts  later, Cebu has been tagged ‘Murder Capital’,” the daily noted. “The virus  infects   Digos, Tangub and General Santos.  That  metastasis  is noted by the US  State Department in it’s  human  rights annual report. It  foreshadows  last   week’s  Alston statement.

Like Davao, vigilante victims in Cebu were petty criminals.

Others did time in jail. Some started  rebuilding  lives in honest businesses. Most were unarmed  when snuffed out. “A  wink denied them a second chance.”

“Drug lords aren’t scared. Corrupt officials carry on. No big fish has been landed.” Crime rates slump only when Manny  Pacquiao climb into the ring.

“I’m not exactly proud of that record,” Osmena admitted. “But I’m not exactly sad that criminals were killed…”It’s a question of dosage. Wink. Wink.”

Has human life been  stripped to calibrated doses?  Who decides  whose blood is to be a dosage?.  And who says stop?. Or  more.

“Osmena  prides himself as an honorable man,” Viewpoint added. “At 20,000 per head, the ‘pacified’  117  victims mean  the  mayor, in honoring his word, paid P2.34 million. .

“It’s taboo to use public funds for crime payrolls.

Philanthropy, however, is not one of his  strong suits. So, who provided the shekels?.  Friends?  Businessmen? , Did they claim these as ‘tax deductions”?

Every unpunished murder takes away something from the security of every man’s life,”  Daniel Webster  said.  Today’s perversion of institutions is possible only if citizens acquiesce.

Salvaging is “a cheap price to pay for peace and order”, some Cebuanos and Davaoenos  say.   They’ll  lay down the lives of others, not their own. Where their pocketbooks begin, the right of  “criminals” end.

Supreme Court  initiatives like the writ of amparo to  a beefed up human rights commission. help  tamp down  murders from 220 in 2006, to 64 in 2008. So  did Alston’s meticulous documentation and dogged candor,“Government “deserves credit” for sending a strong message, although informal, to the military, he wrote. ““Overall, the most important shortcoming has been the government’s failure to institutionalize or implement reforms,”

“Just  ignore Alston, “ Justice Secretary Raul  Gonzales snorted. That’ tickles the ears of  Mayors Duterte and Osmena, who returns from cancer surgery this month,

But  the timeline sketches a Cain-like  legacy of blood. Alston’s  work made audible  the  voice  muffled by government: “The blood of your brother Abel calls out to Me from the earth.”  

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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