So be it
“So be it.” A visibly irked but defiant Davao City Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte retorted during his Sunday television program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” yesterday, when he was again asked about his alleged link to the vigilante-style killings of petty criminals in the city. This time, though, the question was raised in connection with an alleged US Embassy cable leaked by whistle-blower group WikiLeaks.
“The latest killings in Davao serve to add to the lethal image that Mayor Duterte has carefully cultivated since coming to office in 1998,” according to the cable 05MANILA312 of the US Embassy titled “More Vigilante-style Killings Reported in Davao.”
The supposedly confidential US cable, sent Jan. 20, 2005 by US Embassy political officer Andrew McClearn, claimed that “there have been 26 reported vigilante-style killings in Davao City, Mindanao, since the New Year began.”
Many of the killings, the memo said, were blamed on the “Davao Death Squad” (DDS), which it described as “a vigilante group linked with Davao Mayor (Rodrigo) Duterte. . . . Most of those killed were apparently petty criminals, although the list of victims included marketplace vendors, construction workers, a housewife, and two members of a leftist political party. Press reports indicate that masked men on motorcycles committed most of the killings.”
The US cable also said that Duterte “all but acknowledged his active support of the DDS group during a 2003 meeting” before unnamed US Embassy political officers. It also quoted Duterte as saying: “Drug lords are garbage and we will dispose of them like garbage.”
During the pre-taped TV program yesterday, the tough-talking vice mayor simply issued a cryptic denial of his supposed involvement in the DDS killings. Duterte said the leaked memos, which also portrayed in a bad light other officials like former Presidents Cory Aquino and Fidel Ramos, only showed the extent of US intervention in “our affairs.” Then he turned the table on the supposed “double-standard” policies of the US government, labeling the cable leaks that have been published online as “gaba” (karma) on the US government—an “arrogant empire” that probably did not expect the emergence of whistle-blower groups like WikiLeaks.
“The problem with the US government is it is keeping a blind eye on its own sins” against the peoples of other countries where the United States interferes covertly and overtly in their internal affairs, Duterte said.
“Bakit ako bastos? Kasi binabastos ninyo kami, eh…” Duterte said, citing as an example the case of suspected CIA operative Michael Terrence Meiring, 65, who was arrested by police on May 16, 2002 with explosives in his possession at the Evergreen Hotel in Davao City.
Meiring, a frequent guest of the hotel for 10 years till then, seriously injured himself after some explosives inadvertently blew his legs off and severely damaged his hotel room. While recuperating at a local hospital and guarded by local police, Meiring was spirited out allegedly by “arrogant” FBI agents and taken to a waiting private plane, which ferried him out of the country.
Following the incident, a fuming Duterte said: “I just would like now to make it clear, to inform … the US ambassador and some morons there in the national government who are handling these FBI agents that you better not do that again here or I will have you arrested.”
Weeks after the incident, in a meeting in Davao City, then US Ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone Jr. supposedly assured Duterte of an investigation into Meiring’s “abduction” but until his outburst yesterday, nothing came out of that assurance, and the Meiring caper remains a “mystery.”
Yesterday, recalling the Meiring incident, Duterte said he is “having a second thought” as to who really were behind the series of bombings that rocked Davao City and other parts of Mindanao in the past. “You are now my suspects,” Duterte said, addressing the US government.
By happenstance, Sen. Antonio Trillanes recently raised again the existence of the so-called “Oplan Greenbase” (which he exposed back in July 2003), a supposed secret plot of the then Arroyo administration to sow terror in Mindanao, then pin the blame on the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, to convince the global community into declaring the MILF an “international terrorist group.” Oplan Greenbase supposedly also included the March and April 2003 bombings of the Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf, where scores of civilians were killed and many more were maimed.
Indeed, the unsolved Mindanao bombings—around 34 (between 2001 and the “Hello Garci”-tainted 2004 presidential election)—were readily blamed by the military on “Moro terrorist groups.” But until now, those bombings are raising more questions than answers. With the ongoing congressional investigations into the “sins and crimes” of the past Arroyo administration, it may be timely as well to revisit these events and find out who really were the evil minds and hands behind those dastardly crimes.
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LEGAL KNIGHTS REUNION: All alumni of the Ateneo de Davao Law School are invited to attend the law school’s 50th Founding Anniversary and Grand Homecoming on Oct. 29, 2011 at the Grand Ball Room of the Apo View Hotel. “A Celebration of Service and Excellence” is the theme of this historic event, which will have Supreme Court Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio as guest of honor and speaker. For inquiries, please get in touch with the AdDU Law School at (082)221-2411 local 8502 or e-mail [email protected]
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