LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By Jun Ledesma, Columnist, Philippines News Agency
The silence of Mindanao
THE International Criminal Court (ICC) has become a domineering institution that is presented as a prosecutor and judge at the same time. It does not respect the justice system of sovereign nations and lump the victims of its misplaced prejudices with countries that have neither functioning government nor an iota of judicial mechanisms. The ICC decides based on the whims of its prosecutor like Fatou Bensouda who recommended the formal investigation of President Rodrigo Duterte over his war on drugs and issues of alleged extra-judicial killings she claimed is carried out by the Davao Death Squad. DDS, she asserts, was organized by the President when he was still Mayor of Davao City and for that pronouncement alone she has reduced herself into a nincompoop.
These are the facts about the mythical Davao Death Squad. DDS was conceptualized sometime in 1982 by Integrated National Police Regional Director, Gen. Dionisio Tan-gatue Jr. It was a phantom force, no warm bodies, used by the general as psychological warfare to counter the vicious liquidation squads of the NPAs called “Sparrows”. He also later came up with another ghost forces called “Christian Soldiers for Democracy”. That time Duterte was an Assistant City Fiscal (Asst. City Prosecutor in today’s legal term) and was investigating soldiers, policemen, members of the civilian home defense force, and suspected NPAs involved in killings.
The problem of Bensouda is that she swallowed hook-line-and-sinker the fairy tales and statistics contrived by the political opposition in the Philippines and some quarters in the media who extrapolated death statistics to suit their dubious agenda. Did she really believe detained Sen. Leila de Lima that more than 2,000 EJK victims were buried in an abandoned quarry adjacent to some housing subdivision in Davao City? Did she also believe Maria Ressa of Rappler tweaked her death statistics from 3,000 to 7,000 and then raised it to 27,000? “This is far worse than any war zone that I’ve been in,” she lied to Bill Whitaker of CBS “60 Minutes” and yet insists and persists on staying in the Philippines even though she is an American citizen? Did Fatou include in her report the claim of Amnesty International that 30 million Filipinos perished in government-sponsored EJK?
Bensouda is totally ignorant about the extent of operations of drug syndicates in the country which government administrations that precede Duterte had virtually ignored. In deference to the death of past Pres. Benigno Simeon Aquino III I will not go beyond saying that drug laboratories and organized crimes proliferated in the country especially in Metro Manila.
The gall of this prosecutor to indict our President and yet closed her eyes in the ongoing bloody drug wars in Mexico where tens of thousands die in the hands of the drug cartels. How can Bensouda play possum on the drug affliction in the US that claims thousands of lives amidst the proliferation of $36-billion worth of drugs from neighboring Mexico and not counting yet those that come from Columbia where crimes and murders attributed to drugs happen. Closer to home is the drug menace in Thailand victimizing the youth in their tender age. All these countries have their own war against drug syndicates. Whoever told Bensouda that this war is just a walk in the park and that there ought to be no bloodshed must be dreaming.
In the span of many years, I witnessed, as I was in the midst of unraveling events that predate Duterte (who was elected Mayor of Davao City only in 1988). I was there to report the bombing of San Pedro Cathedral by extremist and separatist elements, the virtual control of Davao City by the CPP/NPA which rendered it as the veritable “killing fields” in the Philippines, and how criminal and drug syndicates crept into the city when the NPAs were eventually defeated.
When Duterte took over the helms of the City Government in 1988, he dealt with iron hands all forms of criminality and instilled discipline unheard of in the past. He led assaults on a drug laboratory and even taking his war beyond the borders of the city to warn those who would attempt to smuggle drugs in Davao City of dire consequences. But he too set up drug rehabilitation centers. He set up tripping points all over the city to monitor movements of suspected characters, initiated the appointments of tribal representation in the city council, and appointed deputy mayors. He created crime detection and emergency apparatus that includes 911 and high definition CCTVs all over the city. Speed limits were enforced and no more fireworks during New Year’s eve. As if Task Force Davao and the Davao City Police Force are not enough, he patrols the city at midnight as a taxi driver or on a motorbike.
In time Davao City was listed as among the most peaceful and livable places in the world, most child-friendly, and most competitive. It is the commercial and communication center in Mindanao a city that enjoys a healthy investment climate.
For those who make an issue over the imperceptible reaction of Dabawenyos and Mindanaowons over Fatou Bensouda’s midnight recommendation to investigate President Duterte on the issue of extra-judicial killings, do not mistake the silence as the acquiescence of Bensouda’s exhortation. It is as simple as saying bring your threats and misplaced prejudices elsewhere. We have a functioning judicial system and a vibrant democracy.