Sep 242014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/04/09MANILA757.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA757
2009-04-13 10:12
2011-08-30 01:44
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO8279
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #0757/01 1031012
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
O 131012Z APR 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 3786
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RHHMUNA/CDRUSPACOM HONOLULU HI IMMEDIATE
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000757

SIPDIS

STATE FOR EAP/MTS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/14/2019
TAGS: PHUM PGOV PREL RP
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR DISCUSSES DAVAO KILLINGS REPORT WITH HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH

REF: A. MANILA 653 (BRUTAL MURDER INVESTIGATED AS
EXTRAJUDICIAL KILLING)
¶B. MANILA 494 (AMBASSADOR ENGAGES GOVERNMENT CIVIL
SOCIETY ON HUMAN RIGHTS)

Classified By: Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney,
reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: The Ambassador met April 7 with Human Rights
Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth to discuss that group’s
new report on the long-running vigilante killings of street
children, gang members, and petty criminals in Mindanao’s
southern city of Davao. Roth said his group’s extensive
research last year revealed that Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte,
local officials, and current and former Davao police officers
appear to be complicit in at least permitting the vigilantism
and possibly in arranging actual killings. Davao’s
outspoken, anti-crime Mayor Duterte has steadfastly denied
any involvement in the alleged vigilante ring, which the
Philippine Commission on Human Rights asserts has caused over
800 deaths in 10 years. The Ambassador told Roth she would
use the report’s compelling evidence to underscore our urgent
concern on the Davao killings with senior Philippine
officials and to again urge the government to undertake
thorough investigations, which President Arroyo’s office and
the Philippine National Police chief have publicly committed
to do. The release of this Human Rights Watch report,
unprecedented in scope and detail, comes one week after the
Commission on Human Rights initiated an ongoing series of
public hearings to launch its own investigation. END SUMMARY.

AN NGO’S GROUND-BREAKING REPORT ON DAVAO KILLINGS
——————————————— —-

¶2. (C) The Ambassador met April 7 with Human Rights Watch
(HRW) Executive Director Kenneth Roth to discuss HRW’s new,
ground-breaking report on the vigilante-style killings of
street children and criminals that have been occurring in the
southern Mindanao city of Davao since 1998. The report
contains information gleaned from dozens of interviews with
Davao victims’ relatives or those with inside knowledge of
the vigilante group believed responsible for the killings,
which observers have labeled the “Davao Death Squad.” The
report squarely blames Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and local
officials for tolerating the killings and even enabling them
— through the support of the city police, who are controlled
by the Mayor. Roth explained that Davao, the largest city in
Mindanao, has long had a reputation for using extrajudicial
means to keep the city crime-free. Duterte has in the past
publicly boasted about the city’s success in reducing crime
rates, Roth said, although Duterte has consistently denied
any involvement in vigilante killings. Roth observed that
the reduced crime rates were a misconception and that the
crime rate had actually outpaced population growth. Roth
further noted that the killings targeted petty criminals,
such as teenage drug dealers, rather than the “big fish,” the
criminals who produce the drugs. At least 800 Davao killings
since 1998 were attributable to vigilantes, according to the
Philippine Commission on Human Rights (CHR).

AMBASSADOR OFFERS U.S. SUPPORT
——————————

¶3. (C) The U.S. deplores the Davao killings and all other
human rights abuses, the Ambassador told Roth, whether
committed by state actors or others. The Ambassador
commended Roth for HRW’s important contribution, bringing to
light an issue that had not been thoroughly researched by any
major NGO. The Ambassador offered to reinforce the report’s
key conclusions with the Mission’s many senior Philippine
contacts, noting that the level of detail achieved in the
report would afford the U.S. and others an opportunity to
confidently discuss the Davao Killings with solid evidence
in-hand. The U.S. Mission, the Ambassador continued, was
engaged in a concerted effort to raise our human rights
concerns at public events and in private meetings with senior
officials. Noting that Mayor Duterte had in the past not
been eager to establish dialogue with the U.S. Embassy, the
Ambassador nonetheless reassured Roth that U.S. engagement
with the Philippine government on human rights issues would
not diminish, and, in fact, with this new report, would
expand to include strong U.S. concern about the Davao
killings.

PRESIDENT’S OFFICE REACTS TO THE REPORT
—————————————

¶4. (C) Roth described to the Ambassador his meeting earlier
that day with President Arroyo’s Executive Secretary Eduardo

MANILA 00000757 002 OF 002

Ermita, who appeared to take the HRW report seriously. Roth
told Ermita that HRW would watch closely for any new official
statements or condemnations of the Davao killings from the
Office of the President. Post has noted that while the
President’s office released a public statement March 31 in
support of the CHR investigation, Ermita said on April 1 that
he did not see any basis for the CHR to conduct a separate
investigation into Mayor Duterte’s connection to the
killings. Philippine National Police (PNP) Director Versoza
declared April 7 at a CHR hearing in Davao that the police
would “go hard” against the perpetrators of these killings,
but disagreed with NGO accusations that the killings were
state-sponsored. Versoza urged citizens to cooperate,
through testimony and evidence, to bring suspects to trial.

COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS CONTINUES INVESTIGATION
——————————————— —–

¶5. (C) After an initial series of public hearings that began
March 30 in Davao and adjourned for the Easter holiday, the
CHR’s Legal and Investigation Office chief told the Mission
that the CHR will resume hearings this week to collect
evidence from additional witnesses and NGOs, with sessions to
be chaired again by CHR Chairperson Leila DeLima. PNP Chief
Versoza, the PNP Regional Director, and the Armed Forces of
the Philippines are cooperating with the CHR investigation
and have pledged to submit reports on killings that occurred
on or after 2005, which is the cut-off date selected by the
CHR to make this incredibly broad investigation both
manageable and relevant. After concluding its hearings, the
CHR will draft a report and examine its next steps.

MAYOR DUTERTE DENIES INVOLVEMENT
——————————–

¶6. (SBU) Mayor Duterte, in attendance at the CHR hearings,
acknowledged that he did not believe the killings were
perpetrated by vigilantes, but rather were the result of gang
wars. He flatly denied the existence of a death squad that
operated under the control of the city government, police, or
military, contradicting other testimony at the hearing by a
Davao Trial Court judge, who said that the vigilante group
existed, receiving support and protection from backers.
Duterte, in a sensational, heated exchange with DeLima, said
that if he were confronted by the leader of the vigilante
ring, he would “shoot (him) in public,” a comment that
illustrated his alleged penchant for extra-legal recourse,
further raising suspicions among participants at the CHR
hearing that the Mayor could be involved in the Davao
vigilante ring.

COMMENT
——-

¶7. (C) Over the past three months, the Mission has been
engaged in public and private outreach efforts and intensive
training activities to seek to further reduce the level of
extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that take place in the
Philippines. While all observers agree that the rate of EJKs
in the Philippines as a whole has declined dramatically in
the past two years, preventing EJKs and other killings still
remains a challenge, particularly in Davao, where Mayor
Duterte remains a powerful — and popular — political
figure. In private meetings with senior Philippine
officials, the Ambassador has continued to call attention to
the need for strong action on the part of the Philippine
government to address human rights abuses. Since December,
the Ambassador and senior Mission officials have participated
in seven events to call attention to human rights issues,
including a round-table discussion with human rights leaders
at the Chief of Mission residence, training seminars for
Philippine prosecutors on how to move cases effectively
through trial, and a two-day seminar on human rights and
EJKs, taught by FBI special agent instructors, for cadets at
the Philippine National Police. This type of training will
continue in the coming months. The Human Rights Watch report
represents the first major effort to produce a more factual
accounting of the situation in Davao. The Mission will
incorporate the report’s findings into our outreach
activities and press the Philippine government to take
concrete action. The Mission also aims to use the report to
further support the Commission on Human Rights and others in
their efforts to respond to the long-term human rights
challenges in the Philippines.

KENNEY

   

 

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