Sep 242014
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
2005-01-11 04:48
2011-08-30 01:44
Embassy Manila

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MANILA 000129



E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/11/2015

REF: A. 04 MANILA 04251

¶B. 03 MANILA 6557

Classified By: Political Officer Andrew McClearn for Reasons
1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (C) SUMMARY: There have been 14 vigilante-style killings
recently in Cebu. Critics have implicated Cebu Mayor Tommy
Osmena in the slayings based on his decision to create a
special police squad to hunt down criminals. Cardinal Vidal,
local congressmen, Cebu’s Vice Mayor, and human rights groups
have raised public concerns about the killings. In pressing
his anti-crime fight in such extra-judicial directions,
Osmena seems to be modeling himself after Rodrigo Duterte,
the notorious mayor of Davao City, where there have been over
60 vigilante-style killings in the past year. END SUMMARY.

Killings in Cebu

¶2. (U) There have been 14 vigilante-style killings recently
in Cebu City. The killings began on December 22 when two
hooded men on a motorcycle shot dead a local criminal figure
in a drive by shooting. Four more men, each suspected by
police of involvement in criminal activity, were gunned down
in separate drive by shootings the next day; two of them were
at work, two were asleep. The pattern continued on December
27 when a lone gunman allegedly shot to death three suspected
criminals. The killings continued on December 29 when five
more suspected criminals were killed. On December 30, a
garbage collector suspected of involvement in petty drug
dealing was also gunned down. In several of the cases
mentioned above, the victims’ body was reportedly marked with
a sign stating, “I am a thief.” Besides sharing a similar
checkered past, each of the victims reportedly had spent time
in Cebu’s criminal detention center.

¶3. (U) Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General
Edgar Aglipay has ordered an investigation into the string of
killings. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) also
initiated its own investigation.

Cebu Mayor Implicated

¶4. (SBU) Critics have implicated Cebu Mayor Tommy Osmena in
the slayings based on recent statements he has made.
Immediately before the killings began, Mayor Osmena announced
the formation of a special 24-member police squad tasked “to
suppress and prevent crimes” on December 21. Osmena noted:
“We have to be more aggressive. It (the team) will seek and
destroy criminal types of activity.” During his press
briefing, Osmena noted that USD 200-400 bounties will go to
police officials who “permanently disable or neutralize”
criminals. Osmena said the team would be called the “Hunter”
squad. The press later reported that Chief Inspector Arnel
Banzon of Cebu’s PNP SWAT team would supervise two 12-person
groups led by SPO4 Rex Campos and SPO1 Serafin Asingjo.

¶5. (U) Cebu City Police Chief Melvin Gayotin, in recent
remarks, strongly supported the creation of the team,
clarifying that it would not practice “vigilante justice,”
but rather help to “find and arrest criminals.” Cebu
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia on December 24 applauded Osmena’s
efforts to combat crime in the city. When he was recently
accused of sponsoring the summary killings, Osmena replied,
“I am not behind it. But I will say I inspired it. I don’t
deny that.”

Protests Against Killings

¶6. (C) Leading public figures have expressed concern about
the killings. Cardinal Ricardo Vidal of Cebu admonished
Osmena and appealed to the new anti-crime unit to arrest
suspects and not kill them, noting, “I cannot understand how
we can terminate the lives of men without the just process we
are used to.” Vidal, who campaigned against the infamous
“sparrow” (New People’s Army) death squads in the 1980s in
Davao City, also expressed his deep concern over the violent
killings during a January 7 meeting with Dep Polcouns. Raul
del Mar, an influential Cebu Congressman, publicly echoed
Vidal’s concerns. Rep. Eduardo Gullas of Cebu City’s 1st
District also protested, commenting that: “the ends never
justify the means.” Osmena’s Vice-Mayor Michael Rama also
came out against the vigilante-style killings. Many
Philippine human rights groups also protested the killings,
urging the national government to investigate the situation


¶7. (C) In pressing his anti-crime fight in such
extra-judicial directions, Osmena seems to be modeling
himself after the notorious Mayor Duterte of Davao City (see
Reftels). Duterte is clearly behind a group called the
“Davao Death Squad,” which has been implicated in over 60
vigilante-style killings in the past year. We are not sure
why Osmena is advocating such extreme measures. The crime
rate in Cebu has gone up, but not dramatically so. Consular
Representative in Cebu told poloff that he thought that most
Cebuanos supported Osmena on the issue, however, as they see
crime as a serious problem. Hopefully, the investigation
into the situation ordered by PNP Director General Aglipay
will end the rash of killings. Unfortunately, there have
been similar investigations in Davao in the past, but to no



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