It was a shootout, police said of the killing of Mayor Samsudin Dimaukom of Datu Saudi Ampatuan, Maguindanao, on Friday.
They had flagged down the mayor’s convoy of three vehicles at a checkpoint in Makilala, North Cotabato, before dawn, police said, “based on information that the group will transport illegal drugs to Maguindanao and Cotabato.”
According to the police report, the vehicles slowed down, and then the occupants opened fire on the lawmen. But the group was outnumbered, the report said, and Dimaukom and nine of his companions were gunned down while the police themselves suffered no casualties.
The mayor was killed months after President Duterte made public a list of local officials who, he said, were involved in drugs. The list of prominent personalities and public officials allegedly in the drug trade was the administration’s response to criticism that the war on drugs had focused only on the small fry—users and pushers in marginalized communities—while big-time drug lords and high-profile users were conveniently ignored.
In September, Dimaukom and his wife presented themselves to PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa and were duly cleared. Shortly, however, police raided the couple’s compound, but found no illegal drugs or firearms.
Questions are popping up regarding the killing of Dimaukom—also known as “Mayor Pink” for his predilection for this color that, he said, represented peace and love, and which is the color of his mansion, the town’s mosque and his Hummer. And rightly so, considering the “shoot-out” score of 10-0.
With photos of the mayor’s convoy published in newspapers and posted on social media, citizens want to know how, for a group supposedly fleeing a checkpoint and opening fire at the police, the vehicles could be parked so neatly on the roadside instead of helter-skelter in the middle of the highway. And wouldn’t shooting at a checkpoint be done more efficiently when, again, the vehicles were in the middle of the road?
The questions go on: If the shooting from the mayor’s group was unexpected, why didn’t the police suffer even a single casualty? If Dimaukom’s bodyguards were such lousy shots, how was it possible that they got jobs as security escorts? At the same time, for an unexpected shootout, the police must have been excellent marksmen. Else, why did many of the dead, according to their relatives, take bullets in the head when they were supposedly fleeing the scene?
And, of course, the alleged shootout having occurred around 4 a.m. on a deserted road, there is no other eyewitness account except that of the police. Should the public take their word for it? But how many times has this scenario been presented to explain away multiple killings by the police? Alleged drug users killed while in custody have too often been described as attempting to grab the lawmen’s firearms, so that they had to be gunned down in “self-defense.” It doesn’t matter that their hands were cuffed behind them or they were so badly beaten that they probably couldn’t open their swollen eyes enough to see. Predictably,
Dimaukom’s vehicles yielded guns and drugs after a police search that, again, had no other witnesses. At this point, a cynical public can well ask: Couldn’t they have come up with a better script?
A swift, independent inquiry into the killing of Dimaukom and his nine men is definitely in order. Why kill the mayor when he had been cleared previously, and when a raid of his home yielded nothing? Were the police out to get him? To what end? Is it true what is being bruited about, that the police have to fill a quota of drug arrests and fruitful searches to prove accurate the administration’s claimed figure of 3 million drug users? And whatever happened to the supposed investigations of vigilante killings and other unsolved drug deaths? When will the results be released?
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